How to choose your land...

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by MN Mom, Jun 12, 2005.

  1. MN Mom

    MN Mom Well-Known Member

    May 19, 2003
    a state of confusion...ha ha. MN
    So what do you look for when choosing the land for your homestead? Creek or no creek? Woods or open? Flat, rolling, low land, etc? The acreage we'd be getting(hopefully), would be between 5-10 acres probably. Oh and FYI, we are hoping to have chickens, maybe a milk goat, and some sheep eventually.

    We are trying to sell our house in town to hopefully move onto some land, and was just hoping to get some opinions/insights into choosing the land. We are in Minnesota if that makes a difference. Thanks so much. Sara
  2. Alex

    Alex Well-Known Member

    Mar 20, 2003
    Vancouver, and Moberly Lake, BC, Canada
    You already have started, you have the, intention. Now specifically, try to make a list of what you want, or a list of trade-offs, one side for each. Only about one page or 3/4 will do it. Then the big part, look on the net, in newspapers and magazines, talk to people.

    We looked for one or two years. So we for two years had this idea and were looking everywhere, always. Nothing was right: too expensive, too close to town, too complicated, etc. Finally, we were on vacation in Canada -- had NOT planned on living in Canada, then Nancy read us a book while driving. We decided to visit the author -- never got there -- too far for our time.

    We drove down a road, met Sig Paul, asked if he knew of land for sale, said yes. Though the land he offered us at first was not what we wanted. Then he told us about some land way out, no power, no water, road not always passable, etc.

    We bought the rights to homestead that land -- who could have thought -- and two years later we had it proved-up, with log house and 64 acres of the 160 under cultivation. What a dream. Row, row, your boat, gently.

    Most finds are like that -- they fit all the criteria -- and when are right -- seem to surprise.

    Enjoy, the search. Good Luck, have fun,


  3. pcwerk

    pcwerk Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 1, 2003
    SE Minnesota
    Hi Sara,
    We just moved to SE MN (Spring Grove) and I wish we would have found
    some more fertle valley land since we want to do organic farming. The
    area is real beautiful but we will have to build up the soil for a number of
    years. I would definitely find a mix of tillable and woods, since you will
    definitely need firewood ;-) And a permanent creek or watersource would
    be good (something I wish we had, but I'm sure our well won't run dry
    anytime soon). Good luck...I'm sure you will find something nice.
  4. Little Quacker in OR

    Little Quacker in OR Well-Known Member

    May 9, 2002
    :) Yes, Alex has the right idea! When my dh and I were deciding on our retirement(early because of health problems) we sat down and each made a list of (1) What we HAD to have. No compromise.(2)What we would REALLY like, but could live without if we had to. (3)what would be nice but was negotiable.

    My list included as absolutes, only COUNTY. NO close neighbors to give us any trouble and visa versa. And a permanent water source..a river, a lake etc...and acreage enough to have any stock that I wanted and of course completely fenced for dog safety(we did this ourselves before WE had a place to live!).

    His was a gentle climate, flat land, no steep climbs, close to medical help.... very good roads and a reasonable drive to his chorus practice.

    We both wanted to be within an hour or so of the Coast.

    It took some serious looking but we found it.

    Have fun.......

  5. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2004
    I'm just north of northern Minnesota, which is beautiful, but somewhat rugged if you are used to city life.
    Your best friend for land choice is higher so you don't engage with flood plains or low lying frost and cold. In this area often the mornings can take a long time for the fog to 'burn off' and it makes the day nicer should you be on higher ground. Other advantages about gardening is good with high ground and a good well. The other issue is predators going after your poultry and things like larger predators might be interested in your goats. Get 2 goats at least from what I am told to keep the one company. Consider seriously a well mannered and protective livestock guardian for your property such as a pyrenese from hip displasia free and healthy stock.
    Other than checking into the usual property considerations about finances and taxes, easements, road access, and possible 'development', than the other things about living there fall into place.

    Regarding 'creek or no creek'? I don't know. Consider that there can be a lot of low and wet land where mosquito populations flourish. I am bordered by a west system of creek and beaver ponds, so you live with it. I wouldn't want to be any closer to that than is already, and breezes help. Your water source comes from good well considerations and ground water which you'll have tested for use. So, for me I like as much drainage considerations with not having flat land where the soil is more clay, but that can also differ depending on soil type for the area you will move to. You might check out with the extension agency about the specific soil type for the place you are interested in.
  6. Barb

    Barb Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2002
    West River SD
    Once you know what you need in the way of basics, the land will choose you. When both of you go "this is it". The right place will pull at you.

    Unfortunately sometimes the price is too high and you have to look for another "this is it" :no:
  7. Jen H

    Jen H Well-Known Member

    Jun 16, 2004
    Hubby and I started off with deciding what exactly we wanted to do with our land. What did we want to grow? How many acres? What kind of animals? How many of them?

    The soil and drainage requirements for the crops plus the space and pasture requirements for the animals really narrowed down our land choices. That's good, otherwise it gets overwhelming.
  8. Laura

    Laura Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    I wanted southern or south eastern exposure, good drainage, good soil, fencible and good water. I specifically did not want a stream because of issues of flooding, erosion, beavers and restricted land use regulations.

    Our real estate agent found me to be a very odd woman. I walked property before I even bothered to look inside the houses he showed us.
  9. Orville

    Orville Well-Known Member

    Jan 25, 2005
    If you're buying raw land, consider how much it will cost to run power to your home. It can be quite expensive. I would avoid land with high water table. Make sure it perks for your septic. Gentle SE slope is generally best in the North. Avoid low areas/frost pockets. If you want your own firewood, you'll probably need at least 10 acres of hardwoods alone. Buy land on a county-maintained road. Snow removal can be real important in the middle of winter.
  10. Hank - Narita

    Hank - Narita Well-Known Member

    Aug 12, 2002
    Ask around for what folks in the country have available. Read the books in the library; visit the area you want to move to; drive up and introduce yourselves to people. We wanted cheap land on a paved road as we were retired. We didn't care about a big city. We usually shop in Tucson (100 miles away) several times a year. Each making their own list sounds good. Are you staying in MN? AZ has some nice places and really cheap. Jobs are scarce in our town though. We wanted a stream but it is only seasonal. We planted trees as the only woods nearby was in the mesquite trees. We do have the best sunsets though.
  11. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

    Jul 27, 2004
    The Morrision Corner List Of Suggestions:

    1. Know, right from the start, that unless you've got a freak of nature for a real estate agent, real estate agents know nothing about farms. Nothing about big ones, nothing about little ones, nothing about soil fertility, nothing about southern exposure, nothing about tree lots, nothing about barns, nothing about how much space it takes to turn a tractor towing anything around... nothing.

    But they will pretend they know all. Do NOT take a real estate agent's word for anything, check, check and double check. That cute creek in the back may be a ten year flood nightmare. That stand of timber may be ready for harvest, or it may not. I'll never forget an agent gushing from inside a barn from which the hayloft had been removed (so the barn was held up purely by force of habit) "isn't it a lovely cathedral space?" Well... yea... if you don't intend to store hay in it, and you don't mind it coming down in a high wind...

    2. Don't just talk to the neighbors down the road about the property, talk to the ones at the end of the road. Casually. Don't let them think something they say may scotch the deal, make it sound like you're trying to firm up your budget. Ask about joining property, like wood lots... chances are theirs is very similar to yours. Show up with a loaf of bread, brownies, or something home made (not store bought... you don't know if they're as rich as you are and if they're not, you want to be on an even footing).

    3. Buy as much as you think you need, plus a bit more if you can afford it... but don't buy things you know you'll never need: if you don't plan on heating with wood, for example, or don't plan on tree farming, a hillside of trees is not a good investment unless your water supply is in there.

    4. FLAT is always preferable, in fields, driveways, and lawns, to steeply pitched. Tractors like it better, trucks like it better, and wives pushing lawn mowers like it better.

    5. Know, before you sign on the line, approximately where you'd expand... where would you put a barn if you decided you needed one?

    6. Know, before you buy, how you'd get things like hay trucks and trailers in... on our farm, you can't. Period. So every truckload of hay must be off loaded, the truck driven past the obstruction and reloaded... try doing this with 500 bales of hay in high humidity. You can wreck a marriage this way!

    7. I have friends who purchased a house and lot that I wouldn't have looked twice at... but somewhere in that perfectly awful old pre-fab type house with moldy carpet and brown wall paint, no lawn to speak of, decay everywhere, they saw if not the perfect house, the only house they could afford at the time and potential. Today... I am just awed at what someone with vision and a strong back can achieve. They have a lovely garden which winds around the house, a lawn they carved out of an old stand of nasty twisted pines my brute force, they tore the house down to the studs, one piece at a time, lifted the roof, and now have this lovely, airy, open, home... it is simply amazing.

    However, this skill, the ability to see potential where nobody else can, is not universal. So if you've got it... buy what you know you can turn into what you want and ignore what everyone else says. They got a lot of flack, a LOT, from both families when they bought the place (along the lines of "how could you put my grandchildren in that hovel..") and I assume grandparents are now eating their words. But you have to bear up under the flack.
  12. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 20, 2004
    Minnesota. Shoreline. Hummm.

    That is becoming a Bad Thing.

    There are many fedral & state laws governing open waterways. Having more than 10 animal units within so & so many feet of shoreline (river, creek, lake, county ditch - doesn't much matter) is becoming a no-no, and one will, someday soon, need to fence all livestock away from open water.

    While many of these laws are still being written, and others are not really enfocred as of today..... The writing is on the wall.

    Minnesota is very much on the front lines of writing & enforcing these laws.

    So in addition to the low flooding land, and the skeeters, I'd think about that.

    Tornado warning, gotta go...

  13. AnnaS

    AnnaS Well-Known Member

    Nov 29, 2003
    Verndale MN
    If you're looking for land in my area, I can recommend a good realtor who is also a homesteader.
  14. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

    Sep 13, 2003
    Whiskey Flats(Ft. Worth) , Tx
    .............I'd say you're a very astute observer MC of things important in general and land in Particular . I've already printed this list out and will retain for future reference , thanks , fordy.. :)
  15. bergere

    bergere Just living Life

    May 11, 2002
    Now in Virginia
    For us, it came down to what we could afford. There is not a lot of land for sale in this area, and what is, is normally very spendy.

    What we ended up with is part woods, part pasture, slightly rolling and in a few places just a bit more steep.
    Has a little seasonal stream running through the far side of the property.

    Everytime I would go to a Real Estate office and let them know what I was looking for, they would run away. Found out most were too lazy to make sure the land was zoned for livestock, if there was easements and the like. Simple stuff really, but important. Went through 12 of them. I found all the places for us to look at, strange how the Real Estate people could only come up with places we couldn't afford.
    They would say, you can come up with more. And we said, no we can't you know our max, and that isn't going to change so you can make more money (didn't say the last part, but sure wanted too!!). So we would move on.
    Finally found someone willing to work with us, and work for their money.

    But don't trust them to tell you the correct Taxes on the place. Get that from the county Tax office. Other wise you might have some major sticker shock!

    We realllyyyy lucked into this place, and very happy we did. :D
  16. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    central idaho republic
    I tried to post this yesterday.... had trouble with some server or another.... anyhow better late than never.. and maybe someone else covered what i have typoed.... maybe it will help, maybe it wont, but it is my 3.576924 cents worth and i do not really mean to offend anyone [realators]...... so here is another attempt.

    Alex has a great idea about the list of things absolute, and the trade offs, becuse no one piece of property for sale will have EVERYTHING in perfect condition the way you envision it, and if it does RUN cause somebody has been inside your head!!!

    That said, for the past 35 years people have been retruning to the land and it seems that almost everyone wants a creek [so the price of proerty gets driven up] Border by National forest or BLM or State ground [at least here in rural Idaho so the price is up for seclusion] some want paved roads easy access plowed roads when it snows by the county, school bus access, mail delivery, drive by sheriff patrol [seriously one community in Idaho county literally had the taxes raised becuase the county was forced to hire deputies just for that secluded area off the beaten path for the weekenders from Boise, which drove out some old timme residents of the area who lived there permanently].... beautiful vistas.... cant do nothing but look at the scenery.... after a few months you really dont look at it again in the same awe as you do when you buy the property or look at it the first time... but it drives up the price....

    Creeks are nice but the drawbacks are erosion, flooding possibilities, and wetlands protection by the government, be it local state or federal.... sooner or later you will encounter someting bad from a creek on property.... some folks in Washington state have even been barred from having animals on the property after years of doing so..... because it may cause manure to get into the creek and someone might object down stream that just bought who had lived in the city all their life....wetlands and the government. If you are looking to instal a genset on the creek, you run into permits from this or that governmental agency.... and usually it ends with nope you cant do it cause one thing or the other.... so personally i would not look specifically for a creek on property.....

    Some states and copunties have ordinaces controling zoning for animals, and for buildings.... check into what is on the have to have side of your list and make sure it is doable on the propoerty you are looking at..... some sub-divisons even have rules that are against owing animals of certain types or numbers of.... thereby making the "perfect place" not so perfect.

    Real estate agents work on percentage..... for the seller, unless you go specifically to a agent and sign a buyer agreement for that agent to work for you.... In Idaho they get 6%, sometimes using an buyer agent a person pays 3% to his/her agent and 3% to the listing agency.....but the buyer agent negotiate a better price for you even if they seem greedy for that higher price figure. I have several friends who are realators btw, and they all know how i feel about the job they do.

    In the end, if the property doesnt feel right when you are on it, it probably never will, and no one can tell YOU what feels right.... we can only suggest what we have experienced as what is or would be right for each of us.... Like I live on 5 acres in a nice subdivision, but it wasnt the best property it was what we could afford 5 years ago..... I would love to have 160 acres of farmable ground so we could justify having machinery that just isnt setting around, and a better place for my sawmill, timber would be a plus for me but not a absolute, Water is more important to me than most anything, if the area has sparce water, or requires a really deep well, then it becomes less attractive.... but still doable if other aspects of the property were attractive..... with all the people on the move after selling off high realestate in other ares, it has driven up the price on al properties all over the US... so from one market to the next a person has to determine what is feasable for them to make work...... it is nearly impossible to buy farmground and actually make a living farming.... with so many farmers looking at subdividing to make a higher return, and the realators frothing at the mouth over such prospects of new sales.... it has become a sellers market... the seller will eventually find a sucker to buy high.... so one has to become either a sucker, or extremely fine tuned to the whole area and what one wnats in the end for the property to do for them and the means to make it happen..... it is more than just looking for the ideal property in a persons mind, it is an adventure, a business venture and a life turning point all rolled into one which can overwhelm most people after the fact of buying.

    Make list and check it thrice.

  17. Mike in Ohio

    Mike in Ohio Well-Known Member

    Oct 29, 2002
    There have been some good suggestions made. I would suggest a slightly different slant. Spend lots of time. Don't view the process as a chore but as an opportunity.

    Pick the areas you are interested in moving to. Reduce it to a short list (state/county). Spend lots of time looking at properties. list what you like and dislike about various properties. Talk about how you would develop/improve various properties.

    Walk the properties. Walk them in all kinds of weather. Ask questions.

    Attend property auctions. This will give you a real good idea of what the market is like.

    Visit the map office of the county you are interested in and buy one or more of the following:

    1) arial map (generally covers a section)
    2) section map
    3) platt book (a lot of times the local chamber of commerce will publish this. Ours does it once every 3 years and charges $15)

    This kind of approach will help you better recognize the following:

    1) What you are likely to be able to afford;

    2) Which properties are a bargain (and which are priced too high relative to comparables on the market);

    3) problem properties (not a bargain at any price)

    As usual, just my 2 cents.

  18. Alex

    Alex Well-Known Member

    Mar 20, 2003
    Vancouver, and Moberly Lake, BC, Canada
    All of our ideas and advice are great, but don't let us paralyze you.

    The old real estate investing saying, says it all: Buy real estate and wait, don't wait to buy real estate.

    Sure, make your lists, take your time, etc. but don't let it pass you by.

    Go for it.

    Good Luck,

  19. MN Mom

    MN Mom Well-Known Member

    May 19, 2003
    a state of confusion...ha ha. MN
    Thank you all so much for your responses. I have learned a lot. Now if we can just get this house sold so we can buy the land!!

    Best, Sara