Steps to deciding on an area

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by cindyc, Nov 4, 2006.

  1. cindyc

    cindyc Well-Known Member

    Nov 12, 2005
    I noticed we get this sort of question here often, so please excuse me for repeating, but I thought it would be helpful to consisely supply any of the below information for those looking to make a big move.

    1) How did you find the area in which you homestead (if it was a large move from where you started in particular).
    2) How do you research building code laws in an area?
    3) How do you research taxes, and other "hidden expenses"? to narrow down your choices?
    4) What other things factored into your decisions? (Laws for example, on homeschool, or homebirth, school choices etc...) How did you find these things out before moving (if you did).
    5) What are you looking for in a "good piece of land" besides price per acre?

    Anybody care to answer any of these questions?
  2. Old Vet

    Old Vet In Remembrance

    Oct 14, 2006
    I knew whith part of the state to live in then I looked on the internet and found the place. Before I decided whith place to buy We drove around and looked at many places but didn't find everything that we were looking for. I alresdy knew the other things in that area.

  3. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

    Oct 22, 2005
    Forests of maine

    Okay here goes.

    "1) How did you find the area in which you homestead (if it was a large move from where you started in particular)."

    While stationed overseas, I read a couple magazines on comparing areas for retirement taxes, salaries, laws, etc.

    As a pensioner I wanted some place where the local average wages is 'low', so that my pension 'looks' high.

    "2) How do you research building code laws in an area?"

    We moved back stateside, into an apartment building that I already owned. And I came up here every summer, shopping. During these shopping trips. I spoke with locals, about: their school districts, laws, homeschooling, land, fishing, the police, welfare mentality, just lots of things that were all on their minds.

    "3) How do you research taxes, and other "hidden expenses"? to narrow down your choices?"

    Consumer's Reports.

    "4) What other things factored into your decisions? (Laws for example, on homeschool, or homebirth, school choices etc...) How did you find these things out before moving (if you did)."

    There are a handful of states where they give you complete open reign on homeschooling, and this is one of them.

    "5) What are you looking for in a "good piece of land" besides price per acre?"

    [we have lived in drought areas before, and I never want to deal with droughts again]

    [we want to be able to fish, and boating]

    year around paved road access,
    [we want to be able to get out to a hospital, and not require a bulldozer to get in and out. Or like some land that we have looked at, where they needed mules to pack into]

    closeness of power lines and phone lines,
    [many of the places that I looked at had no power lines within 10 miles. We are not ready for that yet]

    closeness to a freeway for access in and out of the area,


  4. Macybaby

    Macybaby I love South Dakota Supporter

    Jun 15, 2006
    South Dakota
    Ok, I'll play too!
    1) How did you find the area in which you homestead (if it was a large move from where you started in particular).

    DH and I decided we wanted to be west of the Mississippi, and no farther south than Nebraska. Then I started looking for a job in a rural area. My DH works construction, can do all sorts of carpentry work and is a competent mechanic with a shop full of tools, so we figured he could find a job doing something. I'm an accountant, so we figured it would not be too hard for me to find something - all companies use accountants. We knew we wanted to be away from any major city, so I was specifically looking in more out of the way places.

    2) How do you research building code laws in an area?

    Basically went to the county courthouse and asked. I had the job and was living in an apartment, and DH was still living two states away. We knew we weren't going to build (been there, done that - never again hehehehe!) so we were more concerned about zoning laws than building codes.

    3) How do you research taxes, and other "hidden expenses"? to narrow down your choices?

    Found a really nice realtor, and taked to neighbors when we started looking at places.

    4) What other things factored into your decisions? (Laws for example, on homeschool, or homebirth, school choices etc...) How did you find these things out before moving (if you did).

    Kids were grown and on there own, so school issues were not a concern. We bought a place that was being operated similar to what we wanted to eventually do. We are also into shooting (target mostly) so having a place were that would be ok was important. Talked to the county sheriff about that. Turns out he is one of our nearer neighbors.

    5) What are you looking for in a "good piece of land" besides price per acre?

    We ended up being farther away from my job than I would prefer, but we are in an area that gets a bit more rainfall. Land is more fertile and better able to sustain crops - farther west you will see much more range land and less under cultivation. Place had a nice pasture set up, water lines to the stock, and a decent size hay field. Outbuildings that were in decent shape (for the most part) and plenty of decent ground for a good sized garden not too far from the house. Some tree lines (though this is SD). Rural water system (ground water is not decent out here - too alkiline) but with an old well that we should be able to get working for stock and garden needs.

    What we didn't want - No major powerlines, transmission towers, railroad tracks, major highway close by, anything close by that would result in heavier traffic. Neighbors near by.

    For DH and I, finding the job really was the starting point in were we ended up. We are not in a situation where we don't need to work off the place.

  5. kenuchelover

    kenuchelover Well-Known Member

    Sep 29, 2005
    SE Oklahoma
    I looked at all the various maps mentioned below & as many others as I could locate (water, climate, soil, rainfall, vegetation, population density, RATE of increase in population, etc). I extrapolated for potential future problems (increased global warming? Global warning flipping us into new ice age? Distance to coastline in this era of worsening storms? Enough in the boonies to NOT get developed out of existance in 10-20 years? Ethnic composition? (I did NOT want a whitebread area, for family reasons). Etc.

    This located generalized regions to check out.

    (I ended up moving 1400 miles..... as it turns out, BACK to my home state albeit a different part of it.... but I'd researched other states & had been more than willing to serously consider them. It just happened that my home state ranked high on everything I was looking at).

    There is usually a state website covering these issues. If not, call up county or state building inspectors/offices & ask them. Some counties don't even have building codes, or don't enforce them much. Realtors can also usually tell you this information..... just verify it for safety's sake!

    Use Google! Lots of folk will talk about things like this in newsgroups, or on their websites, and searches easily turn up any potential problems.

    Try googling "taxes" (generic or specific types) and the name of the county in question.

    More to the point, there are only so many types of taxes.... you can easily locate the basics (state income tax, state & county sales tax rates, property tax rates, etc) online.... especially if you know which state you are thinking about. Local cost of living indices can also be located.... various govt & private sources have this information.

    And when visiting..... ask about taxes & costs that bug people! Call up local churches (say you're thinking of moving there) & banks (say you're thinking of getting a loan to buy property there) & ask THEM these questions!

    Google really is a wonderful thing..... you'll find govt & private websites on all these subjects! Often even specifically comparing one state to another (when done by advocacy groups, like homeschooling/homebirth organizations).

    I wanted areas with not too much red tape, minimal racial violence or intolerance, high religious & ethnic diversity, LOTS of agriculture (zoning will be FAR more friendly to homesteaders), lots of wild game (good local ecology, etc), lots of timber & a fair bit of hills (AKA fewer factory farms likely to be there), low population density, low housing starts (few new houses being built), cheap cost of living, reasonably mild climate, low taxes (low income area often means this), low crime rate, decent schools & in-state colleges, etc.


    NEIGHBORS...... (downstream of hog farm or industrial facility? next door to maximum security prison? future site of DNC convention? County with U.S. record for meth arrests? Commercial field corn grown right next to your proposed sweet corn patch? Agribusiness spraying lots & lots of chemicals just upwind?)

    Translation: Locate climate zone maps, aquifer maps (Nat'l Geographic did a nice one for the whole US a decade or so back), rainfall maps, etc. Use these to determine rough areas to search.

    When you know what states you like best, keeping the above in mind, start narrowing down on counties. GET COUNTY SOIL SURVEYS! They are usually free from county extension or soil conservation offices (but don't abuse the privilege by getting a zillion of them you'll never use & that other people might need more than you.... some libraries have them, some are online, etc). When you're checking out specific properties, immediately ask for the legal description (township & range, etc).... use this to look up that property in the county soil survey, it'll tell you EXACTLY what soil the property has & what it can be used for (or not).... most give building limitations if any, as well (flooding issues, crack prone foundations due to shrink-swell soils, no basement due to shallow bedrock, SEPTIC SYSTEM LIMITATIONS, etc).

    Use this same legal description location data to make use of FREE online topographic maps ( to check slopes & timber/pasture, roads, buildings, etc...... (also shows valuable little features like sewage treatment plants, hog farms, mining scars, railroads within earshot, encroaching housing developments, etc). Make use of FREE online arial/satellite photographs (like, via the MSN website links). This'll show you all kinds of valuable land use & area items (especially since you can look at old maps)..... is there a hog farm next door? Any surface water? Scars showing massive bulldozing at some point? Erosion? Browner vegetation than typical of the area (poor soil moisture issue), etc?

    There are websites showing superfund cleanup sites!

    Google using county names & everything you can think of.... many counties have webpages giving all the basic data (census economic/educational/racial/age/religious/etc breakdowns for the county, weather & climate data, etc, etc, etc). Use map software like "Streets & Trips"..... it'll even locate "points of interest" (how many local bowling alleys, chinese restaurants, etc) specific to you.
  6. cindyc

    cindyc Well-Known Member

    Nov 12, 2005
    WOW! Thanks! That is really thorough. I think you all will be a great help to "new" or "wannabe" homesteaders.

  7. terri46355

    terri46355 Well-Known Member

    May 15, 2003
    MO Ozarks
    I spent hours of research on the Internet.

    We knew what we wanted and how much we could afford. After deciding on a general area of the state we chose to move to, armed with real estate propaganda and a pre-approval letter from the bank, we went on a mission to find our place. It only took 3 trips to find our home.

    Now we are 525 mile southwest of our original location and love it.
  8. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jun 6, 2004
    Michigan's thumb
    1) When my sister split up with her husband she asked me to go up north and join her in her town, population 500. I was divorced and in between jobs. She needed someone to share the rent with and babysit her kids so she could finish her associates degree (and bachelors degree and juris thing). Four years later I got married to a local guy (Victory!). A few years ago he took a better job in a neighboring county, and four years ago we bought land near his job and built a house (almost done). We are in our present location because of the job commute. We bought this particular piece of property because it's basicly all we could afford- six acres.

    2) If a contractor is doing the building for you, they know the codes. You can usually get a written copy of codes from your township or county. As for zoning, the township or city probably has a map showing how everything is zoned. But, it wouldn't hurt to call the zoning director to find out for sure how things are zoned, and if there are any changes in the air.

    3) Contact the assessor. The real estate agent often has a copy of the previous year's bill, but depending on the state you are in, your taxes could jump high after you buy. You can visit the assessor's office and ask what taxes are placed on property. They should be able to tell you how real estate is assessed, what constitutes personal property, and what taxes will be levied. But, you may need to go to the treasurer's office.

    4) No other factors, really. We wanted to live in the country, and not on a main road. I did a little walk around before we bought the property to see if the neighbors were nice. We also looked for things like landfills, or other polluting factors. We wanted property that had not been cropped in a long time, and whose farmer wasn't big on pesticides and herbicides. Along the long side of our property , in the back, is forty acres of woods which is never visited by the owners. This is a plus. Our children were all out of high school by this time. In fact, we stayed in our original county on purpose until the youngest graduated.

    5) A piece of land should be free of chemical hazards, which means I would not want land that had been farmed by someone who uses chemicals for everything. I don't want land surrounded by chemical farmers. It should have soil good enough to garden on. If there is a slope to the land, I'd be certain that I wasn't buying a very wet low spot or very dry high spot. A long drive way is expensive, so I'd like to be able to build a house not too far from the road. I prefer trees.
  9. frazzlehead

    frazzlehead AppleJackCreek Supporter

    Aug 23, 2005
    near Edmonton AB
    I knew it needed to be west of the city (my SO has a place on the very west end of town, and I work on the west side) and within 1.25 hrs drive to the office.

    Actually, at first it was my SO looking to move. We did a lot of internet surfing and then drove around and just looked for "for sale" signs.

    One day, we saw this land. I knew I wanted to live here. And, here I am. SO ended up deciding that staying in town made the most sense for him (and it does). This way we have best of both worlds. :)

    I checked the county website, and phoned up the development permit folks. I specifically asked - probably three times - if they had occupancy permit requirements, as I knew I'd need to live in my place before it was "all done". I also checked out the rules on greywater and blackwater (need a septic tank for overflow on a composting toilet anyway here, so might as well just use a full septic tank/field setup, that kind of thing); dealt with my contractors on everything else, or just called the inspector when I wasn't sure.

    Talked to the county, again. Calculated mileage and fuel costs, turned out it was nearly an even trade for daycare costs, which I wouldn't need anymore.

    Talked to the farmer I bought the land from who had kids same age as mine and actually was a substitute teacher at the school. Went for a visit to the school and checked it out. Same province, so all the other stuff I already knew. :)

    I just knew when I saw this land it was where I wanted to be. It wasn't even listed. The farmer saw us looking around the neighbouring parcel, and told me this one was available. I gave him a deposit to hold it for me for 6 months while I considered. 6 months later, I paid up the rest and here I am. :)

    Partially cleared, so I wouldn't have to pay for clearing land to build. Good sun exposure (solar power). Some trees for privacy, but not too crowded in. Reasonable road access but not on a major through-way (I'm at the end of a dead end road, and love it). Quiet. Ability to have livestock if I wanted (I live on former cattle pasture and it's already subdivided as small as it can get, so I don't have to worry about a hundred mcmansions next door). Far enough out that it's not going to turn into the next subdivision (there's a large mine and a few lakes between me and the Big City - it won't get out here any time soon).
  10. minnikin1

    minnikin1 Shepherd

    Feb 3, 2003
    Central NY
    We found the place we settled in by looking at a Satellite photo of the US at night.
    We looked for a dark spot.
    (fewer lights - low population)
    We are doing our best to keep from lighting it up.
  11. ttryin

    ttryin Well-Known Member

    Apr 10, 2005

    Would suggest adding: spend some time in the community and at community functions before you buy. A rural area has already woven its social fabric. Are you comfortable? Will you fit in as much as you want or be comfortable with being an outsider if you don't fit in? I think these questions are bigger if a family is without children at home or strong ties to a local church.

    Living someplace for a few years and still not feeling a part of the community can be worse than a cold winter all year.

  12. TechGuy

    TechGuy Well-Known Member

    Oct 24, 2006
    I am also in the process of locating a good site. It looks like a bunch of you already found idea locations. Would you mind posting the location you choose (county, State).

    FWIW, I am looking for an location that meets these criteria:
    1. Low population density
    2. Affordable ( < $2.5K/acre) land for midsized plots (50 to 100 acres)
    3. Heavily wooded but tilable land (wood for heating and other uses)
    4. Good rainfall, and access to good subsurface (or surface) level water supplies. Land that isn't subject to drought. I plan on growing crops.
    5. Mild climate, Not too cold & not to hot (save $$$ on heating/cooling)
    6. Low Crime rate, low drug abuse
    7. more than 1.5 hours drive from any major population center.
    8. Low taxes
    9. East of the Mississipi river
    10. Access to good medical services ( < 25 minute drive, preferable)
    11. Access to basic utilities (electricity & phone)
    12. Agraculture friendly.

    Currently I've searching in SW Virginia (not WV). since it meets the majority of my requirements.

    I am probably not what one would consider to be a typical homesteader. I currently live near a major city. I've become increasing concerned about rising energy costs and declining energy resources. Over time I expect crime and unemployment to rise as energy supplies begin to dwindle. I would rather live my days away from this chaos and become self-sufficent rather than remain dependant on a system that is likely to decay and become insecure and unreliable.
  13. homebody

    homebody Well-Known Member

    Jan 24, 2005
    When we move, we will go in a southern direction. Here in se MO you are an outsider if you were not born and raised here. And your ancestors. However anyone from the east, north or west are more welcome here, esp. the north. There are a few exceptions of course; some people don't judge you according to where you're from.
    I prefer the south, where I'm from. I have also noticed that most of the arrests here are the "locals" and not the "outsiders". That's not acknowledged though. It is very "cool" here.
  14. TechGuy

    TechGuy Well-Known Member

    Oct 24, 2006
    >ET1 SS: But WOW 2.5K/acre? That is a lot! I wouldn't pay over 1k/acre. Why? Well in rural areas, the more rural you go the lower prices are.

    True. However the housing bubble has caused a siginificant run up in land prices. I would rather pay $1k per acre, but I believe it will take another 12 to 18 months before prices return back to Earth. Although I am not sure If I want to wait it out. I think that I can get sellers to reduce prices from there asking price, since the demand from builders is nearly non-existant today, but I don't want to over look good property because its currently overpriced today. I can always make an offer and see if they are willing to meet it.

    >ET1 SS:Well, we are in zone 5A.

    Maine is a fine place but its much more difficult to grow crops, because of the shorter season, but the soil is loaded with rocks left over from the ice age.

    >>TechGuy:9. East of the Mississipi river
    >ET1 SS: Why?

    Family and business associates. I perfer to remain reasonably near by especially considering the possibly of much higher travel costs. Much of the Eastern US gets good rainfall too. Much of the west has issues with access to water (especially during droughts) since the aquafiers are rapidly becoming depleted.

    >homebody: some people don't judge you according to where you're from.
    >ttryin: Would suggest adding: spend some time in the community and at community functions before you buy. A rural area has already woven its social fabric.

    I have indeed given that consideration. I'll have spend some time with the locals to see if they have issues with outsiders. I certainly plan on talking with neighbors to see if they have any concerns to me moving next to them.

    >When we move, we will go in a southern direction.

    FYI: Consider avoiding areas that are exposed to extreme weather or climate, such as Hurricanes, Flooding, Tornados, etc. Already loads of home owners are losing their insurance because of last year's storms down south. I suspect this will continue as the clean up costs continue to rise in the future. As the old saying goes "Everything in Moderation".
  15. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 24, 2003
    My parents bought old pasture land in Whitefield ME....3 FEET of loam...but yes the soil can be rocky but its not hard to grow plenty of food.

    And everything slows down in the winter...

    But hey don't move to Maine we've got enough people :)