Homesteading After Retirement: Part 2
The Land Purchase
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Buying land or an established farm property is one of the first decisions facing you after deciding to homestead after retirement. First, research the area where you would like to settle. Having a network of fellow homesteaders is a great place to start. Family ties and friends can also weigh in with some ideas you may not think about on your own.
An important consideration concerns how close you want to be to services. Being further off the beaten path adds serenity to your life, no doubt about that. It also means longer drives to pick up supplies and slower access to emergency services. This may not be a concern of yours and I am not stating that it must be concerning. Just keep it in mind if you like a certain amount of interaction with other people. Church, recreation, and schools are usually centered in towns.
Look at each property from the unique perspective of what you hope to accomplish. Make a list of your most important land features. Do you need flat grazing land for a cattle pasture, or for raising sheep, or goats? Shady, tree-covered property, or plenty of open garden space? How will you irrigate crops or provide water for livestock? Certain properties might have improvements already in place, which is wonderful. If the land is raw, remember to add the cost of a well being drilled, permits to do so, and all the associated inspections.
Future market garden plans can easily be derailed by Mother Nature. Will you require a greenhouse to get your seedlings started early? Again, I must mention the dreaded “permit” word. It may turn out to be a simple procedure. My advice is to ask the realtor or landowner, but also verify that what you are told is correct. Contact the local zoning office and present your plan. With so many different agencies and state and local policies, it pays to be certain that your plan and your potential property fit together.
How is the Weather?
Is the area where you are searching for land a comfortable fit for you? Homesteading in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan may sound wonderful in July. But are you able to withstand the cold, dark winters? Most livestock can adjust to any climate, but they still need a caretaker to make sure that thawed water and hay are available. Do you feel that this is a good fit for you? On a personal note, I do not tolerate heat and humidity well. There are weeks of each summer where my mind even considers throwing in the towel! I wish our farm was not in such a humidity-prone area. If you and your spouse or partner differ regarding what climate is comfortable, make
sure you discuss this before settling on your dream farm.
How Much Land?
It sounds great to own acres and acres. A large buffer between you and the nearest neighbor can be a welcome thought after living in a neighborhood or city. There are certain considerations on this subject.
Upkeep of the Land
Fencing and mowing, planting, and growing is an iconic scene! It is also hard physical labor. The bigger the property, the more you will have of these tasks. Buying 200 acres is also quite an investment. Look carefully at the options available for that much land. Is there the option of leasing grassland to hay farmers, or leasing property to a tenant farmer for crops?
If a small garden and raising chickens are your idea of a retirement homestead, consider the smaller rural properties, too. One of the concerns is resale. Should you need to resell the property, a smaller piece of land will sell quicker than a large, higher-priced property
I love to look at the older farmhouses and lands. The history of the property comes through in the buildings and the tall mature trees. When looking into purchasing a historic farm property, make a list of what improvements you would want to be made to the house or outbuildings. In some areas, a historic preservation society may have stipulations on what can be done with historic buildings.
Look into the options for property insurance. A friend of mine purchased an incredibly old farm that needed renovations and restoration. Before closing on the property, she had trouble finding an insurance company
that would insure the farm and buildings because they were so old.
Insect damage, prior flood damage, fencing that needs repair, and trees that are about to fall are a few other pitfalls to look for before signing the paperwork. It does not have to be a deal-breaker, but taking off the rose-colored glasses and knowing what you are facing is the best approach.
One last story from our personal experience:
We found a property on our quest that seemed to fit all the needs of our family. The farm was partially wooded, had grazing land for cattle, a beautiful home with room to grow, and many extras we did not really require. It was a dream farm property. Except there was only one access driveway to the home and it crossed a river via a low bridge. We were concerned enough about this fact that we looked for other access points and had the realtor contact the neighboring farm about a possible access road being added. During this time, we had heavy storms and flooding in many areas of the east coast. The area, where this farm was located, suffered damage and many roads were washed out.
One day we decided to take a drive to see how the river and bridge were holding up. The short story is that they were not holding up. The bridge was underwater. The river was rushing and full of rapids. If we had been out during this storm there was no way we could have returned home until the waters receded. That property was crossed off our list.
The purchase of a farm or homestead property has many facets. While the dream of finally living a homestead retirement life can make us a little quick to make a decision, taking the time to think about all the different obstacles of each property can ensure that your dream and your future remain positive.
Read the first installment of this series at iamcountryside.com/homesteading/ homesteading-after-retirement-part-1/
Originally published in Countryside March/April 2021 and regularly vetted for accuracy.