If I were to just say the word “homestead” what would you envision?
Maybe a family with several kids on a farm out in the sticks. Maybe an older couple who have been doing this for years and wouldn’t have it any other way. Perhaps something more akin to a “hobby farm” on a few acres for the chickens, a cow and a few kids (goats) and kids (human). But whatever you think of you probably don’t think of someone… single.
Hi! That’s me! And I can assure you that I don’t have any screws loose and I’m going to take you with me on my journey toward my personal American Dream of buying a homestead.
A homestead is nothing without a homesteader. You wouldn’t buy a car if you didn’t know how to drive would you? It takes time and effort to cultivate the right knowledge and disciplines for the homesteading life. So even though I don’t have a homestead yet, I’ve been working on the necessary skills I’d need to own one.
Growing up, I learned how to take care of livestock by working on farms. I asked my dad if I could build and grow a garden in our backyard. I would help my Uncle each year make and sell maple syrup. I learned canning and pickling. I learned how to forage on my part-time job as a Park Naturalist. I learned some simple home and car maintenance and I taught myself how to budget.
I did lots of research, wrote down my notes in a notebook, and wasn’t afraid to experiment and inevitably fail along the way.
Homesteading is a way of life for me, so naturally, it’s time to find a place where I could pursue this way of living.
The Plan for Buying a Homestead
My plan, given my current situation, was to start small, but not so small that I couldn’t grow as I mature and potentially marry and start a family.
With that in mind, buying the right land seemed like the first priority. First, I wanted something close to work as I was tired of driving all over creation every day to get there. I figured I could put those hours I spend in the car towards something that was a bit more constructive. Next, I wanted something with both flat open ground for future vegetable gardens but also a wood lot as I love to make and sell maple syrup. I was thinking 1-5 acres depending on the ground. More than that and I would feel very overwhelmed (I did mention I would have to maintain it all by myself, right?)
The house was secondary. If I had to live in an RV or a mobile home while I built a house, I was fine with that. If I needed to drop a manufactured house on the site that was an option as well.
If there were a house on the property, I wanted something that was on the small side (900 -1200 sq ft) that I could still potentially add on to as I needed. I was hoping for an older farmhouse or a well-built stick-frame house from before the 50s or 60s. My thinking is that if I were to go off grid, I could better retrofit a house like that than a new “modern” house. I was hopeful for a cistern or well on the property as well as a fireplace or wood-burning stove or the ability to add one later. Basically, I wanted the house to be as self-sufficient as I could get.
But as I said before, if I just ended up buying land, I could build something that would fit these parameters in time.
Paying for It
I have one income (I work at a wholesale greenhouse), and while it does fluctuate a bit year to year (and month to month) because of the agricultural nature of it, I do expect to make a modest, but healthy amount of money per year. It’s not six digits, but I don’t need to make six digits to afford a good piece of land out in my part of the country (that part of the country being southeastern Indiana). Therefore I was willing to spend about three times my annual pay on this venture.
I could potentially afford more, and I’m sure I’d have no trouble finding a lending institution that would like to have me on the hook for more. I’m thankfully not burdened by college loan debt and my old, fully paid-for car was selected for its ability to be easily serviced, but the idea of not biting off more than I could chew is always in the back of my mind.
I’d rather, once again, start small, see what I can handle, and then add as need be. This is just how I was raised. Sure, it would be nice to have everything “turn-key” now, but you have to pay through the nose for it, and with rising interest rates and a financial depression on the horizon, I suppose the lesson to be learned here is to not overextend yourself especially if you are by yourself.
Timing is Everything
The timing for buying my homestead also had to be right. I watch home prices constantly and how long homes are on the market. My dream just couldn’t be a reality a few months ago with the housing bubble so big and people literally snatching up houses sight unseen, but with the economy taking a nosedive, I actually see it as an opportunity.
Houses are staying on the market longer and for less money, as prices have steadily dropped. But auctions and foreclosures are on the rise, making even the upper end of housing more affordable. Could this be the avenue I want to go down? We’ll see…
While I’m just in the beginning process of buying a homestead, I wanted to share my experiences and thought processes with you all as this is a unique time for home ownership. So I hope you’ll hear back from me soon, dear reader and fellow homesteader, as my dream becomes a reality!
But for now, I have to watch… and wait….