Homesteading is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice among Americans seeking to be more independent, despite decades in which the small family farm has been in decline. And though these small family farms vary widely in price and overall scale, few realize that taking a DIY-approach to life is so expensive. If you’re considering investing in a homesteading property, then, it’s vital that you consider the costs involved in growing your own food and raising animals, as well as how to renovate your homestead and maintaining your property. It may be a much bigger undertaking than you expected!
Think About Scale
One of the first factors you need to consider when acquiring a property is the scale of your project before you renovate your homestead. Are you working with an acre or one hundred acres? The size of your property will, in large part, determine both the cost and whether you can handle the majority of the renovations yourself. Depending on your location, you can grow all your family’s food on 1/5th to three acres of land. Smaller scale growth operations typically require more advanced horticultural infrastructure, however.
Know Your Priorities
In addition to scale, homesteaders must consider their priorities when taking on a property as this will determine where you commit your limited funds. For Shaye Elliott, one of the leaders of the modern homesteading movement, for example, the emphasis on back-to-the-land living stems from a loss of trust in the modern food system. Farming without animals obviously requires less infrastructure than homesteads that are all plants, but even plants require greenhouse facilities, seeds, equipment, and storage – and you need to budget for that before you renovate
Beware Risky Properties
Many new homesteaders are drawn to their properties because they’re very affordable – but affordability comes at a price. According to Green Residential, the Houston investment property management group, many investors choose properties that others have deemed risky, thinking they can turn it around for a profit. Among homesteaders, this is the equivalent of home flipping, just with plants and animals. The easiest way to identify risky properties is that they often require a cash payment, don’t qualify for loans, and can be much harder to renovate and restore because they lack financing options. Good real estate agents will also typically try to steer you away from such properties. DO yourself a huge favor and listen to them. It’s tempting to think that they just want to make more money and in turn, want you to buy a more expensive property, but keep in mind they are the professionals here. They know what to look for and they know a lemon when they see one.
Flip Your Mortgage
Taking on a risky property for your homestead may save you money in the long run but it can also limit your home renovation options. With homes that start in better standing, you can often use your mortgage to pay for improvements. Your home acts as its own collateral, but that also helps you to keep expenses in check throughout the renovation process. By leveraging your mortgage, you also ensure that you can pay for improvements incrementally, even if you do them all at once.
Do Your Homework
The most important thing to account for when purchasing property is thinking about the possibility of having to renovate your homestead. Because so few people have family knowledge of farming, unscrupulous contractors may take advantage of you, driving up the price of the work. Make sure you do your homework and know how much things cost before you get started!
Research all the work that needs to be done on your property, determine what you can do yourself, where you can borrow equipment, and who you can talk to about these projects. Homesteaders tend to cluster together, so your neighbors likely have valuable knowledge.
The popularity of homesteading will likely continue to increase due to political instability and an interest in disaster preparation, but it takes time – and serious labor – to see the financial savings that homesteading promises. If you start with a sound property in need of limited repairs, however, you’ll be better positioned to finance improvements and begin to renovate your homestead without delay.