How To Start A Rural Homestead, Part 4: Deciding Between Raw or Developed Land
This is Part 4 of the How To Start A Rural Homestead series. Before reading this post, I recommend starting at Part 1: Income.
This is part 4 of a series for anyone who is serious about designing a rural homestead lifestyle.
It is my belief that if you begin these steps and really commit to them, within two years you can attain your homestead and have set up a life so that you don’t have to commute away from it every single day to join the rat race.
The fourth step, this one, can also be done amidst all the aforementioned steps.
This step is arguably a lot easier than the first three, and you might already know what you want to do regarding buying an already existing home or building from scratch on raw land.
Often, purchasing raw land and building from scratch can seem appealing because the lower price tag can get people on their land quicker. But, one of the big themes behind this series is to do things the right way, not necessarily the quickest way. This series of steps is intended to set anyone who follows them up for long-term success with their envisioned homestead lifestyle.
The choice to buy raw land and develop it yourself versus buying acreage with a home already on it is a really important choice and can set you up for happiness and success, or not.
So let’s take some time to consider both approaches, shall we?
Developing raw land
There are lots of advantages to purchasing raw land and developing it yourself.
The more idealistic among us will want to take this approach, and this is what my husband and I originally set out to do years ago.
What I’ve learned is that to develop raw land into the homestead you have in mind, you will need plenty of:
If you’re lacking in any of these areas, you might want to seriously consider purchasing acreage that is already somewhat developed.
Things to consider when buying raw land:
Access— is there access to the property that is reliable year-round or will you need to create this yourself?
Utilities— are you ready to live without hot running water and electricity? Personally, living without running water is a lot more difficult and time-consuming than living without electricity. I recommend giving it a go if you haven’t before - try a sustained camping trip and see how you fare, or commit to living without any power or running water in your home for atleast one month (so no turning the faucets, no central heat and air, no charging laptops or phones, no lights, nothing whatsoever that requires power or running water, and just see how it goes for you).
Where will you live once you purchase the land? Will you live on the land in a tent or temporary structure while you build? How will you make money during this time? Will you rent nearby and work on the property as you can? Will you live with family or friends?
Purchasing land that is already developed
There’s a spectrum of what can be considered developed land— you can find properties with a finished home on them ready to live in, or land with a home that is in need of remodeling or finishing, a home but no utilities, and many other variations.
Usually already developed land will have access to it, and often utilities of some kind in place, even if they are off-grid systems.
If you do go this route, I recommend paying off all debt first so that your homestead payment (assuming you finance it) is your only debt. Furthermore, be sure to save atleast 20% for a down payment and to go with a 15-year fixed mortgage. Dave Ramsey discusses this further on his radio show (and if you haven’t gotten his book The Total Money Makeover yet, I would most definitely urge you to do so!).
The benefit to purchasing acreage with a home already on it is that you have a home to nest into while you work on all of your homestead projects— installing off-grid systems, improving access, starting a garden, getting chickens and livestock, and so on.
If more free time and money were available to us, my husband and I would love to build our own home and develop land from scratch. But, after a lot of trial and error, we’ve decided that purchasing land with a home already on it is what will allow us to make our rural homestead lifestyle goals a reality. And in the years to come, we’ll probably end up building our own home on the land anyway, and then perhaps renting out the original home, or AirBnb’ing it, etc.
My husband and I like to buy thrift and vintage as much as possible, and the same concept applies to home-buying. Why not purchase a home that has already been built but just needs new caretakers, rather than consume all new materials to build your own?
There are many beautiful and idyllic cabins on land out there for sale, and in the next part of this series I’ll show you how to find them!
Budget & Timeline
When considering the above, you also want to think about your own budget and timeline.
I suggest comparing the two options as thoroughly as possible. If you were to buy a piece of raw land, think about what your next steps will look like to convert it into the homestead you’re envisioning.
Consider laying out a timeline for each option (raw land vs. developed with home) and keep track of costs as much as possible to help you compare the two.
Be realistic about your diy dreams
The last thing I want to mention is to really be honest with yourself about your DIY abilities. I am the biggest believer in self-education, and I think we are all capable of building our own homes, of course, our ancestors did this all throughout human history up until recently.
But if you have never even built a nice piece of furniture, be careful about envisioning yourself building a home without a lot of slooooow learning curves and help from other experienced builders.
It’s easy to become idealistic here. It might be a fail-safe option to purchase land with a home already on it and then hone your skills of building your own home somewhere else on the property.
This is just food for thought. If you are certain you want to build your own home, more power to you! Look into local workshops about timber framing, see if you can apprentice with a carpenter once or twice a week, or at the very least start committing to carpentry projects on your own as often as possible during this interim while you’re moving through all of the steps.
Best wishes to you all and please enjoy the next part in this series: Determining Location.
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