As we begin to explore a plethora of options for a future homestead we first must establish our demand list. Over the years many of our hobbies have been put aside — due in large part — to the demands and tasks like getting in sufficient firewood and snow removal. I enjoy woodworking and fishing and Carol likes wood carving. Any prospective new locale will therefore need to be near good fishing lakes, rivers or creeks. We will also need a space to pursue our hobbies. We would also like to have closer driving time to relatives and friends. We have found that our current home which was downsized when we moved here is sufficient for our needs and do not want to move up in size if possible. We would also like more land than a postage size city lot. Life is full of compromise so what we end up with may not be what we actually desire.
Finding the right area can be time consuming so first thing we did was pull out our USA Atlas map. We quickly found out family and friends are scattered all over the country but the largest concentration is situated in the South, East/Midwest. Now we triangulate on the map and scan the individual states that would place us in better proximity with reduced driving time. We then start a search of each State systematically. We presently live in an area that enjoys fresh pure water and clean air. Finding a locale with similar conditions is therefore important to us. Thankfully the EPA requires cities and towns to publish test results on these conditions which makes it easy to check. One potential area we looked at had a small foot note about nitrates found in private wells. The overall percent of contaminated private wells is still just a few but living near farms that use large amounts of nitrate fertilizers sooner or later leach into the ground water system. That indicates to me before I would relocate there I would want any well water fully tested for purity. The small city nearby had excellent water ratings in spite of a few private wells.
After we find a possible location we then research the area for useful statistics. We have found a good source at: http://www.city-data.com. There is about any fact available at that site that could help you make a more informed decision. The site reveals the demographics, weather, crime rate statistics/sex offenders, median age, income, employment base, home values, population growth/decline, unemployment rate and a host of additional data that when assimilated into a decision provides a comprehensive overview of the area. This site provides a wealth of information thereby making it easier to evaluate the prospective community with as much statistical information as possible.
We then check the web pages for the city/county government which provides even more information on local government. We would like an area where we can have a half dozen chickens and a garden without violating multiple codes and ordinances. Our pets carry a high priority for us; therefore we want to determine if there are pet ordinances that could possibly impact our pets. In addition we want to know if there are noise ordinances and if they are enforced. Are there zoning codes and governmental services available? Who maintains the roads? We like to learn as much about the operations of the city as possible. Our local community had used a very toxic spray to kill weeds before they were forced to stop. We want to avoid similar situations where ever we relocate. Is the locale we are interested in an environmentally concerned community? We have noted that some communities are overloaded with rules, codes, laws and ordinances. Usual requirements for living are expected but some communities clearly go over the top with their many rules. We also look for environmentally conscious communities.
Armed with this information we then check local realtor sites for an idea of home prices, value for your investment and specific home locations on a map. How do homes compare with what we already have by size, quality and living conditions? With all this information we can then make a decision to consider the area or rule it out. Then when we have a few good areas we will prioritize them and make plans to visit the communities or have a close trusted friend in the area check it our for us. With much of the statistical facts established we can then begin to personally look at neighborhoods/locales. Without visiting the area it is hard to see if you have a fracking location near you; if the area is crime ridden or if you are down wind from a pig farm or other smelly factory. Before we actually make a visit or have a friend do it for us we have narrowed our search down considerably with detailed on line investigation.
All those factors combined should pave the way for a better and more informed decision. It is our desire that our particular process will be helpful for others.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and mountain living visit their personal blog site at: http://www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com.