Choices – More On Choosing A Homestead Site

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray

There are multiple choices on what community to locate your homestead in.  Should it be in a rural area or a covenant community, suburbs or city?  Where you locate your homestead can depend on  what you intend to do with your property, and a host of other considerations.  Many of those have been discussed in detail in prior blog topics, and this blog will discuss a community with covenants/deed restrictions versus one that is only governed by land use, zoning and code restrictions.

If you choose to locate in a non-covenant community you will need to satisfy County, State, and Federal code requirements along with zoning, building code, electrical code and plumbing code restrictions if they all apply in your area.  You may need various permits, inspections, and to satisfy code enforcement officials including sometimes the local health inspector.

If you choose to make your homestead in a covenant community though you should  give careful thought to how you plan to use your property.  We have lived in four separate covenant communities and have served as directors to committee chairpersons within those associations.  While I don’t want to start a fire storm of criticism and debate on the virtues or lack thereof regarding covenant communities, our personal experience has been mixed with some being good and some not so good, and some down right terrible.  They do help keep your property values more stable as long as everyone keeps the rules and restrictions equally. 

Of the four  associations we have been involved with one has been what I would consider very good.  As I talk to other people in covenant communities I find very few have much good to say when it comes to covenant communities.  I know our particular State has passed Common Interest Association laws that place all the power in the associations leadership control and severely restricts individual  members of their rights. A whole new industry has arisen with professional property managers. Attorneys specializing in covenant law, and purveyors that cater to these groups.   Those who are elected to run these communities are sometimes poorly qualified and they have unrestricted authority over other peoples lives and property.  If you want to put up a fence, change the color of your house, add an outbuilding, improve your driveway, plant shrubs, have certain types of vehicles,  have poultry or livestock, more than a certain number of pets (leash control is strong),  run your business from home or park your vehicle in your driveway, you may need to to get permission first. Things like clothes lines, yard ornaments, dog runs are usually not allowed. 

One of our friends had been entertaining on their front deck, moved the party inside and left a single can of soda on the porch.  A very stern and determined woman marched down their driveway declaring that was not permitted; although it had only been there less than 5 minutes.  So should you decide to develop your homestead in a covenant community you can anticipate encountering an abundance of these types.  I am not saying that your life can’t be good in spite all the restrictions and neighbors turned enforcer, but that you should be fully aware what you are moving into.  I am sure there are some that have a good Common Interest Association and to you I can only say be very thankful for what you have.   I have heard from people across the country in these communities and I believe a good covenant community is more rare than common.

The purpose of this is not to put such groups in a less favorable light than they deserve but to caution you while it may appear a good choice for your homestead, with the influx of a few new people, it can change rapidly and your recourse is very limited due to constantly changing State laws that highly favor the Common Interest Association and not you as an individual member. To prevail against an association in most cases needs to be accomplished in a court of law.  That is very expensive.  

So again this is not to put common interest associations down in any way, they usually are well intentioned  but their meaning may be vastly different from what you and other members believe.  Most serve in the capacity as volunteers and learn on the job, create a mess for others to then remedy. Also volunteers.   So it is up to each person to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of an association.  If you don’t like to be told what you can and can’t do I would suggest that you locate your homestead other than a covenant community.  Of course there you may run the risk of someone putting a smelly pig farm right next to you and impacting your property values.  Before I get a lot of email on pigs, I love pork and I understand the virtues of pigs but I wouldn’t like to have several hundred right next door to me.   Or they may be running ATV’s over your property and their property all hours of the day and night.  You have to weigh the pro and cons and make the choice that is best suited for you and what you hope to accomplish on your homestead. 

If you do live in a well run and good covenant community I would like to hear about your community. Do you barter, share garden/livestock together?  For more on our lifestyle go to: