Homescratch Homestead, Step 1: Creating a Treasure Map

Reader Contribution by Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt
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In the summer of 2017 my husband and I started looking for a home to invest in. With a 25% increase in our local housing market over the last couple of years, the initial idea of buying a house to flip was no longer a realistic possibility. The increase in the housing market had not quite reached land values so we turned our attention to finding a piece of property where we could create a small homestead. To afford the land and build a cabin would require us to take on the full process of the build from the design to the finished product. Although new construction required a bigger undertaking than remodeling, we were ready to take on the challenge. This would be Jordan’s biggest ground-up project as a licensed contractor. 

If you have ever sifted through real estate listings, you can relate to the overwhelming amount of opportunities available. Eliminating listings for houses honed in our search. Now that we were just looking at properties, there was another level of sorting to be done—raw land or land with infrastructure. While prices of raw land is enticing, infrastructure can be incredibly expensive. Digging a well can cost up to $100/foot and there are anecdotal tales in our area of digging over 300 feet and not even striking water. That’s an expensive guess. Septic has a lot of red tape with wetlands and installing an electrical transformer costs ~$5,000 plus extra fees to hook up any extensions. Due to these factors, we refined our search parameters to exclude raw land. Another cycle of elimination. 

As we were deciphering the factors that were important for us, a close friend advised us to create a map on a piece of paper, writing “treasure” in the center and extending lines to each important value that we wanted in the property. Other non-financial priorities included being close to our community, developing our property into a bigger site that included a future woodworking shop, establishing a small hobby farm, privacy, southern exposure with lots of sunlight, good views of the mountains and a place that we could happily live in temporarily or permanently. By mapping it out, he insisted that we would be creating a living guide to direct us to our future homestead. 

Within a month of creating the treasure map, we were signing the closing documents as the new owners of a 2.5 acre level plat, bordered by a grove of aspens.

Some infrastructure was already in place, including a shared well, driveway and electric transformer. The commute to town is 17 minutes. The back field receives sunshine most of the day and there are two spots on the property with killer views. Not one of the listed priorities are convincing selling points on their own, but the culmination of the factors fit the scope of our search. I’m not sure if we would have been able to make the connection without the guidance of the treasure map. The map kept us on track and gave us accountability for the full scope of our desires. Once we had an actual tool to compare each new listing, the process of elimination was easy. When we discovered our property, each category was checked off and we knew this was the right place for us. The treasure map is a powerful and effective tool and I do recommend it if you are in the process of buying a house or property.

Read Part 2 about Homestead Financing.

Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt is a dedicated forager, outdoor enthusiast, and blogger for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Her published articles include: Build a DIY Cider Pressin the 2015 September/October issue of GRIT and5-Minute, 5-Ingredient Mayonnaisein the 2015 Best of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Follow her adventures at A Faithful Journey, and read all of Lyndsay’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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