How to Find Your Dream Homestead Land

Whether you're seeking homestead land in secluded rural areas or a lot with enough farmland for a garden, this advice will help you find the homestead land that’s just right for you.

| April/May 2008

homestead land

Finding the perfect homestead land takes planning, research and patience.

Photo by iStockphoto/Ann Taylor-Hughes

Imagine your ideal patch of Mother Earth. Perhaps it’s a place where the sky and farmland are vast, where the soil is fertile for growing your own food, the trees grow tall, and your neighbors offer genuine small-town friendliness. There’s little crime or traffic, and all you hear at night is the rush of wind through the trees.

Now, imagine that someone’s willing to give it to you — free.

That’s precisely what the town of Anderson, in central Alaska, did in March 2007, when they attempted to lure potential transplants by offering 26 free, spruce-covered building lots. And each 1.3-acre lot had its own view of beautiful natural surroundings. In return, all the newcomers had to do was agree to build a home and stay awhile — not a bad bargain for those looking to head back to the land. And according to Anderson’s city clerk, Nancy Hollis, the plan has been successful, drawing people from all walks of life. “So far, the new land owners are fitting into our community nicely,” she says. (The free lots are taken as of this printing.)

For some, finding dream homestead land means secluded rural acreage. But for others, an ideal homestead may be in a small town, where you might find less expensive housing and a lot large enough for a garden, some fruit trees and a few chickens — plus the benefits of nearby community amenities. There are some locations where you can still find your dream homestead land without breaking the bank. And with the fallout from the recent mortgage crisis, farmland prices — at least in some areas — are tumbling, offering an even better reason to jump into the game.

Navigating the Market

Anyone who has searched for affordable farmland near the nation’s major cities or in booming retirement and resort areas knows how challenging the process can be. Even some more remote rural areas, particularly in the fast-growing retirement and resort areas of the West, have experienced price spikes. “I am seeing land prices increase dramatically in southern Utah, northern Nevada, southern Idaho and eastern Oregon,” says John Allen, director of the Western Rural Development Center at Utah State University. And in many areas of high-cost states such as California, spiraling prices have put homestead land well out of reach for many buyers.

But the picture is far different in other parts of rural America, and for those looking for a quiet country life, opportunities abound. Between July 2005 and July 2006, the population of the nation’s rural areas as a whole grew by just 0.6 percent. In rural parts of the American Plains (stretching from Texas to the Dakotas, east through Indiana, and across poor counties in the Mississippi Delta) many areas have seen a steady decline of population since the early 1900s. In the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and North and South Dakota, 89 percent of the 2,421 cities and towns have fewer than 3,000 people — hundreds have fewer than 1,000 — and most have been hemorrhaging population for years. To turn the tide, local governments are often eager to entice newcomers to boost their tax base for schools and other essential services.

11/7/2015 2:47:01 AM

I am 30 years and working for 10 years and one of my future plan before I retired is to buy my own business property not for me for my kids..

jacob solomon
2/19/2012 6:03:37 PM

Nice list of online land purchase resources, but you've missed one which is also quite good - .

prospective homesteader
8/20/2009 9:23:59 AM

After contemplating the comment by S.L. Burwell, I would like to submit to readers a possible remedy for the problem of aging and waning strength. In times past, it was not strange to live in the same place with one's parents, grandparents, other relatives, or even helping hands. As the older generation waned, the stronger generation gradually took over the responsibilities of the home. I believe that investing in deep, close, and lasting relationships especially with one's own offspring pays off manifold in the later years of a person's life. Society today is so impersonal, much to our detriment. I appreciated this article very much and found it full of practical help.

s.l. burwell
8/14/2009 8:06:57 AM

I wanted to weigh in on the article in the Guide to Country Skills "Finding Your Perfect Country Property." We were able to buy a small farm as 20 somethings and move back to the land. Thirty some years later, having had my chickens, horses, cows, pigs and all other manner of critters, we have pared down to what is on about two acres around our home. My advice to add to this article is think for the long term: Can you picture yourself older and perhaps with physicial or health problems that may hinder your giving full attention to the needs of your purchase? While we have no regrets, we have found our older bodies are not quite as able to keep up with everything that we would like to. Paring down has worked for us and we enjoy the country setting that we live in. Will we sell down the road? Perhaps: That country home further south beckons as a retirement dream. Keep up the good work, M.E.N., I enjoy reading the magazine and the web content.

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