Buying and Preparing Homestead Land

An account of how the author and his wife spent over ten years scrimping and saving the money they needed to buy a parcel of homestead land and make it liveable.

| July/August 1973

Fact: If you want to be free of the city, you've first gotta come up with the "front money".

Maybe you'd rather not believe me when I say that you need 3 bankrolls to homestead. You may, in that case, be in shock for when you hit the backroads and start checking out rural acreage prices. We've found that those costs are Pikes Peak high and going higher.

For example, in 1960, when we first decided on an eventual move back to the land, I could have bought my present 160 acres of Ozark rocks (if I'd had the money, which I didn't) by taking over the owners' $25.00-per-month payments on top of $100 cash.

By September 1971, when we'd finally gotten our capital together, the place certainly hadn't been improved any. In fact, the barn had fallen, the 24' X 24' cabin had seriously deteriorated and the electricity had been taken out. Nevertheless, the property cost us $4,500 down and $132 a month—at interest on our loan—for the next 10 years. That works out at $90.00 an acre, or a total of $14,400 for a farm I could have bought 11 years ago for $ 2,600.

Were we taken? No. In comparison to other acreage in this northwest corner of Arkansas, we got a fair price. Around here farmland on paved roads starts at $300 an acre ... and this is a government-designated poverty pocket. If you need additional proof that front money is essential, try talking $90.00 an acre to a real estate agent in your own area.

I'll say it again: If you want out, it takes down-payment bucks. Also, besides the front money, homesteading means tools ... and they too cost. Even a biceps-powered garden till advertised in MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

So, how do you do it? How do you crank up a $500 or $1,000 down payment—plus tool money—for your own version of Walden or Malabar or whatever?

What follows are some tricks my wife and I used to get that necessary investment ... despite my being in a low-paying career field (social work) and despite our having five children. I've also included some specific examples of the kind of money problems we've run into since buying and moving into 'Outlaws Area No. 1".

10/15/2015 3:18:30 PM

Lee, how much land clearing work did you do for that land? By the looks of the picture it seems like you sure had quite a big project to play with. That type of tree service is what I even have in mind after taking over my father's barn.

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