Tools and Tips to for Finding the Perfect Homestead

| 3/6/2014 11:13:00 AM

Tags:, real estate, Michelle Wire, Pennsylvania,

What a few months this has been! Sometime last year, before the leaves started falling and the frost arrived and the Polar Vortex descended, we began homestead hunting. I decided to start the search early, many months before our prospective move date, which revolved around what most things in my household do: a teen girl. We moved school districts almost two years ago, and I really didn’t want to move her again, let alone in her junior or senior year of high school. That seems like cruel and unusual punishment during some already punishing years.

My boyfriend and I sat down and wrote The List: what we want in a home and what we need. Here are the basics: three, or preferably four bedrooms; two bathrooms for sure (reference teen girl above); room for two large pit bull rescue pups (one half lab, the other half mastiff); parking for multiple pickup trucks; trailer parking; RV parking; a large kitchen in which to prepare homemade meals and teach classes; a yard with adequate space and sun for a three-season garden; and room for a goat shelter, a chicken coop, and, eventually, a horse paddock. For goodness sake, is this too much to ask?!

The List

Maybe. But here are some tools to use and topics to consider when choosing a homestead:

I’ve used several websites to scout listings, mainly and Weichert, because they allow me to filter properties by acreage and school district.

Great Schools allows you to see school districts’ ratings, test scores, and reviews.

You’ll want to look into the zoning and animal restrictions for a given area, as well, since that might rule some places out right away. For instance, I initially chose a nearby community, assuming they were animal friendly, but it turned out they heavily restrict animals on anything less than three acres. You can’t even have one chicken unless you have three acres. In fact, that town is suing a woman for keeping chickens! Needless to say, I crossed that community off the list. Your township building or city hall is an excellent first stop; they should keep a copy of the guidelines and ordinances on hand or on their websites.

When considering a property, carefully inspect the lay of the land. Several we’ve seen have been on sloping lots, which will wash my garden nutrients right down the hill unless I build leveling raised beds. A sloping lot will also make the animal shelters challenging to build. Consider whether that’s the sort of work you’ll want to tackle and, if so, if your timeline will let you get it done. Will you miss too many growing seasons and blow your budget?

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