How to Buy Land for Homesteading

Before chickens, before cows, before a giant garden capable of sustaining our family, we first needed to buy the right land for homesteading. But what does right look like? Depending on your goals the right land for us may be different than the right land for you. However, there are certain land characteristics that can make or break a successful homestead. Let’s explore what to look for when buying land for homesteading.

First, congratulations! If you’re here then you are likely taking those first steps into simplifying your life, becoming more self-reliant, and focusing your effort on you and your family by establishing your homestead. It’s okay if this is all new, this is a great place to start! We’re going to walk through some of the factors we considered when buying land for homesteading.

Two men in a forest with chainsaws de-limbing downed trees while a tractor works in the background
Rob and Hudson de-limbing trees while the forest mulcher gets to work

Where is the best place to buy land for homesteading?

When you’re looking to buy land for homesteading, you need to first narrow down which area or region supports your goals. Before starting on this journey, carefully consider your goals and aspirations. You’ll want to do your due diligence before even considering a piece of property. Ask yourself probing questions and be honest about what you want.

Questions to ask yourself before you start looking to buy land for homesteading:

  • Do you want wide swaths of open prairie to raise cattle?
  • Does the privacy of an evergreen forest appeal to you?
  • Are you a hunter, a gatherer, or both?
  • Is owning firearms for self-preservation a must-have?
  • Any interest in starting a homesteading-based business such as selling raw milk, eggs, or handmade goods?
  • Do you homeschool or want to start?
  • Do you want to be near (or far away from) extended family?
  • Are you deathly afraid of venomous snakes?
  • Do you love the cold and hate the heat or can you not stand the idea of snow?

Once you know what factors to consider you can start to narrow down which regions support your goals. Research, research, research. When buying land for homesteading you need to understand the laws and restrictions in place and how that will impact you.

Key terms to help you research the laws, restrictions, and climate in the regions you’re considering buying land for homesteading:

  • Homeschool laws
  • Rainwater collection restrictions
  • Raw milk laws
  • Hunting regulations
  • Cottage food laws
  • Egg distribution laws
  • Firearm restrictions
  • Plant hardiness zones
  • Homesteading exemption
  • Climate in (region, state, or area)

As you dig in, you’ll inevitably find more factors to consider when buying land for homesteading. Research leads to more research and you’ll quickly start to learn the pros and cons of the different regions you’re interested in. But, most importantly, you’ll discover what matters most to you.

A mountain range with trees and dry grass that might work for some homesteaders
One of the many mountain ranges we walked while looking for our homesteading land

Where can I find property for homesteading?

Now that you’ve narrowed down the region(s) that will support your quest to establish a homestead, you’ll want to start looking for that perfect plot of land. The internet is your friend. When we were looking for land, I scoured the internet for potential listings. You can find property for homesteading on Zillow,, Craigslist and Survival Realty. Do not expect someone (even the best realtors) to care more about your land purchase than you do. Watch the market like a hawk until you can confidently identify which listings are undervalued and which are overvalued.

A note about realtors: Finding an expert real estate agent that has first-hand knowledge of your area and buying land for homesteading is priceless. Interview realtors and ask lots of questions before selecting someone to work with. Do they have intimate knowledge of the area? Do they know the water situation? Are they familiar with homesteading? A realtor who knows the ins-and-outs of the local ski town and water front condos is not necessarily the best realtor to help you find land for homesteading. The right realtor may even be able to identify listings before they hit the market – that is something you just can’t do by yourself.

What to look for (and what to avoid) when buying land for homesteading?

When looking at a particular piece of land for homesteading purposes, there are certain factors you’ll want to look for and others to avoid. Do not skip this step! Do not over-romanticize the situation or rush the decision without making sure you understand what you’re getting into.

How do I get water on my homestead?

First and foremost, you must have water to survive. Period. There really is no way around this. Water can come in many forms and it’s up to you to decide what works for your family and your situation.

  • Municipal water utility. If you have ever lived in the city, than chances are you have received your water through a municipal water utility. You paid the bill each month and potable water was easily available just by turning the faucet. Water provided by a utility company is super convenient; however, its not always the healthiest.
  • Community well utility. This is very similar to how a municipal water utility works, except that the water is coming from a well rather than a treatment plant.
  • Private well. Living in the north west, I have always had good experiences with private wells. The water is delicious, full of healthy minerals (hard on appliances but tastes so good), and yours. This is not the case everywhere though. Well water can have undesirable qualities. It can be sulphuric and smell gross or have high iron content and stain your clothes.
  • Shared well. As large parcels are sub-divided agreements are sometimes in place that allow access to a shared well. Shared wells should have clearly delineated points of contact and use and maintenance contracts.
  • Water feature (spring, creek, river, etc). If the property you’re interested in has a water features, you’ll want to understand your water rights. Can you use the water for household uses or irrigation? What will the filtration and delivery system look like?
  • Cistern or above-ground tanks. In some of the most remote or off-grid situations, no water is available and you may have to truck water in or have it delivered. Consider this situation carefully if you go this route. If you were not able to fill your tanks, what would you do?

How do I get shelter on my homestead?

Early on in your search you’ll want to determine if you’re open to raw land (and building your own home) or require property with an existing home. There are pros and cons of each.

  • Raw land. As someone in the beginning stages of building our own home, I can emphatically say that it is not for the weak (or even the mildly timid). It is hard, exhausting, and stressful. It is also exciting and rewarding. I’ll save the details for another post, but the bottom-line is that building a home is hard enough in the city, let alone on a homestead. Building a home and prepping the land for homesteading can easily overwhelm even the most adventurous and experienced.
  • Existing home. Buying land with an existing home can certainly speed up the process of establishing your homestead. Even if you need to remodel, complete an addition, or repair the home, it is typically less expensive and quicker than building from scratch. That said, the home might need extensive repairs or the layout may not work for your family. Having to change too much can delay your dreams of growing food and raising chickens. Make sure you understand the condition of the home (a 3rd party inspector wouldn’t be a bad idea) before taking on someone else’s problem.

How do I get power on my homestead?

Being completely self-reliant for power and not dependent on the grid can be freeing but there is a lot of convenience in having a utility supplied power source.

  • Off Grid. You’d have zero (always rising) monthly payments and the ability to size your own power source for your needs. Depending on the property location and layout, you may be able to harness energy from the sun, water, or wind. This, of course, can be a daunting task and expensive to setup and maintain. If there is existing utility power on the land, you can still setup an off-grid back up system or even disconnect from the grid at a later date. Generators (gas or diesel) are another option that I would consider pseudo off-grid, great for a backup; however, still dependent on an external fuel source.
  • On Grid. If there is not existing power on the land, you’ll want to investigate what it will take to get power to your build site. The listing might say that power is ”nearby” but that is a subjective term. Contact the electrical utility company and they can send out an engineer to determine how much it’ll cost you to run power to the property. Note: Be prepared to wait on the electrical company. It can take a long time to get an engineer out. We contacted the utility company in September and didn’t have an engineer out until January. It’s now early March and we’re still waiting on the report. About six months and counting…

What type of land works best for a homestead?

Do not underestimate the amount of work and time it takes to shape the land into what you want. Trees take a long time to grow and it’s expensive and time-consuming to land. If you want wide open meadows don’t look at heavily forested properties. If your heart is set on growing hay for your livestock, a large plot of land on the side of a cliff is not a likely contender. On the same note, the old adage of ”location, location, location!” is as true for a homestead as it is for a beach condo. Working with the land and not against it will result in a much more rewarding experience! Here are some physical features to look for, and some to avoid:

  • Orientation. Look for south facing properties if you’re in the north hemisphere (south-east for morning sun and south-west for evening sun). If you want to grow enough food to sustain your family stay away from properties on a north-facing slope or one that hides in the shadow of a mountain if you want to grow enough food. If you get snow and your driveway faces north, you will deal with lots of ice.
  • Access. Being adjacent to public lands is awesome for hunting, foraging and recreation opportunities, but you’ll also have the potential of sharing that space with a bunch of randos (the public). Also, make sure you have an easement for access and utilities on record (check with the title company) or you could end up landlocked.
  • Distance from Amenities. If you’re used to walking one block over to get groceries and eat out at restaurants several times a week, it can be a major culture shock to be 15, 20, 30, even 45 minutes or an hour from the nearest town center. Be honest with yourself about what you’re used to, what you want, and what you’re able to handle.

Can I buy land to homestead?

Yes, you absolutely can! If you’re committed to your goals and do your due diligence you can find that perfect property to raise your family, grow food and livestock, become more self-reliant, and live that homestead dream.

Two images of land, one with trees and one without, and words that spell ‘How to Buy Land for Homesteading’

2 thoughts on “How to Buy Land for Homesteading”

  1. Hi!

    My family of three and I have had longtime interest in buying land and homesteading in north Idaho. We face difficulty with credit, injury, and disability. We haven’t let that ruin our plans. Are there any resources you know of that can help up us obtain land for a homestead?

    Best regards!

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