Some of you may know that I am also a REALTOR, and have a few years of experience finding homestead land! So, naturally when I saw how many people were asking how to find homestead land, I decided to write about it!
The first time I looked for and bought a small homestead site was in 2004. It was a great little homestead, just outside of town, on just 1.5 acres! My husband and I are a little abnormal, because we have built a new homestead about every 3 years (with a 4 year Arizona stint) after that… Totaling 5 homesteads!
Why do we keep building new homesteads????? Good question! I guess it’s because I LOVE designing and building farmhouses and homesteads! It especially gets fun when you can hire work done instead of doing so much of it yourself!
I really want to enjoy mature trees, but building homesteads in Western Idaho means building on farm-ground that has almost NO trees:( SO, maybe we will stay in the next homestead a while longer!
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way, hopefully they help you find homestead land too!
United States Homestead Act
President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act in 1862. The Homestead Act gave citizens, and future citizens, up to 160 acres of public land. They had to live on it, improve it, and pay a small registration fee. Sounds dreamy doesn’t it!?!
Unfortunitly, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act in 1976 repealed the Homestead Act in 48 contiguous states… Alaska had a ten year extension to grant homesteads after that.
How Many Acres Of Land Do You Need?
Your homestead acreage requirements depending on what kind of animals you plan on including on your homestead, and how you plan on feeding them. If you are planning on having a few cows, and feeding them on the land, you will need about 1.5 acres per cow for pasture. If you are planning on buying cow feed instead of growing your own, you can have 4 cows on the same amount of land….
However, You don’t need as much land as you may think for a homestead that can sustain a small family… Between 2-4 acres of land can be enough to support your family homestead. You can have a nice small pond, poultry, goats, sheep, garden and orchard on these smaller homesteads!
Our first 4 homesteads were all about 2 acres, and they were wonderful for our growing family! We had gardens, small animals, chickens, and fruit trees. We even had a pretty big pond on our last 1.7 acre homestead!
But bigger acreages between 5-40 acres can provide a more self sufficient life style. That’s because you can grow your own feed for stock, wood, bigger orchards and gardens to live on or create income.
Best Homestead Land
In the WESTERN states, The BEST homestead land comes with irrigation! Irrigation is water from local rivers and reservoirs that are delivered to your land via canal systems. Unless you live in an area that does not require watering systems. Areas that receive sufficient rainfall do not require irrigation.
It’s my opinion that mature trees are like gold when buying homestead land, but that is just my opinion…. Trees take a lifetime to mature, so buying land that already has large trees is priceless.
Best Homestead Land Features include natural resources!
- Natural Water Sources (ponds, river or lake frontage.)
- Irrigation Water instead of city water.
- Good Soil!!! I can’t underestimate how important good soil is, from pastures to gardens and orchards… You need good soil!
- Off main highways and away from freeways. Cows, goats, chickens and other homestead animals often get of you the yard and into the road. Choosing lad away from fast moving vehicles will save you from losing them to car accidents.
- Flat area for livestock. Cows, horses and other livestock need a somewhat level place to pasture.
- Mature trees for shade and beauty!
- Fencing is always a plus, because it will save you the cost of putting one in!
Natural springs are an invaluable resource for homestead land! They can provide clean drinking water your a home and for livestock! Natural Springs are often found on mountain lands, but are also down lower in valleys. They should be developed and protected for best use!
Most states, like here in Idaho, give you an exemption or discount on property taxes for land used for agriculture. Each state differs in their exemption amounts, but they are usually substantial. Local governments asses the value agriculture land way below subdivision and city lots, resulting in much lower taxes.
Homestead and agricultural exemptions are available through your local governments. If your land is within the city, you will go to the city offices to apply. If your homestead is outside of city limits you will go to your county to file for an agricultural exemption. These are also where you will be billed from each year for property taxes.
How Real Estate Agents Can Help To Find Homestead Land
A good Real Estate Agent can be your best ally in finding homestead land! REALTORS not only find and negotiate prices, they also handle all clerical and administrative tasks involved in real estate transactions! Providing a smooth and organized processes to facilitate the purchase and successful transfer of property, water rights and everything appurtenant to it.
With endless listings and property information Realtors can help you:
- Locate good homestead land to purchase.
- Schedule walkthroughs.
- Contact owners.
- Negotiate sales price.
- Write legal purchase and sale contracts, and get full property disclosures from sellers.
- Draft any needed addendums and contingencies.
- Send all contracts out for electronic signatures.
- Order Home Warranties.
- Schedule Water Testing, Septic and Home Inspections
- Obtain and distribute receipts for repairs, maintenance and inspections.
- Open Title & Escrow for transaction.
- Work with Title & Escrow to provide clean title, and funding and recording.
- Welcome you to your new homestead!
Small towns are usually the best places to find homestead land! There is less demand for development land, and therefore more small acreages available. Small towns often have a town center area, where homes are situated close together, but then they have rural areas. This is where you want to look.. In rural area.
Small town that are declining in population sometimes offer free land for moving to their area, especially if you do business!
Rural areas, outside of small towns, are where you will find acreages that are idea for homesteading. These acreages are out by other farms, and have no restrictions on animals or other homestead land uses. Rural areas are usually in the county instead of in city limits.
What are the Homestead Records?
The Homestead Act’s 123-year history includes over 2 million individual homestead claims. Each of those homestead claims had a written record or file kept in the U.S. General Land Office.
Today, those homestead claim files exist as paper originals stored in the National Archives in Washington D.C. These invaluable docs will naturally deteriorating over time. So, In 1999 the Homestead National Historical Park has started working to digitize all 30 million docs of the homestead case files!
To see the original homestead case files, and learn about the kinds of valuable information that may be found on them, see the Neve case file.
The Difference Between Small Farms & Homesteads
Honestly I think the word homestead just means a small family farm. However, Small farms include any small scale farm producing goods for sale or trade. Homesteads are small farms too, but homesteads are designed to sustain a family instead of just producing a commodity.
Can Homesteading Be A Full Time Job
Homesteading can provide full time work on any day! There is so much to be done… However making a full time living will take time! You can make money on an homestead in several ways, including (but not limited to):
- Breeding and selling Livestock
- Growing and selling produce at farmers markets and local stores.
- Making products with your homegrown goods and marketing them.
- Camps or retreats at the homestead!
- Homestead cottage VRBO’s
Homestead Opportunities – How To FInd Homestead Land From Free Land Programs
Although the homesteading Act is long gone, there are some states have programs for free land today! These are rural areas that local governments are trying to grow.
US States that have a large number of homesteading opportunities include: Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, and Minnesota. The good thing about many of these homestead lands is they come completely free and some even come with more tax benefits. There are acres and acres of land waiting to be homesteaded!
Where You Can Find Free Lots?
United State Places Where You May Find Homestead Land
- Lincoln, Kansas.
- Marquette, Kansas.
- New Richland, Minnesota.
- Mankato, Kansas.
- Osborne, Kansas.
- Plainville, Kansas.
- Curtis, Nebraska.
- Elwood, Nebraska.
- Loup City, Nebraska
- Manilla, Iowa
- Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio
- Learn more at https://www.mymillennialguide.com/free-land/