As an aspiring homesteader do these words resonate with you: frugal, resourceful, unconventional? If so, we get you! Those things defined our homestead search and we ended up with not only the perfect homestead, but our dream lifestyle! Here’s our story and tips for buying a homestead on a budget.
A values-based approach to searching for a homestead
Searching for a homestead isn’t quite as clear cut as searching for a home in the suburbs or city. You don’t just punch in how many bedrooms and bathrooms you want and pull up 20 different options, all on 1/4 acre lots, within a 3-mile radius.
Homesteads have way more factors beyond the home – acreage, layouts, barns, water access, natural water features, fencing, and a whole host of other land and infrastructure considerations. No two homestead properties will be anywhere near alike.
So, we chose a different approach.
We decided to NOT make a house the driving factor in our search. Even though we had our 3rd child on the way, we figured our young family could adapt, and even thrive, in almost any arrangement. So, when it came to a living space, we knew we could be resourceful. Finding the right land and location, however, was a high priority. After all, we weren’t searching for a home, we were searching for a homestead! This is our story of buying a homestead on a budget and what we learned along the way.
Our homestead search became a lifestyle search
Above all, we focused on the lifestyle we wanted to be living day-in and day-out. And we knew, above the nice home and the pristine pastures, we wanted simplicity and freedom. For us, this looked like:
- Meeting our needs on one small income
- Flexibility to homeschool our children
- Time together as a family
- Working toward a self-sufficient lifestyle
- Pursuing a home business
- Living debt free
Our search shifted from, “What do we want?” to, “What homestead property will allow us to live out those things?” It was a big mentality shift for sure. We had to be OK with maybe less bedrooms than what we thought was ideal. Or maybe less land.
We did still have search criteria. Like we knew we wanted to be in a certain location. We needed a property that could house our milk cow, Thimble, that we owned. And we did need at least a livable home for our family.
But we were able to focus on finding a property that was simple, low cost, and could move us toward the freedom of time and finances we ultimately desired.
We wanted a homestead that we owned, not that owned us!
What did we learn from buying a homestead on a budget?
We learned it’s hard to always put values and lifestyle goals above the opportunities that come your way. For instance, the first property we put an offer on was almost twice the cost of our current homestead, with 20 acres, more house, and more buildings.
Was it a great value with tons of potential? Yes. But we could have noticed the red flags with all the spreadsheets and number crunching we did to try and make this homestead work out financially. We could have made it work. It was technically within our means. However, it would have meant either, A) we invest all we had in the property with nothing left to invest in getting our homestead off the ground, or B) we take out a significant mortgage and need to rethink our work situation to pay for it.
The more we pondered those options, the yuckier the situation felt. Yes, we’d have a sweet 20 acre property. But we’d forgo much of the list of values we mentioned above. Ultimately, it became a multiple offer situation that, looking back, we are so grateful didn’t fall in our favor.
How we ended up on our 5 acre homestead
The night before we had a trip planned to make the trek from our home in west-central Wisconsin to northern Illinois to look at a couple properties, a small foreclosed home on 5 acres popped up. It was outdated, ugly, and the pictures and description seemed to communicate, “STAY AWAY FROM THIS ONE!”
But it was in a great location and, most importantly, the cost was low. Lower than anything else we had looked at. It could have easily been one we wrote off and didn’t see, but we reached out to our realtor and had him add it to the lineup for viewing the next day.
The other properties we viewed that seemed promising on paper – weren’t. Not that they weren’t decent options, but they seemed underwhelming and just weren’t the right fit.
With low expectations, we arrived at the 5-acre, foreclosed property that popped up the night before. Within minutes of stepping foot on the property and gazing out over the back field, we exchanged several glances that said, “This. Is. It.” The land was exactly what we were looking for and we hadn’t even stepped foot in the house yet.
When we did, we were pleasantly surprised. Though there were no floors, wallpaper from before we were born covered every square inch, and a lot of updating would be needed, we knew this would be more than substantial enough of a space for our growing family. It was a simple home with good bones that was primed and ready for us to make it our own.
We put in an offer that night, worked through the scare of multiple offers once again, but this time it fell in our favor. We found it! And “IT” was more than just a homestead.
What buying below our means meant for our family
While we had many months of hard work and temporary living arrangements ahead of us while we transformed the house and made it our own, we knew buying at this price point put our lifestyle goals within reach.
For starters, we were able to furnish our home exactly how we wanted. Buying at the low end of our price range meant we had money left to invest in our homestead. We are frugal people and almost everything we bought to remodel our home was second hand. But, when we wanted a more natural or specific, quality item, we were able to afford it. Like our AGA oven (which was still used) or the white oak wood floors from the Amish sawmill we installed throughout the whole house.
This also translated outside to our land. We had finances freed up to do things like invest in a livestock trailer when the right opportunity came up. Or, purchase a system of used moveable electric fencing so we could rotationally graze our cows on pasture. It’s easy to overlook the farm expenses that come up the first few years of homesteading, but you will want a fair amount of accessible funds on hand to purchase supplies, equipment, and infrastructure when needed.
Most importantly, we felt and experienced the freedom we were after.
We began to shape the simple lifestyle we were after. Our cost of living is low. We are producing food in abundance and striving toward self-sufficiency. We remained debt free. And we are able to share the joys of homesteading together as a family, connected with our land, animals, and food.
What you need to consider when buying a homestead on a budget
Searching for a homestead is something you don’t want to rush, especially when buying a homestead on a budget. It will involve lots of family discussions around the things you value and the lifestyle you desire. Above cost, above bedrooms, above land size, that is what matters. Be on the same page and let your values drive your search.
And those values may involve having a home big enough to host a certain group size. Or having enough acres to have a small milking herd of cows or a you-pick orchard. Those are great things! Or, as in our case, less can sometimes be more.
Develop your dream homestead scenario to the point that you feel confident in it, then go full-fledged into your search. Visit different areas. Learn your preferences. Refine your criteria. And then when the right opportunity does come your way, you can have your own, “THIS IS IT!” moment.
Where are you at in your homestead journey? Does our story resonate? Are you still developing the values and lifestyle you are after? Wherever you’re at, there’s a beautiful narrative unfolding in your life and we’d love to hear from you!