So I’m going to start discussing some of the REALLY basic and FOUNDATIONAL items if you want to move to a rural location. I’m going to tell you some of MY experiences, so just take that into consideration when YOU are factoring in all the different components of what you NEED and WANT in a piece of property.
MANY bloggers, vloggers, homesteaders, et al. shy away from this topic, and I think that is a real shame! Many of us have little to no experience knowing what is a ‘good’ piece of land vs. a really ‘bad’ piece of land. I say ‘good’ and ‘bad’ because it really depends upon what the use will be…or if the land is a poisonous dumping ground- yeah, stay away from that – period!
First, decide on your location. Either keeping in your general location, or uprooting and moving to a totally different area, or something in-between. We uprooted and I will discuss some of our pro’s and con’s. If you decide to stay local-ish, that may be a super great start for you!! It will give you a sense of what you need to do, especially if you can buy a place that is sort of ‘plug and play’ with a house there, barn, coops, etc. Plus, you may have the added benefit of having your friends/family somewhat close by, which is a mental force multiplier that CANNOT BE OVER STATED ENOUGH! Living rurally can be very lonely and if you are not used to that lifestyle, dropping off the map can be a hard psychological shift. Even if you think you are ready for it. I have a friend, LK, that did a similar venture back in the 1960’s. Her, her husband & kids left South Florida and moved to a rural place in Kentucky. Upon learning that my older and wiser friend had done this, I of course wanted to know more. We compared some notes after I moved and she said this most brilliant thing: “Temporary roughing it doesn’t prepare you. It only makes you confident that you THINK you are fine and can do it.” At some point I will discuss our first year out here and the roughing it that we had to do. LK has such wisdom and has helped me greatly!
If you deiced to move away like we did – 1000 miles to the north – it’s DIFFERENT! It’s different in almost every conceivable way, some of it very good and some very bad. If you want to move away like this, my first advice would be to find a nice place to RENT!! Seriously! I had read this before and never paid much mind to it, but if you are not from that area, don’t have kin from that area, you really should rent. You may develop SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), be terribly homesick, or you may find out that the area and/or the people are totally objectionable and you just cannot abide. Better to do that than to sink ALL your cash into a project just to feel like you are in hostile territory.
As an example of feeling like you are in a hostile area, I’ll give you a short example. I’m from Florida lived there just shy of 30 years. We are pretty laid back – some people think we have no standards – those are usually the Yanks, but they soon learn that we do, but we don’t get too worked up if someone shows up to the house in shorts, flip-flops (or goes to church that way), wears white after Labor Day, etc. Living in the north of Tennessee (yeah, I know Tennessee folk will balk at this, but every state and most of Florida was north of us), there are more societal rules. People wear suits when they attend church here in Tennessee!
Example1: There seems to be a behavior of eating your supper first, then go back for desert. If you grab a desert plate with your supper plate, you are given a ‘look’.
Example 2: People will say – oh, let’s go to so-and-so, or such-and-such, (a place they know and have been to, but I have not since I’m and outsider). I never get a call. Reminds me of the 1980’s joke of ‘I’ll have my people call your people and we’ll do lunch.’ No one was going to do anything, but it was polite. There are other examples, but this is part of the cultural learning process. Unfortunately for me, I am not a child and I do not have anyone kind enough to teach me the proper ways of behaving, so I flounder.
Anyway, back to the land!! Most anyplace north of South Florida has hills and a denser forest – so one of the best times to view land is in the late fall or winter. Yep, it will be cold, possibly rainy and muddy, so dress accordingly when tromping around in the woods. Generally speaking flat to rolling hills are better than steep hills or mountains. A steeper grade means more EROSION and erosion means problems! You will be fighting an uphill battle to make sure the whole hillside doesn’t wash away. Plus your feet are never level, it’s tiring on them. If you are in a mountain or steep hill, your drive way will a potentially an icy mess in the winter time. Even in the dry times a 4×2 vehicle may have difficulty getting up a steep hill that is all gravel, but a flat-ish road will be fine. If you have a steep driveway, you may need to pave it so 4×2 vehicle can have enough traction to reach the top. You will also have problems with service providers/delivery. Do you want propane? Well your local provider may not have a 4×4 propane truck to deliver to you back in the sticks, so even though they’d love to have you as a customer, ‘we can’t safely get to you’! Same goes for workers you may need to hire. They won’t tear up their vehicle to reach your place, so if you are banking on help you may be very surpised.
Brings me to the next BIGGEST things is ACCESS! YOU MUST HAVE ACCESS 27/7 365!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you don’t, you will have a few options. Use it only when you do have access – which kinds hampers the whole homestead idea! Improve the access – what is WILDLY EXPENSIVE EVEN IF YOU HAVE YOUR OWN EQUIPMENT! Most people don’t own a gravel yard and when you need MILES of gravel, you are taking thousand & thousands of dollars. There is also stuff called geotextile cloth that can be laid down first, then gravel over top (of course all the grading, cutting drainage ditches, culverts, etc have been installed). I’m in the process of researching geotextile cloth, but I can assure you it is not cheap!
Who maintains this road? Is it private or pubic county road? This makes a difference and you NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY! You may have the most awesomest piece of land ever, but can’t get there easily & that’s why the price is ‘right’. If you can’t really use it, then it’s like “Look honey, I saved us money when I bought all this stuff on sale!” But it was stuff you didn’t need or couldn’t use…no real savings there!
From here my best suggestion of an extremely through list of considerations on buying land is to read The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emory. In the beginning of her book is a section called ODDMENTS – READ IT! Read it again, and again, and really internalize what she is saying. The only thing she is lacking in much detail is the access and maintenance of the road.
I’m sure I didn’t cover everything that should have been said, but it’s a start at least. It’s a total bummer to have to spend $10,000 OR MORE fixing a road that isn’t even yours. You may be able to convince the road department to help out with grading as a minimum, but they may also tell you no. In Tennessee the roads are TERRIBLE and probably most of them are private, so purchasing land here means you will be a road developer at some point too. Just be very aware of what you will be on the hook for!