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What to look for in land — The Grow Network Community
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What to look for in land

Michelle DMichelle D Posts: 299 ✭✭✭

For many years now we have dreamed of moving into a rural area, having land, raising animals, and being much more self sufficient. We have been attempting urban homesteading, but our city ordinance officer doesn't like it very much. We have had to be very careful and creative. Several factors have prevented us from moving. We recently received what might be good news. A family member of someone close to me is looking to sell her property and has offered us the opportunity to purchase it before she puts it on the market. I am hopeful that this may be the opportunity we have been praying for.

So here is the question: when I go look at this property later this week, what are some things that I should check, look for, or keep in mind to decide if it will be a good location for us to set up our life of self sufficiency? I have purchased houses before but never anything with land. Acre for acre not all land is created equal. Besides looking into local ordinances what factors might affect my ability to make it what I want? Any and all advice please!

Here is what I know about the property:

There is 10 acres most of which is currently grass. It has a house on it with a well and septic. There is a pole barn on the property. Some of the neighbors have cows or chickens. It is a mile or 2 down the road from a small lake.

Thanks for the help!


  • RustBeltCowgirlRustBeltCowgirl North Coast OhioPosts: 786 ✭✭✭✭

    Well, one suggestion that I might make is, that since you have a connection to the seller, see if you can spend a weekend there. Nose around the area, Eat or get take out at a local restaurant. If this is a small town, most locals are willing to chat.

  • toreytorey Posts: 2,785 admin

    10 acres is a good size to have a more self-reliant lifestyle. That's lots of room for you to garden and raise livestock. Lots of things to check out, though.

    Is it a dug well or a drilled well? Get a well test done to determine the production rate (gallons per minute) and a potability test to make sure that nothing has been leaching into it. Is there any other water on the property; a small spring or a creek?

    Find out when the septic was last pumped out and see about a field test (small camera down the line, into the tank and out to the field). Both a well test and a septic test can be done as part of the subjects for the purchase agreement. So they don't have to be done on your first inspection of the property.

    Inspect the fencing around the perimeter and any paddocks or corrals.

    Is the property sloped? Is there good air or water drainage? Or are there low spots that could potentially hold water or flood. Low spots can create frost pockets, too.

    If it is mostly grass, what has it been used for in the past? Hay? Pasture? Has it ever been tilled? Has it ever had pesticides or herbicides used on the land? Do they currently have a garden? A soil test in any prospective garden sites might be a good idea.

    Check the condition of the pole barn. Does it have a good roof? How old are the support beams?

    Can they show you the property stakes? Just to make sure they haven't gone over a property line with any fencing or buildings.

    What other services are available in this area? Do they have reliable cell service? Or are they on landlines? Internet? Access to shopping, medical services, schools (if you have young kids), churches, community halls, etc.? Road services, do they get ploughed regularly in winter if this is an area that gets lots of snow?

    Talk to the neighbours. Is this a self-sufficient minded community? See if you can buy local produce in the area. You mention that they have cows and chickens so you might be able to buy local beef, dairy products or eggs, until you are providing your own. Is there a farmer's market in the community? That generally indicates like minded people.

    I'm sure there are many other things that I am forgetting. Its been awhile since we looked at property.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,774 admin

    Good advice so far.

    Why is this lady moving? What has her experience been like there? You need to know the negatives of the property & surrounding community, because you will be the one living there. You need to know if you can live with/work around it. Our community doesn't like change. They do not like outsiders (aka unrelated/those who have moved & come back). They love pointless meetings & really have nothing to offer. We live here, but the community offers little in the way of "community."

    Make sure that you have a windbreak. You will want shelter from prevailing winds.

    We use about 10 acres (we own a small portion). Depending on the land (as it can vary), you should be able to keep a couple cows, birds, garden & such.

    Network. Know if you can purchase hay. Arrange with the neighbors before you need it...but find out when the best prices can be had. It can be much cheaper at times depending on many factors. You need to find an honest farmer. I can't stress this enough. Many will teach city folks. Others will unapologetically take advantage of you. We have both here. Talk to the current owner about the neighbors...who is trustworthy & who is not & why.

    This is poor timing for this (with the Covid stuff), but if possible/allowed/as you are comfortable, drop in on a local coffee shop. Strike up a conversation with some of the people there. If it is like any here, you would get stared at as they assess you. If you are brave enough to strike up any conversation, they might relax a little.

    Ask the current owner about if there are any old wells that you should know about. Those cam be dangerous. Sometimes even owners get surprised. It is one of my fears when purchasing a new rural property.

    Are the neighbors acreage owners too or are they full time farmers? That changes the whole dynamic & also the bylaws.

  • Denise GrantDenise Grant Posts: 1,712 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Do any of the neighbors use chemicals that could drift in ther wind or come in through a stream or off a road?

    Read old copies of the newspaper if you can find them (sometimes on land) Its amazing the secrets the past can tell you

    And yes, find those property markers. We had a very ugly issue here with property lines. The neighbors house only sits 16 inches off our southern line. He was mad about that so tried to take land from us. Thankfully he moved - but lied to the new owners, lol. Thank fully ther new owners are nice and only part time residents

  • Michelle DMichelle D Posts: 299 ✭✭✭

    Oh my! That is a lot to think about. Thank you for the great feedback. I will have to make a check list so that I don't get overwhelmed. I do not know the answers to most of those questions yet. I will have plenty of homework to do. I will share the answers that I do have already.

    @torey as far as the well goes, I know that the current owner does drink the water or use it for cooking. She purchases purified water. I will have to inquire about her reasons why. There is no fencing of any kind on the land. It would be completely up to us to add that. The current owner has been there over 10 years. During that time they have not had any animals on the property nor used it to grow anything.

    @LaurieLovesLearning The current owner, unfortunately, is leave the property to move into an assisted living facility.

  • JennyTJennyT Posts: 434 ✭✭✭

    @Michelle D I'm so glad you asked this. I'm hoping that my husband and I will be looking for some property in the next 3-6 months, fingers crossed.🤞🙏I will be anxiously listening to what you're able to find out, and how everything will go for you. Best of luck.😊

    Thank you to everyone who commented with recommendations. I too am taking notes for future searching.😉

  • Michelle DMichelle D Posts: 299 ✭✭✭

    @JennyT thank you and good luck to you also!

  • jodienancarrowjodienancarrow Mid North Coast AustraliaPosts: 798 admin

    @Michelle D you've gotten some great advice already. I can't stress enough about water, that well has to be reliable and good quality water because without it, can't grow anything and relying on rainfall just doesn't cut it anymore. It could be a bonus that the property hasn't been used for anything in the last 10 yrs or so, you have a clean slate so to speak. You'll quickly work out what the neighbours are into by what they do. Hopefully no large scale farming using chemicals etc.

    What boxes do you need to tick? Reliable internet, permanent water, house in reasonable order or does it need a reno. Close enough to a major town with all the services. What's the community like. Sporting and social opportunities. Off grid or potential to do so. Will you need equipment, mower, tractor etc. Spend some time in the local town, ask questions,knock on the neighbours door, introduce yourself, you'll soon get a feel for the place. All the very best.

  • lewis.mary.elewis.mary.e Posts: 199 ✭✭✭

    The things on our list when we started looking this summer were -

    • A good well
    • Good private septic system
    • Redundant heating options
    • At least a half acre of garden growing land
    • A livable 2 bedroom home
    • At least a 2 car garage
    • Outside of city limits

    We found all that and then some. The only thing I can tell you is be careful of biting off more than you can chew. There are hidden/surprise expenses even after acquiring land. Do ALL the math, and I wish you luck!!!🙂

  • Megan VenturellaMegan Venturella Posts: 404 ✭✭✭✭

    Hello, I know I’m late to this conversation, but how did it all go? Are you moving? My best wishes- these are tough decisions but so exciting!

  • Michelle DMichelle D Posts: 299 ✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella Thanks for asking and for the best wishes.

    I haven't posted an update to this because, sadly, I don't have one. We have not been able to go see the property or even get answers to our questions. It is a complicated situation with many family members of the owner involved, and they can't seem to get on the same page. We have made arrangements to go see it 3 times, and they have had to cancel for one reason or another each time. I'm not sure what if anything will happen with this specific property. We may just look elsewhere.

  • AcequiamadreAcequiamadre Posts: 272 ✭✭✭

    Everyone has you covered!

    Don't forget checking access to schools, work, and medical care depending on the needs of your family.

    We tested our well water quality. You can also use a gps soil map to see what soils are on the property which impact gardening and growing.

    Internet access is also important depending on your needs.

  • marcy_northlightsfarmmarcy_northlightsfarm Posts: 103 ✭✭✭

    So many good suggestions already. I'm going to cover what to look for in land from a farmers perspective. Before I get to that, another thing to consider is the cost of property taxes.

    I've lived on four different farms so far. Each was very different. My perspective is from the Northern US. My husband is very particular about having good land.

    Every region has its particular soil types. Look for the best in the region. The preferred soil type is loam. Loam is a mixture of sand, silt, clay and organic matter. It drains easily and also holds nutrients well. Sandy soil can get too dry and leach nutrients when it's rainy or irrigated. Clay soil is hard to work with. You can't work it if it's too wet or too dry. When wet it's sticky, and when dry it gets hard. Pulling weeds can be very difficult in clay. Another thing to look for is rocks, you don't want them. If you want to grow row crops, then the rocks will have to be picked. Trust me this is the least favorite project of every farmer! Even if you could pick all the rocks, more come up every Spring. Rocks can also interfere with and damage equipment during tillage, haying, harvesting and more. If you don't plan on owning equipment it still can be difficult to hire work done or rent out rocky land for that reason. Hoeing weeds on stony ground can be difficult as well. Amending or improving sandy or clay soil can be done. If you are mostly interested in a garden then adding lots of manure and/or growing cover crops can help a lot. If you have acreage though it might take many years.

    Another thing to look for is South sloping land (Unless you're in the Southern hemisphere). The reason you want land to slope to the south is that it warms up and dries out sooner in the Spring. It will also keep it warm a little longer in the fall. Think of how you angle a solar panel toward the sun to catch more rays. It's the same principal except you only want a slight slope to your land.

    Since you want to have animals another thing to consider is what type of housing they might need. Think about the type of shelter you might need and what it would cost to build if you had to. A chicken coop is usually not very big, but housing for a couple cows, pigs or maybe a horse or two needs extra consideration. Also the cows or horses might need hay storage as well. If there's a building already there, like a barn then you can consider the value by how you might use it.

  • Michelle DMichelle D Posts: 299 ✭✭✭

    @marcy_northlightsfarm Thank you for the added insight.

    I compiled a list of questions about the specific property in question from the information that everyone has provided here. So far I can't get any answers. We are thinking that we will probably have to look elsewhere. I will be glad to have all of the advice as we continue our search.

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