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buying a homestead: beyond-the-basics questions you MUST ask!

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Buying a homestead (or really any property) comes with some apprehension. But there’s nothing more daunting than your first home or your first large property purchase.

And that’s because you don’t have an experienced frame of reference to guide you.

What do you do when you don’t know what you don’t know?

If you’re like us, you Google, you ask those who have purchased before you, but there’s always a bit of caveat emptor – buyer beware – mixed into the decision. Even with a home inspection.

white dog on green pastures with blue skies - questions to ask when buying a homestead

Since purchasing our first homestead, we’ve learned so much of what we would and would not do again.

And we want to share these beyond-the-basics questions and lessons so you feel more prepared when buying a homestead.

Keep reading to get my FREE downloadable checklist with all these questions for your convenience.

tracks in snow on a homestead - questions to ask when buying a homestead

things to ask when buying a home

I know this seems like a weird question to start with, but our home didn’t come with keys.

And we didn’t discover this until closing. Welp!

The previous owners also didn’t get keys at their closing and never updated locks because they never locked their doors. Now granted, we rarely lock ours now (after paying to change the locks) but it’s nice to know that it’s possible.

In the first 5 months, we experienced 4 power outages.

So historical data is not always helpful, but it’s good to know prior experiences along with how long power was out and why the outage happened.

Our homestead experiences wildly different weather from those in town just 15 minutes away. The day could be clear skies here but a massive storm in town and vice versa.

We live around some bluffs that naturally encapsulate our area protecting us from severe weather.

Most of the time large appliances stay with the home, but that’s not always the case. It’s good to know exactly what is included in your purchase price and what’s going with the previous owners.

For example, the previous owners took a mobile chicken coop with them, but left an immobile coop. They also took garage shelving that, on first glance, you would not have anticipated as movable.

Having the physical original copies for major appliances definitely beats having to Google them and hoping they exist somewhere on the internet.

Now you can’t always trust everyone to be truthful and you can’t always trust completely a home inspection. But it’s still a question that should be asked so you can determine how much money will need to go into the home upfront.

If a tree fell through the roof, the floor has cracks from an issue with the foundation, or the pipes froze and burst, you need to know. And it can be difficult to determine with just your eye or even from a home inspection.

Asking these questions get them on record and out in the open.

Again, people may not be honest with you but it’s a good question to ask to see if there’s a stumble in answering. Could it be an issue with neighbors? the weather? the house itself?

Especially for newbies like us, it was imperative to know what needed to be done to the house and outbuildings to prevent frozen pipes and winter damage.

Not only will your insurance ask about the roof age, but you’ll want to know as well because replacing it is a major expense.

We have a silt filter (we’re on well water) and a reverse osmosis filter on the kitchen sink. They need to be changed roughly every 3-6 months so it’s helpful to know from the previous owners when those were last changed.

This is one that really bit us. We have some lovely large cottonwoods around the house that initially attracted us to it. However, what we didn’t realize is that they are in their waning years which will create quite a few large bills to deal with since they impact our buildings.

You can, in fact, have an arborist inspect your property just like a home inspector.

We knew there were issues with mice before buying the homestead, but our assumption was that it’s typical with living out in the boonies. But we didn’t realize the extent of the issue due to negligence with food and animal feed handling until after we moved in.

Thankfully we have three cats who have helped clean up the mess.

You can also hire a rodent inspector just like a home inspector.

Have there been any issues with the septic tank?

And if not recently pumped, will the realtor provide that service in the purchase price.

What is the annual cost to lease and what is the cost to purchase it outright?

Everyone wants to move into a home that feels clean.

It’s good to be prepared for expenses you might encounter.

Again this is a question I wouldn’t expect a completely honest answer on, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

With the growth in work-from-home jobs, the ability for people to move out to bigger land plots has increased. But sometimes internet availability hasn’t grown at the same rate.

Ask for internet speed tests or test it yourself during a walkthrough.

cat sitting on a post in green pastures - questions to ask when buying a homestead

Things to ask when buying a homestead

You won’t be able to tell this just from a few observations. Check out topography maps to see the elevation changes on the property.

Also helpful is this map that helps you determine your soil type.

Or this map that compiles agricultural data, including farmland values, soil productivity ratings, and crop mix.

This is EXTREMELY important in arid areas like where we live. We wouldn’t be able to run animals on our smaller homestead without water from our irrigation district.

Also inquire as to how the sellers irrigate the land and where the water comes from. Is the property first in line or seventh in line for water? What’s the agreement between landowners for sharing water?

Check, double-check, and thoroughly verify your water rights!

Ours had. Over water rights, yikes! And we didn’t discover that until closing.

Thankfully it’s not been an issue going forward, but that was extremely distressing to learn.

Don’t trust anyone to have your best interest at heart.

Our property has no mineral rights, but it does have an oil pipeline across the back pasture.

This means the oil company can enter our land at anytime to walk the pipeline and we can’t plant trees for 50ft on either side of the pipeline.

It’s good to know what exists on your property due to previous owners before purchasing to make sure you’re ok with third party access.

Not everyone is in the know regarding human and animal illnesses linked to herbicides and pesticides. Some of these chemicals can last for 20 plus years.

These chemicals also leach into ground and running water ruining everything downstream.

Of course the pipeline company and the electrical company have deeded easements on our property.

What we didn’t know is that a plot of land behind us also were given an easement across our property. That plot and ours were originally owned by the same person who split them.

This is a lesson in never trusting your realtor because she told us it was only for the electrical company. Nope!

If well water is all you have access to, you want to confirm it can handle human and livestock needs. Five gallons per minute is the bare minimum for comfort with humans and livestock.

This is helpful to know when planning out grazing with animals.

You will hopefully improve the production capacity of your homestead with organic and regenerative practices along with rotational grazing, but it’s helpful to know the baseline production from the sellers.

There’s nothing more wonderful than finding mature fruit and nut trees on property. Ask if they exist and what they’re location is so you can help to maintain them.

How does this grow sovereignty?

Going into any process without proper knowledge to navigate hurdles leaves us stressed and anxious. Using these questions as guides, you can research and grow your question base to feel more secure in your home(stead) purchasing process.

summing it up

No matter how many questions you ask, you may still experience apprehension or miss an important discovery when buying a homestead.

That’s ok! You are not the first and will not be the last to do so!

Take it from me…are there things I would do-over? Yes!

Would one of those be not buying our homestead and not having to deal with the subsequent issues? No!

Learning is part of the process and no purchase or place will ever be perfect. It’s a continuous process of improvement.

embrace the chaos

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