A reader asked me about how we went about starting our homestead and how to begin looking for a place (specifically in the Midwest) with several acres.
I haven't always lived in the country, however, I grew up a definite "country girl" always living in very small towns and visiting my grandparents farms. Nathan (my husband) had a very similar upbringing. We married young and really had no set plans for the future other than follow where God would lead. God knows what is in my heart and what is best for me. When I would pray I would ask God to give us what we need and give us the courage to follow him wherever he might lead. Shortly after we got married, Nathan got on with the Union Pacific RR. After a couple moves across the state and back, we ended up down the road from where we started out. We found a little house with 7 acres and made it our home.
It needed EVERYTHING done to it. I am blessed that my husband is so handy, otherwise we could have never afforded to remodel. Fast forward 8 years and three kids, and we find ourselves feeling restless. We wanted to move further North and closer to family. I was thinking Nebraska, where I was born and raised. Nathan looked for jobs for a year. I finally said lets just stop looking, God will show us. If it's his will it will happen easily without having to work too hard at it. Days later he gets a call from Burlington Northern (that he had applied to almost a year prior) and offered him a job in Nebraska. Praise God!
Nathan moved to Nebraska, leaving the kids and I to sell the house and finish the school year. He left the beginning of January and we were separated for 6 months. We saw him about every six weeks for a few days. If was horrible being separated from him! When the school year ended, we were ready to join him despite not selling the house. He was renting a tiny trailer on a ranch 14 miles outside of town. I had faith that God would provide something a little more comfortable. Sure enough, just before we moved, his landlord decided to buy the neighboring ranch and let us rent the house and buildings. I gave a tour of the property here. Despite the fact that it was perfect for us, God only intended us to be there a short while, as in just a couple months. Nathan had the opportunity to work in South Dakota with the same railroad, but with a much better schedule and less stress.
So how did we get to where we're at now? Faith and patience. Faith that God would put us where we would be happiest, and patience because God does things in his time not ours. We did finally sell our house and we found another one up here to buy. The house we found was a short sale which meant two things, one was that it was a pretty good deal. The second was that it would take another 6 months for the offer to get approved. We were able to put 20% down because we had quite a bit of equity in our old home from all the remodeling. We were also able to remodel the house and do a lot of things around the property to improve it.
So to answer you question, faith and patience. Don't try to push things, but if the opportunity presents itself, don't be afraid to take the plunge. You can make all the plans you want, but I promise they rarely come out like you expect. We gave up making plans for the future and simply follow where God leads. He has taken pretty good care of us. Don't be afraid to start applying for jobs where you think you would like to live. That's what we did. We would have never been able to afford a property like this if it didn't need work done to it. Nathan did everything himself, plumbing, electrical, counter tops, stonework. What he didn't know how to do, he tried till he got it right.
Start looking at homes for sale on-line in areas where you think you would like to live to get an idea of what homes cost. Home and land prices can really vary. Smaller town will be cheaper, but harder to find a job.
Here are some tips if you are looking for that special place in the country on a limited budget:
~ Auctions. You may or may not get a great deal. A lot depends on what a place will go for. However it never hurts to be present just in case. Make sure you know how much you would have to put down, and have a loan pre-approved. Set your limit and stick to it.
~ Short sales. This is the route we went. Be prepared for a long wait and lots of paperwork. Most houses that are short sales will need some work and you probably won't get a home warranty. This means that if the furnace goes out a month after you buy it you're on your own.
~ Sheriff Auction. I am least familiar with this option, but I have heard of people getting really great deals on properties. Check your local newspapers or even call the courthouse to find out how you can get more information. Since these are mostly foreclosures they will probably need some work.
~ Buy land and put up your own buildings. Had the short sale not gone through, this was plan B. If you go this route, make sure that there are no covenants or if it is in a development, there are no HOA restrictions. Costs to look into include: wells, septic systems, driveway, getting electricity to the property, fencing, permits, and the actual home itself. A cheaper alternative to a stick built house might be a house kit. We had found some steel kits that we liked and the price was fair. Read carefully what these kits include so you know exactly what you are buying. Some are just the frame, others may include the siding and roof. You will have to finish the inside yourselves or hire someone to do it.
~ Buy a fixer-upper. This is the route we went with our first home. Structurally it was sound, but it need new electrical and plumbing, and some serious updating. Be very sure what you are getting yourself into so you don't bite off more than you can chew. Maybe watch the movie "The Money Pit" before you go this route.
When in doubt, just trust in God.