This week we received an email asking “how [we] came across the land that [we] bought” which brought back all sorts of memories from when we bought the farm and the long journey that got us here.
So for those who were wondering …. How We Found Our Dream Homesteading Land … here you go:
It started a few days after Christmas 2011. The holidays had quieted down and The Beekeeper and I were settling in to married life. We had been growing a few plants on my tiny balcony and a rather thriving colony of worm bins. But as we sat in bed, each one of us on our computers, talking about the future, the idea came to me to put our little 2-Bedroom apartment up for sale and start looking for our little piece of heaven. Our expectation was that it would take about 6 months to sell my apartment, in which time we would find a small little fixer upper with a half acre to start our Urban Farm. So I placed a listing on Zillow and we went to sleep.
The next day, I started receiving calls from Realtors. All of them promising to get us much better prices so we decided to hear them out. We ended up signing with one of them and closing within 3 months and we got 120% of what we were asking, even after the Realtor’s fees.
Our search had hardly begun and we were out of a place to stay. We moved in with my Mother temporarily, then moved in with a friend, then moved in with my mother again. During this year, we tirelessly searched all of Miami-Dade and the surrounding areas for a house we could afford. We visited every listing in our price range and some we could never afford, like the home I now call the Final Straw.
The Final Straw
It was a beautiful 3-2 that needed little to no work before we could move in. It was on a whole 1 acre of land in an agricultural area and it was hopelessly out of our price range, but we made a full offer anyway and waited with bated breath. Within a day or so, our realtor called us and sadly informed us it sold right from under us for an additional 20K above our offer, in Cash.
It wasn’t the first time. So we picked ourselves up, again, and pushed forward. Hubby and I had another talk. We decided to it was time to start looking elsewhere. For 36 years, Miami was the only thing either one of us had ever known. We each grew up within walking distance of each other, in the tiny microcosm that is Little Gables, and we really had never left its safety. There we had family and friends we had known since we were infants. We knew where to go to drum up business or where we could get work if “anything” happened. But we were leaving that … or at least going to try.
Casting a Wide Net
I cast a pretty wide net. Our only real requirement was that it didn’t snow. So I starting looking for prospects for work in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Gainesville and New Orleans. We filtered through the responses and I had second interviews in Tampa and Orlando within a few weeks. A month later, we accepted the offer in Tampa and we were moving. From there we set up a temporary home base in a tiny apartment that accepted 6 months leases and started our search.
It Began with an Excel Sheet
First I began by finding every listing within 60 miles, with over 1 acres of property and listing it in an excel sheet. It contained a column for Our Decision or Verdict on the house, the MLS number, the address, the price, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, house square footage, land size, flood designation and zoning. Basically gathering everything I could off the main listing. We knew we wanted at least 2 bedrooms, 3 would be better, and at least 2 acres of land, absolutely no flooding (X designation) and Agricultural Zoning.
Then I calculated the distance and travel time to my current place of employment and added those columns. Then I added a column for the cost of travel which I multiplied using the IRS Standard Mileage Rates. I also calculated Travel Time cost by dividing my salary and multiplying it with the travel time to create a cost for that time.
Then I estimated the minimum (~3.5%) and maximum (~8%) closing costs and monthly payments (~7.125%) to get an idea of what those would be.
I also checked the map for proximity to Sink Holes. This one I had to eyeball at the time, but later found this site.
And created a very convoluted calculation I called our Sustainability Index using in the Land Size, another convoluted calculation I made up for earning potential and the estimated travel costs. I will say English Majors should not be coming up with Mathematical calculations and leave it at that!
We also had a column where we checked if we were eligible for a USDA loan on this website, but later decided not to pursue one.
Then we Saw Them All
Good, Bad, Ugly, we saw it. Some we crossed off the list just by looking on Google Earth. Too many trees. Too swampy. Weirdly shaped.
Others we drove out to and ran away horrified.
We ran through all the ones my excel list deemed reasonable and some that it didn’t. And on came the Holidays again, and a long forecast trip to visit my family in Puerto Rico. We decide to give all the house hunting a rest and start fresh when we came back.
Then when we came back, I ran my searches and found nothing new. Except for one lingering house.
According to my Excel sheet, it was too far and making it sustainable with only five acres would not be easy because it was far from my current employment. But we went, and we saw it. It was a house, not a farm, or a homestead. An nice older woman wanted to move closer to her family after losing her husband. He had once kept cows on it and wanted more animals but didn’t get the chance to. It was far from everything, no buildings, no garden, a blank slate and we fell in love.
We placed an offer and it was accepted, and better than that, I got another job offer, one that changed everything. We were finally Home.
Our journey took us a year and a half, five moves, three job changes to get us 330 miles from where we started. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
How To Find Your Dream Homesteading Land
- Never Give Up, Never Give In, Always Hold On To Hope and Always Go Down Fighting
If Homesteading is what you want, then keep fighting for it. Do what you can where you are and keep reading about what you can do to become more self sufficient and sustainable.
- Figure out What Is Important to You and Track It
We had a lot of things we wanted in our Homestead. We talked about them and I tracked them in my excel sheet, just to keep them in focus.
- Do your Research
You can find out almost anything on the internet. Between the County Clerk and Zillow you have have enough information to make your head spin. Just keep your eyes focused on what’s important (See #2)
- Any House can be your Homestead
You can turn your Rental or even an Apartment into your own little homestead. It can be done. You just have to learn to work within your limitations. If it’s a rental, you may not be able to plant in the ground but you can certainly have potted plants. An apartment can have a small garden on a Balcony. Know the limitations on your land, research it (see #3) and then go do it!
- Don’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover
You have to do the leg work. You might see some horrible places. Smelly, dilapidated, places. Places with dead rats. Places with horrible roofing. Those are things you can’t see over the internet. You have to go and get a feel for it and who knows, that one you haven’t looked at because it’s too far or doesn’t quite make numbers sense, might be the one that changes everything.
- The Homesteading Handbook: A Back to Basics Guide to Growing Your Own Food, Canning, Keeping Chickens, Generating Your Own Energy, Crafting, Herbal Medicine, and More (The Handbook Series)
- The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 40th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual of Living Off the Land & Doing It Yourself
- 5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead
- Homesteading: A Backyard Guide to Growing Your Own Food, Canning, Keeping Chickens, Generating Your Own Energy, Crafting, Herbal Medicine, and More
- The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!
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