Farms in Tennessee

9 Things To Look For in Land for Homesteading and Farming

One of my favorite things to do is search for land for those people who want to get back to the simple life. Homesteading and farming can be extremely rewarding but it can be a challenge to find the right place to do it. Land is a resource that no one is making anymore and you have to be careful that a property can fit your needs before you buy it. If you are considering farming or homesteading you have some very specific needs. Here are a few things to look for in land for homesteading or farming.

Before you begin your search make a list of items that are important to you for your homestead. Knowing what you’re goals are ahead of time will give you some insight into the properties as you visit them.

Natural Resources

What resources you need depends on what activities you intend to use the land for but for a broad group of activities you will want some open field space, water source, and some wooded areas. If you intend to garden or raise animals you will need grazing areas, garden areas, and water for both the animals and plants. The shade areas and timber resources provided by the wooded areas can be essential as well. Ideally you want a mix of open space and wooded areas with natural water sources like creeks, rivers, or ponds.

If the land doesn’t have one necessary resource it can be developed but that entails an additional cost or time. Forest areas can be planted or cleared as needed and you can drill a well for water but again there is additional cost in both money and time.

I like to observe and note what trees and plants are currently growing on the property as often they can show signs of what the soil may be like. For example juniper trees can grow in rock and clay quite well. If you see a lot of juniper you can bet there’s rock underneath! Locust trees are a nitrogen fixer (legume) and can indicate a lack of nitrogen in the soil. These don’t necessarily rule out the land but they do make you aware of what you might be getting into.

Examine the Restrictions Placed on the Land

One of the most overlooked things about purchasing land is what are you actually allowed to do with it? You don’t have to be in a neighborhood with an HOA to have restrictions. Any piece of land can have enforceable restrictions that limit your activities. When farms get sold or parceled out often the original owner has an idea of what they don’t want to see happen on the land. One frequent example of a restriction is “no poultry and swine.” This is usually added to prevent large scale farms from setting up chicken/swine production facilities. Unfortunately the way it is worded can even stop a homesteader from being allowed to raise a few egg layers.

Restrictions can and often do go beyond the animals and can limit the number of homes that can be built on the property, how and if the land can be further subdivided, how many and what kind of additional outbuildings you are allowed to build, what size of home you have to build, and much more. Before making an offer on land make sure that any deed restrictions are acceptable. Sometimes you can get restrictions changed but don’t count your chickens on that one!


Look for a recent survey of the property. Don’t just accept the description that is on the deed, especially if it is one of those old survey descriptions that says something like “from big rock on NW corner 100’ W to sycamore tree.” You want a staked and pinned survey that tells you exactly what you are buying. If you ever want to fence in areas of your land you will want to know where to put the fence. Depending on how a survey is situated you may adjust the operation of the whole farm!

If there hasn’t been a recent survey then either ask for one from the sellers or have it done yourself before closing and make it contingent upon an acceptable survey. Knowing what you are buying is important.

Building Sites

If you plan on doing any type of farm activities you will want to be able to build certain types of buildings. Having a good flat site for building on is ideal but not necessarily something that should be a deal breaker. Look for land that has a few locations for building the structures you need. Start with locating a good home site that has the features you desire in your home whether that be a good view, lots of sun, a place in the trees, a house on the hill, or whatever your priorities are. Then depending on what your other needs are for the land you may want a flat location for greenhouses (that’s my kind of thing!), a barn location near water sources, or a secondary building like a garage or workshop somewhere close to the house.

I recommend that you make a list of your needs and keep that with you on every property you visit. Then you check off which properties match those needs so you can find the best possible location to start your farm.

Does the Property Perk?

It is highly unlikely that you will find acreage for farming where there is access to a sewer line so you will need some kind of septic system installed. Hopefully the property already has been perked by the owner before listing but if it hasn’t your offer needs to be contingent upon that process being completed for the desired number of bedrooms. A perk test measures how fast the land will absorb water and will eventually absorb water from your septic tank. I recommend seeking at least a 3 bedroom perk site and ideally a 4 bedroom site.

Along with the perk site you will need soils areas. Those areas will be unusable for building on so keep that space in mind as you venture forward. Too much rock on a site can impede both the perk test and the soils area.

Do you Have a Builder?

If you don’t have a good builder give me a call for some recommendations but if you do have a builder ask them to stop by and evaluate the site with you. They may have some insights on what would make the property a challenge to build on or if it is a great piece of land.

Local Building Regulations

You should check with the local building and zoning office and see what their requirements are for building. Depending on where you intend to build it may be an easy process or it could be extremely difficult to obtain permits. Talk to local neighbors, builders, or those who have built recently to find out what they have experienced.

Well Water or City Water?

If you are too far out you may have to go with drilling a well and hooking up the home on well water. That costs some money to dig and there is no guarantee that you will find water where you want it to be. Attaching to city water will generally require a tap fee based on the size of line you need to hook up. Call the local water department to find out what this entails but typically you will meet with the engineers and plan out the location for the tap and discuss your individual needs.

Internet Service

Internet service gets better every year and is easier to attain in more rural locations than ever but there are still lots of areas underserved. If you need internet to run your business or work from home definitely investigate what services are available in your area. If no service is available you can always opt for a hotspot type system or satellite internet but these services are generally more expensive, not as reliable (as a lined connection), and may have limits on data use.

This list is by no means all inclusive but is a good starting point to help you find your ideal farming spot. Write down everything you can think of that is important to you before you begin your search and take great notes as well as pictures of each location and how you would use it.

Exploring Land and Farms is one of my favorite areas of real estate. If you are looking for property to establish a mini-farm, hobby farm, or even a full time farm lets meet and talk about how I can help you accomplish your dream!

Dave Townsend, REALTOR® 931-808-6808

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