So, you’re thinking about taking the next step and buying a homestead? We know it can be a scary and overwhelming process. Here’s what we learned along the way, plus five things we wish we’d known at the very beginning of our homestead hunt.
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Just this year, we took the leap and bought a homestead out on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s honestly the last place we expected to end up. We were looking to stay in Western Washington so that we could both keep our jobs while we transitioned to homesteading life.
If you know the state, we were looking as far North as Sedro-Wooley and as far South as Roy. Not knowing exactly where we wanted to land did open up more options, but it also put us in the position of having to pick a homestead without having a familiar feel for the area. Plus it left a mark on the odometer.
Our first heartbreak was falling in love with a little farm property in Roy, only to find out that we’d been scooped on making an offer and it was way above the asking price. After much consoling from Jerry, I convinced myself that it wasn’t mean to be, and we trudged on. Looking back, I’m very glad that we didn’t make an offer on that property, but more about that later on…
It wasn’t until our four-year anniversary that things really started to click. We wanted to get away for the weekend to forget about the homestead search and make an attempt to relax. I wanted to book an AirBnB in an area that we had no intention of moving to, in order to maximize the feeling of “getting away.”
We’d already done the San Juan Islands, so, the Olympic Peninsula seemed like a great option. We booked an AirBnB in Sequim and had the most wonderful time! We fell in love with the agricultural & country feel of the area, sandwiched between the National Forest and the ocean. It felt incredibly close to everything outdoors and it was so calm.
Day one, we rushed back to our laptop and immediately starting scoping our homesteads in the area. Before we left for the weekend, we’d gone out to see four different properties. None of them were winners, but we knew we were on the right path.
After another month or so of scouring the rental pages, our little homestead popped up, just outside of Discovery Bay. We high-tailed it out there and, after some smart moves, anxious nights, and a little luck, it was ours!
All in all, we’re very grateful, only having had four months between the day we met our real estate agent & really started looking at properties to the day we closed. But, there are still five things that we wish we’d known upfront, to make the homestead buying process a little easier.
1. Find the Right Lender
I know lenders are mostly there just to fund your home purchase, but it’s also important to find one that’s in your corner. Don’t be afraid to shop around for the best rate, but also look at the customer experience!
In our situation, the sellers were leaning towards another offer because they were putting in a larger down payment. Our lender called their real estate agent and fought for us. He explained why we were the better candidates and why they should accept our offer instead. In the end, this swayed the sellers and got us our homestead!
2. Keep Your Schedule Open & Flexible
It’s amazing how much time and effort it takes to find the right home, then go through the buying process, and then physically move all your belongings. Whether you’re moving to the next town, across the water (like we did), or to a new state, you’re most likely going to be looking at a lot of houses. And to find the right one, you’ll need to be able to jump on it at the drop of a hat or risk getting scooped.
Talk to your boss and keep your schedule open so you’re ready when that dream property comes along. Also keep in mind that it’s probably going to take many, many trips to move out of your old house and into the new. I promise you; it will take longer than you think.
The weeks after our “official” move with the moving truck were still bogged down with trips to the old house to get odds and ends and to clean. Keep that time open and don’t plan anything major in the first few weeks after your move.
3. Take Off Your Rose-Colored Glasses
When you’re looking at properties, it’s so easy to only see the good and skim over the negatives, but don’t do it! Take off those rose-colored glasses and be as critical as you can. This is especially important when looking at homesteads because they’re typically older properties, mostly maintained by the previous owner, with varying levels of skill. It will help you avoid getting in over your head with problems and projects.
We knew that we wanted a fixer-upper, a property with good bones and the potential for some sweat equity. However, this also lent itself to looking at a few properties that were far more than we could handle. We found ourselves falling in love with an area or a view and overlooking some major issues that we just shouldn’t take on. Luckily our real estate agent was there to reel us back in and keep us sensible. Be sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew.
4. When It’s Right, You’ll Know…
I found myself pondering this throughout the entire home search process…how will we know when it’s “the one”? Well, when we found our homestead, I realized that you just know!
Make sure you hold off until you get that feeling; the feeling that you know it’s right and it could be your forever home. We’re so thankful now that we didn’t make an offer on any of the other properties we liked. Some were very good, but we just weren’t ready to pull the trigger, and I’m glad we listened to our guts. It’s because they weren’t our forever home. Waiting for the right property is so worth it, I promise!
5. Don’t Forget About Your Pets!
Moving is a big deal for your pets too. The world as they know it is disappearing, with no explanation, and it’s a huge transition. Our cat was so stressed by the move that it took about a week to settle into his new digs.
Make sure you carve out time to be with your pets. Maybe let them sleep on the bed for a few nights, comfort them, help them understand that things are going to be okay.
Also, be on the lookout for the unexpected. Within days of moving in, our cat got fleas, for the very first time. The extra effort and cost of flea medication, treating the house, combing and bathing the cat…it was just added on top of the daily trips to the old house to gather odds and ends and clean. Things got hectic. Just make sure your pets are not an after-thought in the transition.
- Find the Right Lender – Make sure they’re in your corner.
- Keep Your Schedule Open & Flexible – It’s going to be more time-intensive than you think.
- Take Off Your Rose-Colored Glasses – Don’t get in over your head.
- When It’s Right, You’ll Know – Be patient and wait for the right property to come along.
- Don’t Forget About Your Pets – Carve out time to help alleviate the stress of your pet during and after the move.
Hopefully, the things we learned during our home buying process helps you take the next step towards finding the homestead of your dreams. It’s so worth it to love where you live! Even with our current jobs and long commutes, every time we make it home, we still agree that it’s worth it. It’s our little slice of heaven.