When you first consider the possibility of making a move out to the country, you start daydreaming about what your home would be like, the kinds of animals you would keep and the vegetables you would plant. I used to spend so much time looking at available properties on Zillow and Trulia, that I got the phone apps so that I could check whenever I wanted to. I would search in a zip code that I liked, followed by how many acres I wanted. It’s funny because when I used to look at homes in the city, I always focused on how many bedrooms and bathrooms were available. The rural properties would list if they had a well, if they were zoned for horses and if there were any outbuildings also on the property. For me, those items weren’t as necessary as getting as much acreage for the amount that the property was going for. All this desire for land really came after first moving out to the country and I found that I craved being away from neighborhood traffic with the proximity of neighbors. While I feel I am neighborly, I don’t want to face them at each coming and going throughout my day.
As you might have gathered from reading my other blog posts, the first property we moved to when we left the city was not the best experience for us. A small part of that was because we were blinded by how much would be available to us rather than realistically determining how much it would cost to bring it up to code as a livable space. Here are four reasons why it’s better to RENT instead of buying when you first get started out in homesteading.
R is for Regret– Country life can be a big change for most people. Most of you might not be familiar with this old sitcom from the 60’s called “Green Acres”. It was about a banker with a glamorous wife that decides he wants to live out in the country to get away from all the hustle and bustle. When he buys his farm, it’s a dilapidated, run down shack where everything is jerry rigged and backwards and basically one thing can’t run if something else is plugged in. But he doesn’t quit, he keeps on trying with a dogged determination to grow crops, chop firewood and work the land- all in a three-piece suit! Renting give you an opportunity to explore if this is the lifestyle for you. You can still raise animals and get some plants into the ground without making a full commitment if this particular location is not for you. Talk to the person that is leasing the property to get an idea of how they used the land. Just keep in mind that nowadays, some folks have the property as an investment and may have never actually lived on it. Look around. See what the other people in that area are doing. Read up on the nearest town or the county its located in. Check out weather reports to see if it’s even possible to have a decent garden. Regret is a heavy weight to have saddled on your shoulders when your mortgage is on the line every month.
E is for Educate– Renting a property is like taking a new class. You are excited and nervous about what you will be learning and you hope you succeed. You make friends with the other people that are there and are in the same boat as you. Now is the time as a renter to educate yourself on what is required to meet the demands of the goals you have set yourself. Are you up for making sure that all your animal pens are secure and that nothing can get to them? There’s nothing worse than finding a mutilated carcass of a chicken that was dragged from the coop because you thought it was good enough and secure. Will you practice safe storage for their feed so that pests don’t get into the bags and make nests in there? Do you know how to keep you water pumps from freezing and how to construct a hot wire perimeter fence so the piggies don’t escape (which they will try until they finally get a good enough zap on their snout to change their minds)? Mother Nature can be cruel and she doesn’t care if you’re a newbie when hitting you with a flood. Be prepared by becoming an avid and earnest student.
N is for Needless Purchases– It’s your first week on your acreage, do not go out and buy a chicken plucker just yet. You are still in kicking the tires mode. You are testing out all the exciting ideas that rushed into your brain as you day dreamed about the garden area in the front and the already built chicken coop. It’s so easy to get caught up in the possibilities of what you can create. I know I love it too- especially when you go to your local Tractor Supply or feed store. All the gadgets and baby chicks in the back- WHEEEEE!! Worse for getting me worked up was going to their magazine racks that had bright headlines. Magazines with articles about planting your garden to feed your family all year, raising heritage breeds and cooking with cast iron! Yes, all that can be done, but instead of going hog wild (see what I did there) try a little bit of new stuff at a time. There were so many good intentions that we had when it came to planting but work got in the way of getting almost all of it done. But we had to work or how else would we pay for the property. If you are a pragmatic person, you think things out carefully and plan, then you will gradually set realistic goals for yourself and not let yourself get carried away. If you lead with your heart and emotions get the best of you, promise yourself to at least write out ONE goal to work on that week and research it first before getting the expensive stuff and coming home with a dozen baby chicks. I am a combo of both in that I love to research first and read about other people’s experiences with whatever I am interested in. Then I talk about it with my husband to see what he thinks. In the beginning, he wanted to get a calf to raise so that in about 18 months we would have beef to put in our freezer but I did my homework. I went down the line by size of every possible farm animal- all the way down to bees, and they all have their pros and cons. We did not get a calf, and I’m glad that we didn’t because just getting our four chickens and two goats moved fifteen miles away was a frustrating chore. There are tons of really neat things that make homesteading easier and convenient, and that’s great for people that are in it for the long haul. Making it yourself or doing without in the beginning will help you come to the conclusion if what you are working on is a real goal or a money burning, badly managed hobby. Harsh words but true.
T is for Time– Depending on what time of year you make your move, you need time to get an idea of what the area experiences as each season changes. How hot does it get? Are there locusts? Are you in the middle of an agricultural or ranch area that has booming traffic in a certain part of the year? You need time to explore the land you’re on. Walk the fields, test the fences- get the soil tested. Time is needed to see yourself and your family grow and adjust to the home you are in. It would be heartbreaking to force a family to adjust to living on a property that doesn’t give you any joy, kind of liking trying to force a square peg into a round hole. What helps you decide that it’s worth it? Well, if you can look forward to completing a chore and it satisfies you when the job is done, that’s one way. If you can hear your kids laughing and playing outside and you feel comfortable that they can’t get into too much trouble, that’s another. If you lay around in bed with your husband and jointly plan things that you want to work on, improve on and explore on the property and you can still look at each other with love in your eyes, then you’re on the right path. For a while in the first property, I used to sit in my living room and say that it was worth it. It was worth all the work because we would be able to create a home that someday our grandkids would love to visit. I still have fond memories of my grandparent’s farmhouse in New Mexico and Mexico. I wanted that for my family too. In the end, however, I found myself hiding out in my bedroom, avoiding all the rooms in the house and living like a prisoner in my home because it was slowly getting over run with mice and nothing worked. It angered me so much to see my dream turn into a nightmare. With your family- set SMART goals on making this move.
Specific- why do we want to move and what do we reasonably expect to have happen because we made the change. If you have marital problems or your family is going through some tough times, moving to the country is not going to magically change it and make everything loving and sweet. This isn’t the Hallmark Channel. Again, ask yourselves why and what it means to all of you.
Measurable- How do you know you made the right choice? What’s your commute like? Is it worth it? Are you really saving money by planting your own garden of vegetables and raising your own chickens for eggs or has it been a budget buster just getting started? How will you measure that making the move was a success? Renting acreage is easier to give you a short-term goal than making an outright purchase.
Agreed Upon- This is important. You all should be on the same page, at least the grownups that are financially invested in making this transition. Every time we moved, my husband said the final decision was mine to make. That’s too much responsibility to bear especially if it’s a bad one. We’ve only had one where he was unhappy the entire time of our one year lease. The good part was that we had made a SMART goal in terms of our stay there and we knew that we would be leaving so we were not heartbroken when we finally left and moved to Texas. So, it all works out in the end when you have a timeline.
Realistic- This is so crucial and right in line with renting. Do you REALLY want to live out where coyotes are howling in the evening and your pipes can freeze? Are you ok with keeping baby chicks in your laundry room until it’s safe to have them in their own area of the coop where they won’t get bullied? What about getting snowed in? Will you panic and turn into Jack Nicholson in The Shining if you were snowed in with the kids for a weekend- or longer? Are you really going to wake up in all kinds of weather to milk your goats so that they don’t explode? Just kidding, they won’t explode.
Time-Based- Ahhhh, time. You can’t avoid the passage of time. How long will you take to say ok, this works for us? Six months? A year? And if it doesn’t work, how long will you give yourselves to make the adjustment or move. That’s the beauty of renting. You have a specific lease agreement that can help you decide. In the end, if it’s the property for you, you can discuss with the owner about making the move from renter to buyer.
I hope that this have given you some good talking points to work out with your family. In the meantime, keep dreaming and looking at properties. Heck, go visit several of them if they are nearby and worth a daytrip to check out the local areas. Let me know in the comments below what your biggest struggle would be if you rented instead of buying.