Once upon a time, the American Dream revolved around homesteading. America had vast and fertile lands, and everyone was welcome to a piece of land to start their own homestead, but that’s all in the past.
Immigration is regulated, and even Americans find it hard to secure a parcel of land for homesteading.
Is homesteading legal? With the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, homesteading is no longer legal on federal lands. On the state level, homesteading is still legal and encouraged in some states. Free land is offered by some farming communities and towns across the country.
Between the federal laws that give the federal government control over the public lands and the state laws that allow homesteading sometimes but heavily regulate it, the legal status of homesteading in the United States can be confusing at best. Read more to find out all about modern homesteading.
Modern Homesteading – What To Know
Modern homesteading differs slightly from the lifestyle of the first settlers. It involves a self-sufficient life where the homesteader relies heavily on growing their own food and living as independently as possible, but it doesn’t necessarily mean living in isolation from society.
What Homesteading Means Today
Many people think of homesteading as a romanticized lifestyle that involves a lot of farming and living off-grid as a way to isolate the homesteader from urban life and modern times as much as possible.
However, that’s not entirely true. Not all homesteading is about rural farming, and it doesn’t have to be on acres of land where livestock roam free either.
Some people like the independence of homesteading and try to live the lifestyle even in urban settings. For them, homesteading is all about providing for themselves and becoming more self-sustaining each day.
What Is a Homestead Property?
A homestead property is a legal entity recognized under state law as a homestead. It can be a building with land attached to it, or it could be an apartment.
The legal definitions of what constitutes a homestead property vary from one state to the next, but in most cases, a homestead property will enjoy many exemptions and benefits.
Homestead Exemption Laws
Homesteading is protected by exemption laws. These are laws that exempt part of the homestead against debtors.
How much of the homestead’s value that’s protected by exemption laws depends on which state your homestead is in, but many states that encourage homesteading also provide tax exemptions for homesteaders.
Laws That May Restrict Homesteading Activities
Even states that are considered homestead havens still enforce restrictions on homesteading and homesteaders. Some of these restrictions have to do with zoning and building codes.
Deed restrictions are also something to consider since they can limit what the homesteader can use the land for. Other laws might restrict whether the homesteader can sell food products or the meat they butcher on the farm or not.
How Much Land Do You Need To Be Self-Sufficient?
Self-sufficiency is a relative term, and it depends on the number of people in the family and the state laws regulating homesteading.
In general, a homesteader might need between 5 and 10 acres of land per person to grow enough food and raise enough livestock to become self-sufficient.
Is It Legal To Go Off Grid?
Going off-grid is not against the law. As long as the person is not running from the law, then they can go off-grid and cut off all communication with the outside world as much and for as long as they like.
Off-grid often means having a self-sufficient life and not relying on the power grid or water supply network to survive. There’s no law against that.
Urban homesteading is a new concept that started a few years ago.
When the pandemic came and many people either lost their jobs or had to stay home under lockdown, many people turned to urban homesteading as a way of life and a solution for their financial problems.
It involves growing one’s food in a small garden in the backyard or even on the balcony. Basically, urban homesteading is regular homesteading in miniature form.
The homesteading lifestyle varies from one person to the next. There are no clear-cut rules or codes of conduct for this lifestyle. People can enjoy the homesteading lifestyle in whatever setting they like.
While rural farming is usually associated with homesteading, it’s not necessary for one to have a farm or even livestock to be considered a homesteader. Independence is the prevailing theme in this lifestyle, and people can achieve this independence in more than one way.
How To Begin Homesteading
Before you start homesteading, you need to choose the right state based on the exemption laws and other regulations that restrict homesteading. Then make a plan with detailed milestones that should cover the first 5 years of the homesteading experiment.
Also, decide on the budget you have because that will determine not just the state you choose but also where in that state you would start your homesteading journey.
You’ll need to learn a few skills besides growing plants and raising livestock. Get an idea about how to preserve food, how to sew, and how to cook, bake, and butcher animals. There are some homesteading books to help guide you on your journey, and I highly recommend picking up a few.
Most importantly, you’ll need to learn how to simplify your life and be as self-sufficient as you can.
How Much Does It Cost To Start a Homestead?
The cost of starting a homestead depends on the price of the land first and foremost, but it’s safe to say that you’ll need about $25,000 to start your homestead.
If you get a cheap parcel of land, then you can use the rest of the money to build the house, fences, and other structures on the homestead and keep yourself afloat until the homestead starts to produce.
How Long Does It Take To Start a Homestead?
If you have a good budget and find the right parcel of land, then you can start homesteading as soon as you finish building the necessary structures and get the required licenses. In this case, one year, give or take, sounds like a safe bet.
Homesteading is not legal on the federal level. However, many states encourage homesteading and offer incentives to homesteaders to start a new life in the state.