There are some moments in my life that I will never forget—getting engaged, my wedding, giving birth to my babies. Oh, and when we first walked through our old farmhouse. Purchasing this urban homestead has drastically changed our daily life. We’re not really in the country but we’re not really in the city—we often describe it as the perfect in-between for our family!
If you’re interested in purchasing land or a fixer upper… specifically within the city, keep reading to find out what I wish I knew before buying our urban homestead.
Topics Covered in This Post
- What is an Urban Homestead?
- The Story of How We Found Our Homestead in the City
- Buying a Fixer Upper
- Pros of Buying a Fixer Upper
- Cons of Buying a Fixer Upper
- Things to Know Before Buying a Fixer Upper
- Buying Land in the City for an Urban Homestead
- Pros of Buying Land in the City
- Cons of Buying Land in the City
- Things to Know Before Buying Land in the City
- Resources for Buying a Fixer-Upper Urban Homestead
What is an Urban Homestead?
According to the blog Wide Open Eats, ” Today, the term urban homesteading essentially means you’re trying to make most of the food you consume as a household in an urban area, and that can include produce and livestock. A homesteader tries to make their own food as much as possible and to become as self-sufficient and practice sustainable living as much as they can.”
Sandler Law Group further specifies what an urban homestead is: “Urban homestead refers to both urban and suburban and is limited to 10 acres.”
So according to these definitions, an urban homestead could classify as anything from a small backyard homestead to a ten acre property where someone is growing food and working to be as self-sufficient as possible. Often times, urban homesteads are found within the city.
The Story of How We Found Our Own Urban Homestead
Buying a fixer-upper farmhouse on a few acres wasn’t really part of our plan. Moving back to Kansas wasn’t even part of our plan! The Lord has been teaching me how to hold loosely to my plans and to trust his direction in my life. Here’s the story of how we found our own little city homestead:
A Lot of Closed Doors
I honestly still can’t believe I convinced Carson to even look at our current home. It wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. It had one bathroom that didn’t even work, it was extremely neglected, and most of all—it was in the wrong city.
Carson’s company in Arkansas had a huge layoff right before Covid, and hundreds of people lost their jobs. The job market in his field was extremely competitive, and the Lord kept closing door after door. We started praying for direction and that God would continue to close doors where we were not supposed to be and open the ones he wanted us to pursue.
Carson’s aunt and cousin mentioned some job opportunities in Kansas City, and he applied at the company. He went through the interview process and was offered a job that was initially remote but would require a transfer to the Kansas City area within a few months.
Trying to Buy a House in 2021
We listed our house and it sold quickly. I guess we picked a good time to sell because we turned a pretty good profit in a short amount of time; however, this also meant that it was not the best time to buy. We started searching for a house in Kansas City, and we quickly realized how competitive it was. We made the three hour drive multiple times—looking at houses, making offers, getting rejected. It was intense.
We offered as much as we could over asking, declined repairs, and wrote letters. We heard the same thing over and over again—I’m sorry. You were the 7th closest offer. There was a cash buying. Keep trying.
It was pretty discouraging to say the least.
A Change in Location
We considered renting in the KC area, but the month-to-month rental prices were outrageous and we had three pets at the time, which made finding a place even more challenging.
Once our house sold, my parents graciously offered to let us stay with them until we found a place. They live a couple of hours from KC in South-Central Kansas. We kept looking for homes in Kansas City but door after door was closed.
While living with my family, we realized how nice it was to be close to grandparents and our siblings. My brother and Carson’s sister both lived in the same city, too. We started dreaming about finding a place in South-Central Kansas instead of KC but didn’t know if it was even a possibility.
Finding Our Fixer-Upper Farmhouse
Just for fun, we (I mean I) changed the location of our Realtor.com search and even went to visit a few open houses in Wichita. One evening, as I was scrolling through the different available houses, I changed my search from 2 bathrooms to 1. Somehow, this old home on a few acres caught my eye. The photos were blurry and crooked and taken on a phone. The home was being sold As-Is and looked like it needed a lot of work. I contacted the listing realtor and asked if we could see it, and she said she had openings the next morning.
I still remember driving up to our now home. It was nestled within a quiet neighborhood on the other side of town. It was so overgrown that you could barely see the house. We stepped through the front door and were met with the musty smell of an old home that had been sitting empty for a few months. Dust particles danced through the air in a magical, haunting sort of way. The floors creaked, the windows were foggy, each room was extremely outdated, but it felt like home.
My mind was flooded with idea after idea of how to transform this house into our home. It was quite a bit below our budget, so we knew that we had some wiggle room for renovations. Carson was not impressed by the house—there were so many things about it that needed improvement and updates and lots and lots of paint. I, on the other hand, was sold.
A Homestead Within the City
But then, we took a walk around the property. We walked past the old chicken coop with the broken door and mangled wire. Carefully, we made our way to the back field, keeping an eye out for snakes and trying to avoid debris. I started dreaming of raising our babies here—planting gardens, getting chickens, maybe even fixing up the barn for some horses or goats.
There’s so much more to this story and someday I will tell it all, but long story short, we made an offer, just over asking, and it was accepted within a few hours. The previous owners heard our story and said they wanted the home to go to a family that would love it and care for it and restore it to it’s former glory. And we were up for the task! (Click HERE to see our farmhouse prior to renovation).
Renovating Our Urban Homestead
Since closing on our home, we have learned so many things about renovating a home on a budget, caring for land, and living on a little homestead within the city. There are a lot of things that I wish I had known before closing on our house. It probably—no definitely—would have saved us a lot of time if we had known these things prior to purchase, but that’s what makes this place so special to us. It has been hard but healing work as we have slowly been transforming this neglected 1920s home into our home.
Here are the things I wish I knew prior to buying our fixer upper homestead in the city—the pros, cons, and tips that I wish that I had known when we first started!
Pros of Buying a Fixer-Upper Farmhouse
If you are interested in purchasing a fixer-upper, specifically with the intentions of developing a small, urban homestead, here are a few pros and cons to consider before submitting an offer.
1. You Can Make It Your Own
One of the pros with purchasing a fixer upper, especially one that is below your budget, is that you can make it your own. Newly renovated homes are beautiful, but there is something so special about getting to select each part of your home. We love that our house was built in the early 1920s. The previous owners modernized it in a few ways, but we have been trying to bring back some vintage pieces and design elements that fit with the original design of the home.
2. You Don’t Have to Start from Scratch
A benefit of buying a fixer upper is that you get to design many aspects of your home, but you aren’t completely starting from scratch. Although we worked with contractors, plumbers, and electricians during our renovation, we didn’t have to start from nothing. There is something really special that comes with living in an old farmhouse. I always imagine what the original family was like… how many kids they had, what they liked to do, how they cared for the land, etc. Homes with history carry so much meaning.
3. It’s an Adventure!
It’s been a lot of work, but it has been such a fun adventure! We have spent hours working on making this old house into our home, and we have made so many memories as a family. From learning to drywall to re-homing raccoons, the memories in this house are ones we will never forget!
Cons of Buying a Fixer-Upper Farmhouse
Renovating an old home is an exciting adventure, but it’s also important to consider the cons before jumping all in.
4. It Can Be Expensive
Renovating a home isn’t cheap, and it will probably cost more than you think it will! If you’re going to buy a fixer upper, I strongly recommend purchasing significantly below your budget. We had to compromise some during our renovation–choosing tile that fit within our budget, saying no to certain projects for the time being, etc. We may get to do some of those things in the future, but we can’t do everything at once.
5. There Can Be Scary Issues with the Home
If you’re buying a fixer upper, be prepared for a rough inspection. With our house, the list was long and extensive, and the owners were selling the home as it was. Before closing, we met with roofers, restoration repairmen, and plumbers to ensure that the problems with the house were within our budget.
6. Living in a Home During Renovations Can Be Chaotic
We lived in our home during the majority of the renovation process. We had to get used to exposed pipes, loud noises, and unfinished rooms. I think we moved our furniture nearly 100 times as we renovated room by room. It was pretty chaotic and not very restful, but we saved a lot by living in our home during the renovation.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Fixer-Upper
Here are a few additional tips to consider before buying a fixer upper!
Buy Under Budget
Home renovations are expensive. If you want to buy a fixer upper, look for one that is significantly below what you “could” spent on a home according to the bank.
Get Renovation Quotes Before Closing
As I mentioned above, see if you can get quotes on different projects prior to closing on your home—especially if you are buying a home that is being sold as-is. Keep track of these estimates and refer back to them as you move forward with renovations. Click HERE to get a FREE download from my Home Renovation Planner to keep track of quotes!
Make a Budget and Learn to Say No
It is easy to overspend when renovating a home. Make it your goal to stay under your budget and learn to say no to things that you can’t afford. It doesn’t mean it will be no forever, but it is better to stay within your current budget. Here is my home renovation budget that is designed to help you track your expenses for each room in addition to your overall renovation cost.
Pros of Buying Land in the City for an Urban Homestead
Finding acreage in the city can be rare, but it is possible to find. Here are some our favorite things about owning a few acres within city limits!
7. Access to Utilities and Water
I know this could be a con for some people, but for us—it was definitely a pro starting out! If you live off-grid, trying to get water and electricity to your property can cost a small fortune. We were fortunate to have all of these things available when we moved in. We did purchase a water filter system because our house is old, our plumbing is old, and our city water really isn’t ideal. Eventually, we want to install a well, but for now, we are using what we have.
8. Proximity to Local Resources
We live less than five minutes from several grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations. My husband and I didn’t grow up in the country, so being close to conveniences such as these was a definite plus for us! We also are less than 20 minutes from our local family, friends, church, hospital, and our other favorite places. We had a lot of medical-related appointments last year, so being within 20 minutes of all of our medical team’s offices was such a blessing. It’s nice being able to get to these places regularly but still have a little bit of the country within our own backyard.
9. Living Close to Neighbors
We love our neighbors. One of our neighbors also has a few acres, and the rest of our neighborhood is more like a traditional neighborhood. One of my neighbors down the street has become one of my closest friends. Our neighborhood has many families who have been here for years and it has a really unique sense of community that reminds me of my neighborhood as a kid. Also, the country-country is beautiful, but I’m scared to even walk to my car at night, so I can’t even imagine being in the middle of no where!
Cons of Buying Land in the City for an Urban Homestead
Although there are benefits of having an urban homestead, there are also some cons to think about if you are trying to decide between purchasing land in or outside of the city.
10. Less Land Available to Purchase
If you’re in city limits, you’re probably going to have less land. We have 2.5 acres which is still a lot to manage, but as we expand our projects throughout our property, it will have its limitations. We have a lot of space for gardens and a few animals, but it is a lot less than if we were out in the country.
11. Regulations About Farm Animals and Pets
When we first bought the house, I remember reading Shaye Elliot’s blog about how she kept chickens, goats, lambs, pigs, and a dairy cow on her 2 acre homestead. That’s what I envisioned, but I found out after closing that our city has some limitations on how many animals you can have within city limits. You also have to pay an annual license. It’s not enough to make us want to move, but it is something that I wish I would have known before I got my hopes up!
12. Required Maintenance of the Entire Property of Your Urban Homestead
Like I said before, 2.5 acres is a lot to manage—especially when you have young kids. If we were out in the country without neighbors, we would be able to let a lot of the land stay overgrown until we could work it. However, within city limits we have regulations about the general appearance of our property and neighbors who would like for it to be kept up. I absolutely want to keep our land looking clean and cared for, but some we can only do so many projects at once and it’s hard to keep up with the constant weeding and tree-trimming and mowing. Keep this in mind if you find land within a traditional neighborhood.
Things to Consider Before Buying Land in the City for an Urban Homestead
Here are a few additional things to consider before buying land within city limits. We wish we had known these things prior to getting started with our own urban homestead!
Research Regulations for Your City
If you’re buying property within city limits, research regulations prior. It’s better to find out how many animals you can have initially before you make the investment.
Consider Your Capacity in Caring for Your Urban Homestead
Think about what you have the capacity for. Caring for land and animals is hard, time-consuming work. It is worth it, but it does take time. I recommend starting small and gradually adding to your homestead as your capacity increases!
Shop Secondhand for Tools for Your Urban Homestead
If you’re caring for land—even just a few acres—you’re going to need a lot of tools. Shop secondhand like at garage sales or on Facebook Marketplace. Borrow or rent tools that you won’t need often. Save up to buy a nice saw—it will save you so much money in the long run if you learn to do a lot of the projects yourself!
Think About Your Long-Term Goals Before Buying an Urban Homestead
Before buying land, think about your long-term goals. Is it a space you could see yourself in for years and years to come? If you’re going to put in the hard work, it’s nice if it will be a place that you will be in for a while. If it isn’t the right fit and you have the option to wait, I recommend saving up and continuing to search for a place.
Resources for Buying a Fixer-Upper or Urban Homestead
Try our Home Renovation Planner and Budget to stay organized and save money during your renovation process. We designed this in the middle of our renovation as a way to help us keep track of contractors, contact info, installation dates, material choices, and our budget.
Get the Planner and Budget Bundle HERE.
Living in the country isn’t for everyone, just like living in the city isn’t for everyone. For my family in this season, a little bit of city and a little bit of country is the perfect combination. Consider the pros and cons, research regulations, and think about both your short and long term goals prior to making a purchase!