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New Homestead with Big Family Finances

 
Posts: 15
Location: Corpus Christi, TX
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My wife and I are wanting to take the leap (me quit my job), pack our duds, and head north to Indiana. My heart says yes! My responsible conscious self cautions saying to "Count the Cost!"

We are looking to move our family of 9 to Indiana this coming spring in time to put a garden in. The property is 8 acres that belongs to my mother-in-law. She is retired and lives in a small shed-cabin with her husband and my sister in law (retired) lives in the main house with her husband. The land has not been used for years. There is septic, electric service, and water is hauled in to fill a cistern.

I don't want to bite off too much at once, dooming the venture to failure; however, I have a large family to feed too! We have 7 children from 10 years to 1 year old. Part of the reason for the move is to be close to family, for social/ emotional support. I may be getting a VA stipend coming in every month but it is not set in stone yet. I don't have a problem taking advantage of SNAP for a little while to get established, up and running. I have paid into it over the past 25 years... come-on.

With very little in the way of expenses, how frugally have y'all been able to get by starting out? Especially like to hear from young families.  
 
 
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I'm more than a bit worried about the water situation. I'd suggest you price getting a well dug. Also, be set up to do and store a lot of canning. How far is the closest farmers market that you could sell things in?
Are you able to get a very large water tank and funnel roof water to it?

I'm not the best one to comment on this though, so I'll leave it to others better qualified.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1438
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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If you have the rainfall and dont freeze all winter rainwater catchment and tanks are very viable. Much less cost than a well.
 
gardener & author
Posts: 1945
Location: Tasmania
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I would first look at what the land can realistically grow, and how soon you can grow these things. If it's good land for cows, and you got a cow in milk or due to calve soon, then you'd end up with lots of calories and nutrition from her milk very quickly, and lots of butter, cream and cheese. Hens are easy and quick to get producing for eggs, and save a lot of money too. Goats are great for milk and cheese as well.

Animals and plants need water, so I would first be looking at ways to get water to them. I'd also be figuring out the most sensible way to keep them that benefits the whole farm - e.g. rotating them around in different paddocks. I'd also be looking at what infrastructure they need, such as shelters, fencing, etc.

It's possible to feed a large family for less than a smaller family if you simplify the diet, cook from scratch, and buy in bulk. I think it's actually easier to feed a large family on a budget than it is a smaller one - you can buy 1/4 and 1/2 beef and other animals and save on meat that way, grain, flour, potatoes, beans etc can be bought in large bags which works out way cheaper than smaller bags. Making your own bacon turns out to be very cheap compared to buying it in small quantities. Anything that can be done from scratch is very worthwhile when you're cooking for lots of people.
 
John C Daley
pollinator
Posts: 1438
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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I have to ask, have you had any experience with building and growing.
Its a big leap from nothing to production.
Have you thought about a 18month transition program where you start learning, collecting things and even doing things on the ground to help get the ball rolling when you are eventually on site.
It took me 45 years to make the leap!!

I built up equity, I built a house I earned money to do so, and raised children.
And hen I got to spend everyday at my plot of land, with housing, gardens, water etc in place.
 
gardener
Posts: 1815
Location: South of Capricorn
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I don't normally like to be a fangirl, but if you have small children and are looking at feeding a good-sized family, you should check out the videos by Justin Rhodes. In a relatively short period of time he's been able to stack chickens, pigs, turkeys, sheep, and cattle, plus veggie gardens. If I had the space I would be looking at that sort of setup (alas, I am urban and all those animals are not an option, but I still enjoy his videos). He definitely does not do it without costs, there are plenty of expenses (and water), but I bet a handy person could repurpose things to build the animal shaws.
 
gardener
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Location: Piedmont 7a
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Thomas, are you assuming neither of you will be able to work off the farm when you move?  I think you will want/need some form of income to succeed in this endeavor if you don’t already have a nest egg piled up.

Or maybe the VA stipend will cover basic costs and health insurance, supplemented by what you can raise/grow?  

When making these sorts of decisions, I tend to look at worst case and try to figure out how to mitigate risks from there, vice looking at the most optimistic outcome and assuming that will happen.  If you are confident there are fallbacks in place should things not go as planned (jobs in town, family support, etc...$) Then maybe you are ready to go.

I know I probably wouldn’t want to rely on SNAP as my backup plan for feeding my family. Government programs are slow and unreliable, with many traps for disqualifying, so be careful with your assumptions there.
 
pollinator
Posts: 212
Location: WV
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From your post there are two dwellings on the property, the cabin your mother-in-law lives in and your sister-in-law and husband live in the main house.  Do you and your family plan to build on the property or is there another dwelling?

Adding nine more people onto an existing septic system can cause problems.  Has it been pumped lately?  How many gallons does the cistern hold?  Once again, the additional people will require more water.  Can you adequately provide water for your family and the crops using only the cistern?

You stated that the land has not been used in years.  Were chemical fertilizers used in the past?  What was the last crops grown there and how did they perform?  What is your level of farming/gardening experience and methods of growing are you planning to use?

I don't begrudge anyone SNAP benefits if they need them, but some states require at least one adult in the family to either be working or looking for work to qualify.  You might want to be sure about the VA stipend before you take the leap.

Personally I quit my job in 2008 to pursue my own business, which I had started two years prior.  It did okay, but my husband was still working full-time then.  I picked up a temporary seasonal job in 2010 mainly because the pay was too good to pass up, but shortly after that job ended I was in a car accident and my husband had a heart attack and quadruple bypass a few months later.  What savings we had was gone in a matter of months.  It took a few years to get back on our feet and in 2015 the business my husband worked for closed a month before our daughter was born.  At that point we decided to work for ourselves only, but we had several years of experience before that.  

This year I made the decision to go back to doing what I love, which is growing things.  This year is mainly building, preparing and propagating.  I know my garden won't provide all our produce this year, but it's a start.  Next year I plan to have plants, ornamentals and some produce for sale.  I do have 30+ years experience in growing, but am starting out small because I find it easier to concentrate one or two areas that to start more than I can reasonably handle at one time.  

As for frugality, we only have utilities, insurance, internet and an Amazon Prime subscription which is mainly for my daughter.  The majority of our clothing is bought at thrift stores and our house and vehicles are paid for.

Good luck with your venture and another piece of advice I'd like to offer is not to go in debt to get started.  It sounds like the perfect solution to begin with but can quickly turn into a nightmare (don't ask me how I know that).  Start small and pay as you go if at all possible.

 
pollinator
Posts: 2442
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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People are always sharing posts on how to homestead, etc without money. They're false. You need money. Fences cost money. Animal feed costs money. Plant seeds cost money. You need an income or at least some savings in order to get this thing going.

I'm also worried about your living situation. It sounds like the dwellings on the property are occupied. Where are you going to live?

My husband quit his job and I see nothing wrong with it but I'm still working full time to fund our lifestyle.

I just worry you're going to sink your family financially because the sunshine and roses homestead life costs way more than people think.
 
Tereza Okava
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Location: South of Capricorn
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We are a bunch of recyclers and cheapskates, I mean thrifty clever folks, around here, but there are some good points raised here. It might be helpful to sit down and list all the things, good and bad, that would be involved and costs. Family is a big player, how that impacts child care, for example. School too, whether schools are present or you homeschool, that still really effects things in terms of the person homeschooling, who would not be available for other tasks).
Also important is to consider that many things are up in the air in terms of benefit programs. When/if the pandemic passes it's hard to tell what things will look like, but I bet it's safe to say that it won't be the same as before.
(that said, you may be spending most of your income where you are right now on things that would be eliminated if you moved. which is why it's good to put it all on paper and look at it.)
 
pollinator
Posts: 158
Location: Providence, RI, USA
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Artie Scott wrote:
When making these sorts of decisions, I tend to look at worst case and try to figure out how to mitigate risks from there...



I'm with Artie,

You are asking good questions here. Don't get carried away with the dream, because it's going to be hard. Maybe heart-breakingly hard. Make sure that VA pension is in place before making any decisions, also make sure you understand the ins and outs of the social services system in Indiana. Maybe your family can help sort that out? Finally, make sure that your marriage is strong enough to endure some serious, serious stress. My own wife's parents went "back to the land" in the early '70s. After their (uninsured) barn burned down, things went downhill fast and they ended up getting divorced. In her family, the phrase "after the barn burned down" has come to symbolize hard times and failure.

My recommendation would be to put your finances down on paper and do some worst-case scenario calculations. If you have experience with farming and raising animals, and a government stipend you can conceivably live off of, this could be a viable move. If you have no agricultural experience, and lots of kids, you are conceivably putting everyone in a very difficult position and may end up regretting it.

Also, I'm assuming you know where everyone would sleep, and that you have a little money in the bank... If the answers are "I don't know" and "not much" I would say you aren't ready for this.

Finally, when one of the kids steps on a nail or falls off a ladder, will you be able to pay the medical costs? With 7 kids, it's not a matter of "if" it's a matter of "when". Can you get free (or affordable) healthcare in Indiana?

You've got so many variables here that I suggest spending a year just putting together a business plan. Visit again and treat it like a business trip: Talk with local farmers. Talk with your family members about the hardest questions. Make sure they are as excited about this as you are - not just by what they say but by the look in their eyes when you say you are seriously considering it. What does your gut say during these discussions? Are they being honest or just trying to make you happy? Fill in all of the blanks in your business plan. Once you have that, you should have your answer. As Bill Mollison liked to say, "if you don't know what to do, don't do anything". In this case, I would say: "don't do anything until you know exactly what you are going to do." If there is no rush to make this decision, you should use that luxury of time because, once you pull that trigger, you'll have 9 mouths to feed and there won't be any time to think.

I am glad you are seeking people who are actually doing this. That said, you may find that most people who are actually supporting a large family on farming are too busy to be posting on these forums very often. ;)

Cheers,
Karl
 
Thomas Brinn
Posts: 15
Location: Corpus Christi, TX
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Paul Kennington wrote:I'm more than a bit worried about the water situation. I'd suggest you price getting a well dug. Also, be set up to do and store a lot of canning. How far is the closest farmers market that you could sell things in?
Are you able to get a very large water tank and funnel roof water to it?



The 1st project we'll be investing in (other than the family food plot), is a big cistern to supply all our drinking water as well as water for the animals and backup irrigation for the garden and future market crops. Water is a huge constraint!  They currently haul water from town, taking about three trips to fill it all up, using an in-bed tank in a little Ranger Pickup. That's a lot of time invested that could be devoted to something else. Rainwater will be harvested from the main house and garage. I need the square footage of the house & garage and average rainfall to be sure things are properly sized.
 
Thomas Brinn
Posts: 15
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John C Daley wrote:If you have the rainfall and dont freeze all winter rainwater catchment and tanks are very viable. Much less cost than a well.



They looked into drilling a well years back but there was an issue with the purity of the water or it was too expensive to go deep enough.
 
Thomas Brinn
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John C Daley wrote:I have to ask, have you had any experience with building and growing.
Its a big leap from nothing to production. .



I have a small wood shop fairly well stocked with most tools. I mainly build rustic furniture, wood toys, etc. I grew up on a ranch, building fences, mineral boxes, and feed troughs for the cows, and repairing pig pens, etc. I currently have a pretty good sized garden but have precious little time to devote to it due to working craze hours at my job.

John C Daley wrote: Have you thought about a 18month transition program where you start learning, collecting things and even doing things on the ground to help get the ball rolling when you are eventually on site.
It took me 45 years to make the leap!! quote]

This is the sort of thing I was considering. I have tools and gardening implements, but will need to purchase electric fencing, feeders, water troughs, etc, etc, etc for animals, and miscellaneous equipment for a bigger garden. I've been reading the book "5 Acres and Independence" and it recommended to take things on a very small scale 1st, then after seeing what works in your area, with your limited knowledge, and resources, build up from there.

I plan to have a very limited number of smaller animals 1st chickens fastest to raise to dinner plate size, quickly adding layers, then pigs to help with tilling and clearing, aand eventually goats/ sheep for meat and milk. Want to do some form of rotational grazing to make best use of the available land with room to expand for market crops/ products.

Nearest markets are in Bloomington, Terre Haut, and Indianapolis, about an hour drive. There are Amish stores much closer that may be a viable outlet for goods as well but that would be a relationship that needs to be built first.

 
master steward
Posts: 4067
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Hi, Thomas!  Welcome to permies!

Everyone has given you some great advice especially about the water.

Permies has a Rainwater Catchment Forum that you might want to look into:

https://permies.com/f/105/rainwater

Here are a couple of threads to get you started:

Here is a way everyone can store water

Brad-Lancaster-Waste-Transform-waste
 
Thomas Brinn
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Artie Scott wrote:Thomas, are you assuming neither of you will be able to work off the farm when you move?  I think you will want/need some form of income to succeed in this endeavor if you don’t already have a nest egg piled up.

Or maybe the VA stipend will cover basic costs and health insurance, supplemented by what you can raise/grow?  

When making these sorts of decisions, I tend to look at worst case and try to figure out how to mitigate risks from there, vice looking at the most optimistic outcome and assuming that will happen.  If you are confident there are fallbacks in place should things not go as planned (jobs in town, family support, etc...$) Then maybe you are ready to go.

I know I probably wouldn’t want to rely on SNAP as my backup plan for feeding my family. Government programs are slow and unreliable, with many traps for disqualifying, so be careful with your assumptions there.



The main objective is to not "HAVE" to work a regular 40 hour work week. I have a crack-head that lives in our neighbor hood that can drum up a few hundred bucks doing odd-jobs, cutting lawns etc. If he can support his habbit, certainly I can find something to make ends meet! My dad never could make ends meet with his 80 acre ranch. I attribute most of this to a lack of business savvy; however, he had precious little time to do much intensive management of the land or livestock either.

Health Insurance sucks. I feel it is a total racket. Like paying protection to the mob. In the unfortunate event of illness or injury it is a necessary evil though. We've been researching our options. What do entrepreneurs do? My wife found a few medical expense sharing plans, where member dues cover others expenses when needed.

I am a pessimist by nature. I can easily talk myself out of anything. It is a family curse! If I keep doing what I am, by the time I officially "retire", I'll be too old to do anything... used up. My dad had a stroke within a few years of retirement. His whole life savings were totally depleted due to the long term care he eventually required. He never was able to write the book he always wanted to.

I want my children to grow up in the country, where they can occupy themselves with various animals, start their own farm enterprise, be close to family, and where I can spend the time required to mentor, teach, train, and develop their innate talents and interests. Here in the suburbs/ city, we have a garden and can have a few chickens but the cost of mortgage, taxes (ever increasing), insurance, and utilities, is growing faster than my paycheck is. At the property in IN, we have family (we don't currently have any near by), we can share in certain expenses, and help each other as the need arises. I do have a modest nest egg that is readily accessible and a retirement account that I can take a loan off of if really needed. I want to achieve sustainability for our family, then expand to various entrepreneurial pursuits in time as opportunities arise.  
 
Thomas Brinn
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I forgot to mention that we'll be mortgage free, and have some available funds from the built up equity in our house when it sells. Don't know how long it will take to sell though, especially since Corona-Mania has impacted the housing market. Maybe a rent-to-own deal would be a better route to get out from under the house quicker, and maybe at a better price point.
 
Thomas Brinn
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Michelle Heath wrote:From your post there are two dwellings on the property, the cabin your mother-in-law lives in and your sister-in-law and husband live in the main house.  Do you and your family plan to build on the property or is there another dwelling?

Adding nine more people onto an existing septic system can cause problems.  Has it been pumped lately?  How many gallons does the cistern hold?  Once again, the additional people will require more water.  Can you adequately provide water for your family and the crops using only the cistern?

You stated that the land has not been used in years.  Were chemical fertilizers used in the past?  What was the last crops grown there and how did they perform?  What is your level of farming/gardening experience and methods of growing are you planning to use?

I don't begrudge anyone SNAP benefits if they need them, but some states require at least one adult in the family to either be working or looking for work to qualify.  You might want to be sure about the VA stipend before you take the leap.

As for frugality, we only have utilities, insurance, internet and an Amazon Prime subscription which is mainly for my daughter.  The majority of our clothing is bought at thrift stores and our house and vehicles are paid for.

Good luck with your venture and another piece of advice I'd like to offer is not to go in debt to get started.  It sounds like the perfect solution to begin with but can quickly turn into a nightmare (don't ask me how I know that).  Start small and pay as you go if at all possible.



My sister-in-law has converted their 3 car garage into a cabin/ apartment when one of her sons moved with his family back home. It will be cramped, but the kids will likely be cycling back and forth between grandma's and Aunt D's, so it is flexible. It has been pretty well insulated for the winter and has a wood stove for heat. The cistern will likely need upgraded and we plan to install rain harvesting off the house and garage. There are 2 septic systems on the property and we were also planning to recycle the grey water for irrigation. Should reduce the load on the septic. I wanted to do humanure but as of yet it is a hard sell.

The land has had a few cows, years and years ago, when my wife was little. They have had a couple of pigs in a pen that is still there. My wife's brother tried the homestead thing there too but lacked the patience and perseverance. They put in a large garden but it quickly went to weeds. They were fairly successful with poultry and the coops are still there. No fertilizers or pesticides.

I want to avoid debt at all cost! I have about $30K immediately available in addition to the equity from the sale of the house. Hoping for about $60K in equity, but with corona, who knows. The utilities you mentioned sound like what we are after. Fairly minimalistic.  
 
John C Daley
pollinator
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Thomas, you are revealing more each time you post.
I am an optimist and have taken steps that my peers felt were risky and I never saw any risk.
So far at 70years young I have not seen many mistakes, but have made a few 100.
If have made a million good decisions.
As a pessimist  that is something you need to deal with because I always believed in myself.
I still race motorcycles competitively.

With regard to your water supply, start small enough to suit your early needs, otherwise a lot of cash will be used unnecessarily.

And build the water system up as you need more.

As for rainfall collection, I am an expert at that and perhaps send me messages when the time comes to do something.

Essentially put a tank on anything with a roof.
Have as big a tank as you can afford to collect the water from other tanks if you have multiple buildings.
Otherwise have a large tank near your house that holds say 5-20,000 L of water.
Large tanks allow the water to clean itself over time.

Drawing from a 55 gallon container will always yield lower grade water.
Time allows sediment to settle out and other things to happen that helps.

DO NOT WORRY about filters and other devices.



Another thing to be aware of, if you think 40 per week takes all your time, i spend about 70 hrs per week fiddling on my place and I have a house and shedding!!
 
Thomas Brinn
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Karl Treen wrote:

Artie Scott wrote:
You are asking good questions here. Don't get carried away with the dream, because it's going to be hard. Maybe heart-breakingly hard. Make sure that VA pension is in place before making any decisions, also make sure you understand the ins and outs of the social services system in Indiana. Maybe your family can help sort that out?

My recommendation would be to put your finances down on paper and do some worst-case scenario calculations. If you have experience with farming and raising animals, and a government stipend you can conceivably live off of, this could be a viable move. If you have no agricultural experience, and lots of kids, you are conceivably putting everyone in a very difficult position and may end up regretting it.

Also, I'm assuming you know where everyone would sleep, and that you have a little money in the bank... If the answers are "I don't know" and "not much" I would say you aren't ready for this.

Finally, when one of the kids steps on a nail or falls off a ladder, will you be able to pay the medical costs? With 7 kids, it's not a matter of "if" it's a matter of "when". Can you get free (or affordable) healthcare in Indiana?



The VA claim is key to much of this. At least that will be guaranteed income should all else fail. It may take longer than we'd like to wade through the red-tape for approval, but better to be certain. The family up there has been chomping at the bit to have us up there. They have had hard times in the past and have a strong disposition that they'll endure just about any adversity.

We have shelter covered.

We have a fair nest egg, just don't want to burn through it too fast; running out before we see a return on investment. IF/ When approved for VA we'll have food covered and enough to put clothes on our back. Vehicles are paid off and in good shape. The only regular expenses would be phone/ internet and what little power we use.

Health Care coverage is a good point that will need further research.

We both have experience with animals and have done some small scale gardening; however, producing on a large enough scale to feed us all, eventually scaling up to a marketable quantity will be a learning curve. Marketing is another skill to master as well.

 
Thomas Brinn
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John C Daley wrote:
Another thing to be aware of, if you think 40 per week takes all your time, i spend about 70 hrs per week fiddling on my place and I have a house and shedding!!



Yes that 70 hours a week will be with my family fairly close at hand, my older boys right by my side, teaching, training, mentoring, etc. Eating our meals together. Being there when they go down and when they arise. Currently, I spend most of my waking hours at work and know my co-workers and subordinates better and better while my own children are growing up relative strangers. I have worked 56 hours overtime as of this past paycheck! While I am grateful for the additional income (single income family), it puts a heavy strain on family life. BTW, the OT is not optional, but rather "management directed" AKA mandatory.  

My two older boys, 10 and 9 years old, have shown interest in woodworking, but I simply do not have the time to devote to proper instruction. I cannot provide them any justification, or plan for a later date. I work at the whim of the big-cheese in the office up stairs, who is oblivious to what happens on the production floor. Maybe some day I could explain to my boys there are animals to feed, pigs to slaughter, fields to plant, but after harvest... or after morning or evening chores...  we will plan to do XYZ together. We can prepare and organize in anticipation for that event. As of now I cannot plan from one week to the next. In nature there are cycles and seasons to plan around an in accordance with.
 
master gardener
Posts: 2141
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Nothing replaces money .... especially if your back is against the wall.  You appear to be highly uncertain of all income streams, and you don't mention savings.  Things break, kids need clothes, kids get sick, everyone needs food, shoes fall apart, etc. Then there are all the points that have already been addressed in this thread. Proceed with extreme caution.



 
pollinator
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I think the idea has possibilities, but, I would adopt all/most of the "changes" (home schooling, canning, thrift store living, etc. For at least 12-24 months, IN your current location.

This would accomplish two things. First it would give you a "taste" of how this alternative lifestyle would "feel" and "work". Second, it would give your home time to accrue more equity, to salt away more money from both employment and the lowered expenses that would arise from extreme frugal living.

You could also take your annual vacation time to engage in the needed improvements required at the family property; see if living in such tight quarters and with family will work. I would then look at a phased transition, perhaps ensuring the garden and rain catchment is in place before the final move. Perhaps the wife and younger kiddo's go 6 mths before you actually quit your job?

You will NEED some sort of income stream. What do the other family members already there use for money? Can you either piggyback on to something or start a business? Do you or the wife need training (making soap from goat milk; cheese; some sort of handicraft, small engine repair, woodworking, stone Mason skills...).

Lastly, who will "OWN" what? Will you have title to anything? Who pays for the needed infrastructure (water, tractor, irrigation fencing..), taxes, how is the "profit" shared? Will you just get the kiddo's raised and have to immediately transition into "eldercare"?

What happens if there is a disaster (divorce, illness, difference of opinion...) you will have sunk upwards of $100,000 into the property that you likely would have to walk away from OR be forced to buy the others out...think very hard about this aspect, and take the time to get clear legal advice.

The dream is magical; the time needs to be taken to see if it is both feasible, realistic, and a truly good "fit" for everyone involved.
 
master pollinator
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^ This, exactly. I hope you will heed Lorinne's wise advice. Your plan has a lot of moving parts. A lot can go right; but a lot can go wrong.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Thomas,

How are things working out?
 
pioneer
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Thomas Brinn wrote:I forgot to mention that we'll be mortgage free, and have some available funds from the built up equity in our house when it sells. Don't know how long it will take to sell though, especially since Corona-Mania has impacted the housing market. Maybe a rent-to-own deal would be a better route to get out from under the house quicker, and maybe at a better price point.



I'm not an expert (yet), but we're starting a real estate business in the San Antonio area. There is not nearly enough inventory. I.E. Your house would sell very quickly and at a very good price.

I know this to be 100% true in San Antonio, it seems to be true in the Houston area... I'd bet it's true in Corpus Christi, too. (Do check with a local realtor)

So despite all logic that corona would hurt the housing industry, it's turned it into a really popping place here in Texas! It's making it hard for us to get our business off the ground, but we're patient

And if the 2008 recession taught me anything, it's that people move to Texas when tragedy hits (for the cheaper costs of living and due to no longer being able to afford luxuriant lifestyles)... which of course creates more demand in the housing market.

Don't sell yourself so short!

Edit: Not that I'm advising you to move.
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