My wife and I recently moved the the greater Seattle area for job opportunities, with the plan that we'd work hard and save up to attain our dream of owning and working land in this beautiful part of the country.
It seems, just as with anywhere, that there are considerable laws, and rules depending on county/city/etc that would really help us get a better understanding of where one should be looking for property.
Something 4 to 10 acres is obviously ideal, mountain views are always a perk. And like minded folk is easily a top priority. Which is how I got here!
Is there a semi-straightforward guide around the internet for figuring out ideal locations for building smaller home (sub 750sq ft) and working the land around it. Be it livestock, and garden...
And help is greatly appreciated, and I'll continue to scour the existing information here in the Cascadia forum
I think it really varies by county. WA is really diverse, although truth be told you'll find a lot of more lax laws out in Eastern WA. The NE corner is perfect - I'm in Stevens County, completely off grid, compostbucket toilet and everything, and no inspector has ever set foot on my property. This corner of WA is nicely forested, mountainous, with grassy areas, not dry, flat and drab like you'd expect. It's kind of like what you'd see in Cle Elum if you have ever made your way over there. You can have one uninspected dwelling per parcel here. But try to do that in King County or Snohomish (which is where I'm from originally) and yeah... good luck. Land prices are also really high there.
There aren't really any guides like what you're looking for... and gosh that would be nice if someone put one together! I think that's kind of hard though because it is so highly dependent on where you live, in terms of county laws, and of course what kind of focus you want.... if you want to make a living with a certain aspect of your land, or just to be self sustaining, etc. It also depends on the land you have. I have mostly forest, definitely in the mountains, but very rich soil and a decent amount of rainfall.
One benefit we also have here is 4 true seasons, so we can grow some hotter weather crops than what the Seattle area folks could, although they can grow stuff we can't, also. I could very easily sustain my family on my 20 acres, once I'm established. Now - if I was in the desert, or drylands, that would be a different story and I'd be doing things differently. Also would be a different story if I was more urban, or if I was in the rain forest like on the Olympic Peninsula.
And also consider the political/people climate of where you live. This area where I'm at (about 90 minutes north of Spokane) seems to be pretty Libertarian which is a good fit for me. I couldn't be close to Seattle because there's too much of a mentality of interference out there, if that makes sense. If I wanted to be on the coast, I'd probably go up north towards Bellingham or south, I have family about halfway to Portland who homestead and it is working out pretty well for them.
Just me and my kids, off griddin' it - follow along our shenanigans at our YouTube Uncle Dutch Farms.
I really appreciate your insight, and can understand what you're saying.
It may be best to find someone who has already undertaken what we'd like to accomplish in an area that we'd like to be in and pick their brains a bit.
Also great point on the people around you, obviously like minded people can go a long way!
I'm truthfully not 100% set on any particular area, but a manageable commute to a job if savings aren't high enough is a big kicker.
I've seen some properties about 45 minutes east of Everett that look amazing, but need to dig deeper into regulations, etc.
Sounds like, as I had thought, that we have a lot more research ahead of us!
I'm a Seattle native (yeah, there are still a few of us here), and have been looking for rural property to homestead for the last 8 years, intensively for the last 18 months. I started looking in Skagit and Whatcom counties, because I like Bellingham's cultural vibe a lot, but land in those counties is rapidly escalating in price - we needed something unimproved for under $35K, or improved for no more than $80K for 2.5+ acres. No dice.
Heading south; Snohomish county has some cool properties east of Everett, like you say, Granite Falls and Arlington/Darrington spring to mind - but the traffic getting into the Seattle area from these areas is HELL! Truly. Also, lots of wetlands and protected areas with tighter regulations.
King county is right out - too expensive!
Pierce county is out for me - too much sprawl. Eastern parts (Orting, Roy) are nice, but you have to drive through endless strip malls to get anywhere. Yuk.
Kitsap county can be nice, as well as Mason county - ferries can get you into Seattle without so much of the traffic and sprawl driving you get in other areas. Prices are okay - soils are VERY depleted and gravelly, due to glacial scraping. The cultural vibe is more conservative and the military influence is more pronounced here, too.
Thurston is a bit expensive, but rare good deals can be found, and location close to Olympia is a plus.
Grays Harbor county has AMAZING good deals, but it's really a drive from the I-5 corridor - same with Pacific county.
I ended up focusing on Lewis, Clark and Wahkiakum counties; some good train connections, close (enough) to I-5 corridor, and prices were rational. We are finally buying in Lewis county, and the regs seem pretty relaxed. Very rural vibe. We're getting 10 acres at 660 feet elevation with a year-round creek, mature fruittrees, old garage and barn, fenced paddocks, 1/4 wetland, 1/4 cleared and 1/2 woodlot with mature softwoods PLUS a ratty enclosed double wide for $72K. We're only a few miles from the 2 premier permaculture nurseries in W WA, and there are several permie homesteaders in the general area. I'm delighted.
As many will tell you, you can get away with quite a bit if you don't want to teach or bill yourself as a learning center of any kind - just live privately and get along with everyone. The forums here will be invaluable for you when it comes to the specific quirks of your particular area, and finding like-minded friends.
"It is, of course, one of the miracles of science that the germs that used to be in our food have been replaced by poisons." - Wendell Berry
a manageable commute to a job if savings aren't high enough is a big kicker.
For you and everyone else! By far the biggest factor in land prices in WA is whether you're commuting distance from a major urban area. You're probably going to have to decide if you need that safety net, which means putting out more money for the land and therefore being more likely to need the job. Catch-22.
10 Podcast Review of the book Just Enough by Azby Brown