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My fiance' and I have just aquired 22 acres of prime farm land in East Tennessee. This is in McMinn County. We are planning on starting a homestead from scratch....and I do mean from scratch. There is currently a home on the land but an elderly couple will be living in it, hopefully for a very long time, until they pass.
We are planning on putting a home on the backside of the property, which is 970 feet from the road. We are just now in the very beginning stages of starting our new home/farm. I have lived in this area my entire life and am now 46. My fiance' is from Inner City Michigan and has only been living here about 3 years. We currently rent, have a hound dog, 6 cats and about 40 chickens. We will EVENTUALLY get a milk cow, a few pigs and some turkeys. There are several Springs on the land, 2 year long branches, a few seasonal branches and a watering pond. There are five fields ranging from 2-5 acres each.
I have some questions if anyone would be so kind as to answer or advice me:
We are going to try to live as off the grid as possible. My fiance' needs internet access however. We have no children, I have 2 grown daughters who live in town adn we have 3 grandchildren that we have over often.
We are looking to build a SMALL one room home to live in until we can afford to add on to it. We have very little money. We are thinking about a 20x20 one room structure, set up for a small wood heater this Fall. I am looking for ideas of the cheapest eay to build this, with two people doing most of the labor and neither having much building experience. Wood? Concrete blocks? Logs?
Also, are you required by law to have a septic system or can you put up an outhouse?
If you have a well drilled, do you have to have a septic system legally?
How long can you run off of the temporary electric pole they put up (if we choose to go with electricity)? The utility company told me the first 1000 feet is free IF we put a permanent structure on the property to live in. I am not sure if there is a minimum square footage requirement. If I put a mobile home there, we have to pay to have the electric ran the 970 feet (which will be a little over $3000). We cannot do either without a septic permit. So we are trying to decide if we want to do either, I hate giving them money every month. Who doesn't?
I will have lots more questions later, but those are the ones I have right now, mostly about a structure to live in.
The first thing you need to do is to determine if there are any restrictions on the property. I'm talking about things in the deed that might limit the size and or type of dwelling.
Next, you need to talk to the county folks and see if you can legally put a second dwelling on the property without subdividing it. In some cases, you cannot. The building and zoning folks are the ones to talk to. They will probably tell you that you cannot live in a 20 x 20 one room structure, in any event.
Septic systems are regulated and permitted by the state, not the county. Likely, you will not be able to get a county building permit without an approved septic, though. I believe wells are permitted by the state also. I know they license the drillers.
Generally speaking, you cannot occupy a dwelling that has temporary power. However, you need to clarify that with the power people and your county building and zoning folks.
Not all Tennessee counties have building codes, but those that do not are starting to get them. There is a major push in the state to get building codes in all counties. I do not know if McMinn has one or not. Building and zoning will know.
As you may have noticed, building and zoning keeps coming up. I suggest you talk to them about your plans and seek their guidance. In most cases, they are people you want as friends, certainly not as enemies, so be honest and up front about your plans, and be ready to change some of them.
They will probably tell you that you cannot live in a 20 x 20 one room structure, in any event.
If so, that's pretty sad. Requiring septic and safe electric (if you're getting electric) I can see, but I hate when they start going around telling you how to build your house. You're the one paying for it!
Well, I just noticed that McMinn Country doesn't regulate buildings at all. They don't have building permits or even zoning, although some of the cities there do, so some of the information I posted above won't apply, if the property is not within a city. Substitute Planning Department for Building and Zoning. They are still someone you should contact, as they will know which hoops you will have to jump through to meet state and utility regulations.
I have managed to find out that the land is zoned “agriculture” and therefore at least the taxes will be affordable at only about $300 a year. I feel so frustrated because I want to try to do as much of this as I can myself and remain out of debt. I keep hearing from everyone that I should just get a mortgage on the property and get everything done by contractors and build a bigger home. I don’t think with today’s economy that mortgaging the land just to build on it is a good idea. As it stands now, the land is clear (meaning no loans/mortgages attached to it). Why would I want to put myself in debt if it can be helped?
I know about getting the septic permit. I have to get the deed (which I am getting this week, it is being put in my name as we speak), they have to do a perk test and then I wait for them to mail me the septic permit. Without that I can basically do nothing as far as building or running electric is concerned. After I have that permit I go to Etowah Utilities and sign an easement paper, they will come and mark the trees that will need to be cut (there are less than 30) and then they run the power. What I am having a hard time getting an answer to is the price and size requirement. I HAVE managed to find out that a mobile home would require me to pay to have the electric line ran 970 feet. It will cost $3,160. IF I put a permanent structure on the land to live in (home) the first 1000 feet is free. However, they cannot seem to give me a definite answer on exactly what is meant by a “permanent structure”. One guy said it has to be at least 1000 square feet. Another said it does not. So I just called the Supervisor, who told me he “don’t know what is going on” and will have to get with the other two guys and call me back. You would THINK the supervisor would know the regulations? He said something about the “state electric” may have requirements. So anyway, he is supposed to call me back.
It is a shame one cannot take 22 acres of farm land, build whatever size home they desire (there is only 2 of us and we only need a very small home while we focus on the root cellar, barn, pig sty, chicken coop and wood shed!) 20’x30’ is plenty big enough for us. Too bad we have two freezers full of deer meat and chickens, I’d just tell them to stick it…..well….if it is legal to live off the grid completely with an outhouse and well with hand pump. But that is most likely no longer legal as well.
Thanks for the replies and there will be more questions to come I am sure. We are still in the planning stage and I am getting more confused as time goes by!
I am hoping with us doing one bedroom that the septic will at least be cheap. If I am being told correctly, it does not HAVE to be done by a licensed contractor, so we are planning on doing it ourselves. I know it will require hard work and they have to basically approve it when done, but it will save some money. I have a friend who has done them for a company before and he will be helping. Hopefully it can be done for the cost of parts and rental of a ditch witch or something.
Will check into the Yurts. I heard a small one room home would cost about the same as the same size yurt, but I will look into it.
Yurts 30x30 look to be about $10k. I don't think you can get a house built for that--maybe a used mobile home...
And, I wouldn't want to dig my own septic. God forbid I do something wrong and have to dig it back up BLECCH. I'd bite the bullet and have someone come in and once and for all, dig the septic you'll need for the house you want to have some day--that way it's done.
If you do 1 BR now, then you're going to have to do it all again...and I don't know if you can take an existing septic and just expand it, or maybe you have to start from scratch at a different site.
If you're seriously that tight on money maybe you want to sell a couple acres so you can do this thing a little less haphazardly and ultimately save yourself a lot of time and trouble! Just a thought--
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