Urban homesteaders are inspired by urban agriculture and driven to a sustainable lifestyle. They represent a small pocket of buyers whose aesthetic has slowly trickled out into the larger mainstream public, mirroring homebuyers’ growing interest in green homes and revitalization.
Although urban farming has previously been blamed for lackluster markets and high housing costs, it’s much more likely that the opposite is true. In fact, agricultural projects on vacant and undesirable lands in the rust belt have served to both foster community and spur economic development. The urban homesteading movement is not an official group, but an informal ethos shared by those homeowners who hope to reconnect to the land, energize flagging city properties, and support environmental projects through their homes.
As such, it’s difficult to find precise statistics about how these homeowners’ actions are shaping (or are shaped by) current housing trends. Still, the interests of homesteaders are compatible with those driving the housing market at large. Properties with green features, like renewable energy systems, energy-efficient features, and water-saving landscaping, tend to sell faster than their traditional counterparts.
Meanwhile, when UCLA investigated whether labeling a home as “green” affects its worth, they found it raised the selling price by about nine percent. And some consumer research indicates that young homeowners are more interested in gardening and other outdoor projects than previous generations, so you can see how the interests of urban homesteaders are reflective of the home buying population at large.
How to Integrate Urban Homesteading Ideas into Your Land Given the trends shaping the market, it’s a smart move, both socially and financially, to look into the thought behind urban homesteading. Many of the projects are designed with a home’s energy-efficiency in mind, meaning homeowners continually save money by reducing or totally eliminating utility bills. But there are also deeper benefits in community engagement and environmental improvement that are difficult to quantify.
- Buy Cheap. One of the major themes amongst homesteaders is to purchase land cheaply to avoid massive debts—and to bring new life to undesirable properties. Vacant, foreclosed, bank-owned, or just unattractive or non-traditional properties and homes are favorites, since they can often be bought for cut-throat prices. You can then take the money you save and turn it around to use on improvements.
- Build It Yourself—Or Fix Up the Existing Site With Sustainable Improvements. DIY building, modular homes, and other structures are popular, since this allows property owners to get the features they want, like thermal walls and other passive heating and cooling techniques that cut back or even eliminate the need for HVAC, or highly-advanced rain capture systems, that allow them to recycle runoff for bathing. Purchase a property or a fixer upper to get in on the trend.
- Go Solar. Urban homesteaders overwhelmingly favor renewable installations, particularly off-grid systems, that allow them to generate their own energy, meaning they don’t have to rely on local power plants and grids for support. That fits right into the homesteader’s preference towards thrift, since many systems start paying for themselves in energy savings the day they’re installed.
- Invest in Ecological Improvements. While homesteaders are usually drawn to agricultural projects, they often use these projects as an opportunity to improve the land. For instance, aquaponic farming, which ironically has a much smaller water footprint, is a common technique, allowing homeowners to sustainably grow vegetables and other produce while farming fresh fish. Even a small edible garden will help you improve the land while generating fresh, pesticide-free produce.
- Build a Community. At the heart of the movement is community—homesteaders often donate or sell excess edibles back to local residents to help them secure access to fresh food, or participate in improvement projects in the area to revitalize the community at large. And they pass on what they’ve learned, teaching area children and interested adults how to be more self-sufficient.
About the Writer Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize.com, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.