Episode-924- Lessons Learned on the Arkansas Homestead — 35 Comments

  1. Really enjoyed the show. I can so understand the community part. I love our house our land the location so close in but far out enough. Anything and every thing we want is 30 min away. West big city east or north wild wilderness with no electricity let alone high speed internet. Within a 2 hour drive we can be in rain forest, high mountain skiing, hunting, fishing (ok 5 min away) high desert, or the ocean, it’s amazing. Just can’t stand the community of the town we live in. Have been house shopping for years.

    Where we are for location taxes and a 30 min commute for hubby it’s the best we can do. So I make do with the community situation. All our friends have died or moved away over the last 5 yrs. Not really having a comfortable good fit in belonging to a community is hard at times. Since we have every thing else going for us only 20k till house is paid off taxes only at $2400 a year (low for the surrounding area) $300 month house payment, & hubby can’t leave his job he loves it and it’s great pay I will just try and make it work for now. Reaching out the best I can hey if that’s the only thing that is wrong (even though it’s a big one) I /we can make do for now.

    In the mean time I have called in 2 different home stagers that work with larger pieces of property. I went over my plans with them to get an outsiders objective view point on what would need to be done and how the direction we are going would be perceived at sale time. (maybe 5 yrs from now) Best $200 ($100 each) I have ever spent. They both said people are really looking for more of a homestead type place. Also some things that I thought would be a problem she informed me NO that is the solution people would love it. One gal spent 4 hours with us walking the property. Not sure who was learning more me or her. It was most beneficial to get those outsiders opinions.

    Both think we are crazy for wanting to move and have said that if a realtor low balls the price find a different one. One of the ladies even wanted to make an offer even though the plans have not been completed yet. Both have given great ideas on how to market this place when the time comes.

    When we lived in AZ I felt safe and a strong sense of community it was great. However I HATED the desert and was so far from family. Hubby hated his job. So been on both sides of the coin. Finding that balance of both can take a lot of work any one that can find it has earned it for sure .

    Wish you the best in your hunt. It’s so exciting can’t wait for the follow up stories that are sure to follow.

  2. Just a quick note.

    I represented a seller who was one of the largest private land owners on this side of the Mississippi. We were selling 68 acres for $650k. The buyer decided he wanted to offer a bit less. I warned him – this seller has an ego and is stubborn. When he gives you a price – he means it.

    Sure enough – they wanted to lower the offer. The seller told me – “Tell these buyers I’m done negotiating like I already told you. This is insulting. Tell them my $650k sales price is now off the table. If they want to even think about bringing me another offer the price just doubled and I’m not talking to them for at least 6 months.” (There were several expletives in there that I left out.)

    We ended up selling the property a little over a year later for 1.3million (yes, double the price). So, yes you can insult someone and lose a lot of money.

    Granted – this is the major exception to the rule. This is a rare and unique situation. I wouldn’t take this story as the common everyday thing.

    You can say the seller has more money than brains all you want, but this seller is wealthy and he built it all himself starting with nothing but a shovel and a truck (he was a mason).

    You still need to make sure you know who you are negotiating with or you can lose out. If they have an ego and have power, then you have to take that into consideration or they can make things difficult for you for a long time to come.

    That is all. Hope that helps someone out.

    – Matt

    • Your seller is a FING retard and I would never enter into a contract with anyone as fing stupid as your seller.

    • @Matt additionally you totally screwed up! There is no reason for the buyer and seller to know each other by name UNTIL a number is worked out. Any agent in control of the deal would have simply said some guy offered X, okay I will tell him to fly a kite, then later on some guy offered Y.

  3. Jack we live in Southern Alabama and last year we ripped out our central air and replaced it with the wall units you so quickly dismissed as useless.
    We had one of the hottest summers ever and our electricity was $300 per year less, Our rooms are twice as cool and we sleep soundly at night because we have units in each bedroom.

    We did this as a permaculture based decision after listening to paul wheatons podcast about heating the person not the whole house. In the south heating is not an issue, cooling is the problem.

    The new a/c units are nothing like the old hotel units you mentioned.
    Technology has made great advances, they are 10.8 Energy Efficiency Ratio, are super quiet, have remote controls with built in timers also come with a 5yr in home warranty. They cost next to nothing to purchase compared to central heat and air.
    We also have redundancy as the units are 110 volt and easily run on our back up generator.

    Maybe you need to go back to that house on a hot summer day and see how cool it is and ask how much electricity they use…. Maybe they are applying a permaculture principle that you missed.

    Keeping your whole house at the same temperature with central air is as stupid as watering every gardening bed all the time instead of watering just the beds with crops that need water.

    Can’t wait to visit the “Spirko Permaculture Center” in Texas.
    Time to register
    Love the show you are an inspiration to so many people.

    • @David in AL, well over fifty people looked at the property and ZERO OFFERS, get the point man?

    • I really like the idea of cooling the rooms you are in rather than the whole house. I am considering doing something similar at my new place. However, I will be leaving the central heating and cooling in place. You always have to consider what the sellers are going to be looking for and that one is a big one in the midwest.

      • @cooper. If you have ducts in the attic hold your hand up to different vents and when the a/c cycles on, feel how warm the air is coming out the vent and how long before cool air arrives. Its unbelievably hard to insulate ducts against attic temperatures (especially in the south) some places do a good job others, well its a joke.
        Work out the volume of air in your ducts, Sometimes homes have another bedroom worth of air in the ducts. This air is part of your living space and you have to heat and cool that air.
        Another thing I suggest people do is turn off the breakers to your air handler and pull off the whole side cover exposing the area above the coils and before the air enters the main duct system. (Wear a mask) You will not believe the mold cultures that grow in this area. As soon as my wife saw that , It was like, “The air we breathe goes through there? (Descriptive adjectives) Get that out of my house.”

      • @Cooper, exactly an exit strategy! I also don’t believe TWO of those units can cool a 1800 SF house. Add in the 2 bedroom and 1.5 bath components and this property is a complete looser on the exit strategy formula. If I could get it for say 150 (not gonna happen) I might consider it.

        • You are right about the exit strategy formula. This has been hard for us to figure out. To achieve the highest value and appeal to the most number of buyers in our property market. Our exit strategy would involve bulldozing all the vegetable beds and fruit trees and returning the property to having lawn all around the house. The happy buyer could then ride their lawnmower every Saturday like Forrest Gump.

          This is not an option for us because we are no longer property owners, we are custodians of the plants and 1000’s of birds, frogs, toads, lizards and assorted critters that now live here with us.
          Our 10 year exit strategy involves selling below market value to the right custodian, our 20 year strategy is to give the property to a young family interested in permaculture, plants and animals.

          With that kind of exit strategy it is real important for us to save $300-500 per year heating and cooling people and not buildings. This is one of Paul Wheaton’s favorite subjects I highly recommend the permies website for more detailed info.

          This year a family of Hawks chose our property to nest and raise their young, we have changed the environment enough that they can do this. We see them diving into the yard all the time to grab a lizard or some critter to feed their chick. This has no commercial real estate value but to us it is priceless.

      • I really don’t like the ducts in the attic. That is something that really bothers me. I’m fortunate enough to have heating/ac business owner in the family so modifications are less of an issue. I always try to look at every purchase as an investment. I like to ask what could I sell this for a year, 5 yrs, 10 yrs from now, and how much will it cost me to own it in the mean time. If you live in rural areas, a heat pump can be a good option.

        I try and never make decisions thinking I’ll live here forever, without considering how it will affect the ability to sell in the future.

    • I think @David might be talking about ‘Mini Splits’. They’re reliable, efficient and cost effective. If you’ve ever been anywhere in the third world and stayed in a hotel, you’ve seen them. A lot of new houses are being build with them due to their efficiency.

      • @Insidious, he might be, that though is absolutely not what this property has. Like I said when I hear numbers like 50 views and no offers though I know something ain’t kosher.

    • @Modern Survival-

      A 2 bedroom house is a deal breaker unless you want to add on. But as for the AC if you run into that specific issue again, consider an upper end ductless split system from Mitsubishi (not the low end cheapies). I designed several of these systems over the years, and they work great. No ductwork to run as the indoor unit has a self contained fan system, and all the indoor units get connected to one air cooled condenser or heat pump unit outside. They are light years ahead of what that house had for installed cooling. The install cost is on the higher side of a typical residential central AC unit, but they are uber efficient and will save a lot of energy dollars over their lifetime. They have been in use in Japan for about 30 years with a very proven track record, and there several manufacturers. Of course this install cost would have to be considered in the offer price, but it is a great way to deal with this problem after the fact. Missing a bedroom is a much bigger problem though! Good luck on the search.

      • @Darby I have heard of those and certainly would consider one if building from scratch or replacing an old unit, etc.

      • i was impressed by the Mitsubishi units. We stayed at a state park about a month ago in a cabin that was probably 500 sqft. that had those new systems installed in them. It was in the 90’s outside and that thing cooled the room down with little effort. The remote and setting were pretty cool as well.

  4. When you get your land, look into Dexter cattle. They’re small and do well on small farms.

  5. Excellent episode, especially on the change course aspect. People make some fairly horrific decisions based on “sticking it out” out sometimes. Good follow up on the Lawton site selection bit too.

    I’m always amazed/amused to hear what property costs in the rest of the country compared to southern california, it’s just stupefying almost.

    I’ve been watching for bare land in marginal deserts here and I’ve seen several go for 50% of asking, and the asking was sometimes down 50% or more from its previous sale price. Unless something was just shit hot I don’t think I’d offer much more than 50% of asking on land in this category out here as an opening shot. But you really have to do your homework on the area, some are a little rugged with some eccentric, but perfectly nice people, and some are genuinely a bit dangerous. No savings is worth being worried all the time.

  6. Amazing how often the show topic ties into what I’m thinking about or dealing with.

    Zero-Based Thinking beats stubborn pride (I made the ‘right’ choice. dammit! ) 100% of the time. And of course some things you have to try to see if they work for you, and it turns out, they don’t. Or you change/grow and need something else. The sooner we can admit it, and get on with getting to what our new desires are, the better (life is short).

    Tying into Geoff Lawton and the Zaytuna farm.. I’m now greedily looking at properties at or near the BASE of hills or mountains. Put a swale at the high end of your property and you can catch all that runoff from your neighbor. Free water, right at the top. What made me start thinking about this is that the local hills are rocky, with patches of grass, all the rain runs right off them in the winter, so they’re only green as long as the rain continues. Whereas the ‘creases’ the valley below stay green all year (they get there direct rain, plus all that hill runoff) There is a nearby depression in a slight bowl between 3 hills. When those hills are dry as a bone, that depression is still swampy.

  7. My son is closing on a property in East Texas this week. He is very fortunate is that he can work remotely, at which time he left CA as quickly as possible and moved back to Texas, his oldest just turned 6, they wanted to raise their kids close to family. When he decided to buy the place he is renting, we looked at other properties in the 160K range. It is amazing what you can buy if you are willing to go further out. We found one place with 20 acres, 3/2, pool, barn, fenced, well, septic. You can’t build all that for that price. Much can be found in that price range, especially the further away from town.
    He decided to stay where he is at, nice home on 2 acres, closer to town and family.

  8. Yeah, I remember thinking how impressed I was that you could pick up and leave family behind. Glad to know your human too and moving back. I prefer to live by family also, otherwise I would go and check out the free state project. But instead I’ll stay here in AZ close to family. I think that might be a survival tactic in and of itself in multiple ways.

    Any ways, glad to hear you will be close to your family again!

  9. Are their small commercial roof AC units that could be installed panther roof discreetly for efficient cooling? On a lighter note, do you have to disclose “property isn’t suitable for large scale livestock operation”? I just bought a property following some of the qualities outlined by your show, and my exit strategy is that it was dirt cheap; the estate was going to a nursing home anyway, the POA wanted it done quick.

  10. Your comment on an acre being quite sufficient is so true. Like many folks, I frequently fantasize about what I could do with (fill in the blank) acres when in reality I have only scratched the surface of what I can do on our 1.78 acres.

    Jack, I’m looking forward to hearing how your move pans out in future podcasts and wish you and your family the best of luck in founding a new homestead!


  11. Hey Jack, my wife and I are planning to move to northeast VT. Only an aunt and uncle (1 1/2 hrs away) and a couple friends (1 hr away) there with the rest of family/friends about 9 hrs south.

    You mentioned beyond liberty and other reasons, that having family close (2 hrs away) is why you’re probably headed back to TX.

    Given that you’ve moved and experienced living farther from family, do have any other incites? I’m thinking everyone’s situation is different and “it depends” are the answers.

    Unsure of what east Texas is like, but 20/30 minutes outside of DC where our family is, is just ripe for all kinds of problems in the near future – there’s no community and everyone is auto-dependent and most work for the National Gov’t. So, we feel leaving the DC metro area is a must, it just seemingly sucks leaving family.

    Thanks for any thoughts, and good luck with the plans – I’m sure God approves!

    • @James – If you’ve got a young family, you’ll be missing some key support until you can build a network. Say, you need someone to watch a child, while XYZ is happening to… Or your car is out of commission for a while… Life back in the day had more mutually benefitial relationships, especially within the extended family. Older generations still had a purpose, young generations had a model, the middle generation had additional support.

      WV isn’t too far from DC burbs. Depending on where in DC, you could be in WV in 1-2 hours. I know people commute to DC from the Harpers Ferry area. 1-2 hours is enough to lose that connection, but it still close enough for the important things and emergencies.

  12. Great show Jack!

    We were considering getting property in the NC mountains. Now I think we are planning to move about 30 from Raleigh. Something we can use everyday.

  13. Thanks for this episode, Jack. I overheard you a while back mention you are looking to move, and as someone who’s followed you since right after you quit your Frisco commute who was eager to move to Arkansas it surprised me. But then again, things change.

    I’m in the DFW metroplex, have the commute like you did, but also have a smart father-in-law who bought 160 acres of pond, beautiful woods, nice cleared areas, a preexisting slab/electricity etc in southern Oklahoma roughly 10 years ago. I’s a 45 min drive for him to get to it though/2.5 hrs for me, and for a 65+ guy who acts like his 45 that is now starting to matter.

    I have seen first hand how hard work, beauty, distance, community integration, etc can pull on your heart strings when you’re trying to have a bug out place you have to maintain, adapt to a different community, or you simply say “I may not be able to do this much effort on this land forever, and there’s no back-up labor”. Your show reiterates many things that have been floating around in my mind and will help me make a better decision when my family finally has the ability to get out of dodge and get even more self sufficient.

    Thanks again.


  14. Hey Jack,

    Glad to hear you feel comfortable with your move back to Texas. However, given all your talk about self-sufficiency, I was surprised you haven’t considered building your own house using natural building methods (earth bag, cob, adobe, timber frame, etc.). It might be a good next step to take a few workshops in natural building and share your experiences on the show. And if you choose to, share and document the building process on your new land. Just a thought!


  15. MSB member, member of the forum, age 64, retired LE. and first comment.

    It is refreshing to watch your development as you mature.

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  17. Jack, I have listened to the podcast over a year now and I must say this was one of my favorite episodes. Seeing your outlook and views evolve over the somewhat brief time I’ve listened, along with your candor about the issues you and your family face, the importance of community, and desire to create a sustainable homestead were spot on. Bravo! Looking forward to more. And best wishes on your search for a new place and sale of the present one.

  18. Jack,

    I’m with Lee. This episode was much bigger than just a story about you and a house in Arkansas. And bigger than any of the specifics it was just eye opening to hear about the discoveries. Love the honest and candid takeaways. Things like “we wanted to be closer to family” or being near town or having DSL internet. Or even just the feeling of being home. These are things that no “hardass survivalist” would ever say from the safety of his armchair. But the fact is, you DID it, so you know what it’s like

    Big hat tips to you and Dorothy for getting out there, working hard, and then being open enough to consider some other options. Best of luck with getting settled in TX.

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  20. Jack, please explain more why you don’t want to cut down the 4 wooded acres. You said something non-specific about erosion, solar, etc.