I've thought about this for a long time and have done a fair bit of research into various areas. Now I can't say this is the very best place in all of the US, or even of several states. But I feel I've upturned enough stones to be confident that I've found a good place for us to start.
I'll start with what my goal has been. I want to start a neighborhood made up of quality people who will become my closest friends. A place to practice self-reliance, liberty, financial independence, and to be responsible each for our own actions.
My criterea are based around these goals. They've roughly been the following:
- An area in which parcels can be bought in close proximity, not in any fairly established place already.
- Able to have internet connectivity.
- Affordable land so that most of us can afford to buy the land outright and avoid involving banks, saving more money for building housing and improvements.
- No notion of building permits or codes required. Building inspections and permits add to costs drastically and stifle alternative building methods.
- No notion of zoning so that we can do business and live as we please.
- No Home Owner's Association or Property Owner's Association.
- No convenants on the deed.
- Not very far from a town.
- Not extremely far from a city.
- State should have low taxes and permissive firearm laws.
Now I would love a timbered property, especially in the mountains. Climate wise I do best in cooler weather. But I don't see a way that we can meet the prior criterea and have a timbered, green area without buying a large chunk of land (at least 200 acres) and subdividing. I suspect that would cost at least a half of a million dollars to buy and subdivide. And then, would it have connectivity? How far would it be to down and to a city? Probably could meet all of those criterea but the capital is just quite high. And I don't have the resources at this point to take something like that on.
As it stands I haven't seen an area where you can spend up to $2,000 an acre and have a large area of properties side by side that can be purchasable and something you can form into a neighborhood, without a number of existing people and structures in between, and especially without meeting the other criterea. So many places have land use restrictions (can only build on 2 acres, 8 acres are for grazing), zoning restrictions (can't do commercial or multi-family), or covenants (no hunting, no trailers). And while I'm sure I'm missing some areas, I don't expect to have an "ah ha!" moment seeing something perfect that I'd missed all this time.
For a quick summary:
Wyoming has a number of counties with building code requirements. Land is more on the expensive side ($2,500 an acre), unless you're in Rawlins which is extremely windy. One, fairly short growing season. Will probably not find cheap, plentiful, with connectivity, with a nearby town, and a city within some distance. Land is 50% Federally owned, which I discussed earlier as being a problem in a few ways. But, I love the people in the state and rarely do they seem to want to meddle with their neighbor's business.
Colorado has numerous counties with building permits required. Strange laws regarding firearms and rain catchment. Beautiful land but can be pricey though some areas are reasonable. I haven't found an area that meets my criterea. Also has a high percentage of Federally owned land.
East Texas has a lot of nice land and if I were homesteading by myself I'd probably head to East Texas. There is risk of tornadoes and tropical storms. I don't see it simple to find a lot of properties unused and near eachother. Almost all of the listings I found had overhead views with other buildings nearby.
Alaska is 95% Federally and state owned. Land is significantly overpriced there and finding cheap and with connectivity is just not going to happen although satellite internet may be a possiblity.
And finally, my pick of the bunch. West Texas. All of the land is cheap. If you're at elevation the climate is manageable. Texas laws are pretty reasonable (no state income tax, good firearm laws) and my biggest gripe is actually the yearly vehicle safety inspection required. But even with the California and Mexican migrants, still pretty conservative (in most areas, especially outside of cities). And having lived in Texas I've had very few issues with the Mexicans that do make it over. The violence is mainly at the bigger border cities (El Paso, Laredo). It's a large state with a lot of job opportunities. Very little of the land is Federally or state owned.
West Texas specifically has some varied terrain with a lot of mountains around. It is extremely uninhabited, I would guess that most of the counties I've been interested in are less densely populated than Wyoming which is the least populated state in the country. Building permits and zoning are hard to even find mention of (but most of Texas is like that). There's also tourism interest with Big Bend and I think if you know where to look it has a lot to do outdoors. Probably the most beautiful road I've ever been on is in West Texas, just outside of Marfa. There's also already a homesteading movement down in Terlingua.
Now, having spend some time in West Texas I have some opinions of several of the areas.
Terlingua Ranch could possibly be most of Brewster county. Land in Terlingua Ranch usually requires you to be a member of the POA (Property Owner's Association) and pay about $140 a year to maintain the roads. The roads are just cuts in the sand for the most part. Even the best road going to the headquarters is asphault and then gravel for the last couple miles. But the roads aren't really better than most of what I've seen already cut into most tracts. There's also some drama about the POA. But most of all, it's just incredibly remote. Cell signal is mostly nil in the area. The Ghost Town is pretty cool but odds are your property will be 30 minutes from the nearest road and maybe further to even get gas. That is a huge drawback. But, Terlingua Ranch is kind of the defacto place to homestead in West Texas. Why? I think only because people know about it and it's very easy to get property there.
Personally, I would only consider Terlingua Ranch if you found a fantastic property inside. I once saw an established home with solar, rain water catchment, DSL, even Amazon delivery on 85 acres with owner financing up at elevation, right near on of the main roads. It was $117k -- I should have jumped on it but was too late to the draw. I've also seen 250 acre properties for about that, with a cabin. 220 of those acres was a huge mountain. Also worth considering. But for simple, barren 10 acre tracts of land I don't see the point between the POA and extreme remoteness. You can find properties that feel just as remote but are 25 minutes from town, only 2 or 3 miles of dirt roads.
Presidio has some decent properties but many are lower in elevation where you find the 110 degree summers. I almost bought a cabin on 10 acres near Presidio about a year ago. Presidio is also a very Mexican border town where you should probably know Spanish. It's not really a bad town but I felt I could do better. Also, tons and tons of Border Patrol all over the place.
West of Van Horn you have Sierra Blanca and it seems like a viable area. It's along I-10. I'm less familiar with the area but it was also a massive sewage dump for a while: https://thetrashblog.com/2014/03/18/sierra-blanca-and-the-sewage-sludge/ -- Maybe it was fine but I'd at least want to test the ground water carefully.
There should be some properties somewhat near El Paso, say 30-40 minutes, that are fairly cheap and have connectivity. I haven't researched those extensively but have found a numer of them end up being on 10 miles of dirt away from anything, then even a town or gas is a ways further. They are also going to be much, much closer to the border and El Paso can be sketchy from what I understand.
Fort Davis is up in the mountains and should have the best climate in the area. It's definitely worth considering. Even has a Walmart in the town. Land seems to go for $1,500-2,500 an acre and there's a number of neighborhoods with HOAs and restrictions. Another place worth looking into but it may be tricky to find parcels as close together and with connectivity.
Marfa is a hipster town of about a thousand people. Hotels are outrageous (starting at $100/night) and it has a ton of art galleries. Even an organic food store. It's quite expensive although if I had the money and were not trying to start a neighborhood I'd definitely consider it. Nice climate.
Finally, Van Horn. As most of you may know I have a property near Van Horn. The town isn't anything special -- it's mostly just a truck stop. But, there's a hospital, an airport, a couple 24/7 truck stops (with showers!), bulk water, a lot of hotels and motels, RV sites, a hardware store, a concrete company, a NAPA auto parts store, a grocery store, a couple nice restaraunts, and even a bagel shop that's quite decent. I've only found one coffee shop and it was WiFi. It's also the county seat so you can handle property taxes ($40/year/10 acres it seems) and legal matters there. I think there's even a DMV and what not so you don't have to go far. It's kind of a boring town but everyone was friendly to me there. My friend drove through some time back and had to get a new trailer tire. The mechanic just up and left his tools and I think he had a sign that read: "Please don't take my tools". The area is known to be very safe. There is a small border patrol presence but nothing like the base down in Presidio where they swarm all over.
Continued in comment.