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6 Worst State For Homesteading 
While it’s tempting to have an off-grid lifestyle, embarking on a homesteading journey requires a lot of planning.
Some items a homesteader has to plan include: growing a survival garden, raising livestock, sourcing your own water, taking care of chores, maintaining your hygiene, and learning useful skills. But most importantly, you have to pick the perfect location that offers the optimal balance of resources, affordability, and freedom to live sustainably.
Much of the American West was settled by homesteaders driven to own their own land and build a home on their property. But a lot has changed since the U.S. government passed the Homestead Act of 1862.
Places like California, which once attracted millions of homesteaders, no longer attract people. This is largely due to the high cost of living and taxes.
To help you avoid choosing an unsuitable place, we’ve gathered a list of the six worst states to homestead in 2023. So, let’s jump right into it!
6 Worst States to Homestead in 2023
When choosing a state to live off-the-grid in, you need to consider factors such as climate, cost of living, and laws. Such elements are crucial in determining the feasibility and challenges of homesteading.
California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Maryland have several hurdles, making them the worst states for sustainable living.
Let’s discuss each state in further detail!
It comes as no surprise that California lands a spot on this list. Although beautiful and uniquely suited for good weather, nice beaches, and farmland (in the north), the Golden State presents several challenges for aspiring homesteaders.
For starters, California is one of the most expensive states. Land prices, water shortages, legal restrictions, and more make off-grid living tough in this state.
Here’s a detailed explanation of why homesteading in California isn’t a good idea:
- Affordability: California has one of the highest taxes, with sales tax being the steepest, reaching up to 10.75% in some areas. California also has some of the highest gas prices, and personal income taxes aren’t that far off.
- State Regulation: It’s legal to homestead in California. However, the state restricts rural property owners from installing renewable energy and water disposal systems.
- Cost of Living: California’s cost of living index is around 135%. Housing is the most expensive, coming in around 87% higher than the average.
- Average Precipitation: Nearly all areas in California experience limited water resources and drought. The state gets around 22 inches of rain annually, which is less than the U.S. average of 38 inches.
- Cost of Land: You can expect to pay between $12,000 and $20,000 per acre. Some areas, like Los Angeles, are more expensive, costing millions for land.
- Climate and Environment: Generally, California’s climate is Mediterranean-like. Summer is hot and dry, with temperatures hovering between 70ºF and 80ºF. Winter, on the other hand, is mildly cold and wet.
Hawaii is an idyllic destination for most people; it offers fertile land, tropical weather, and lots of rainfall.
However, its high cost of living, regulations, and expensive land prices can make the Aloha State difficult for off-the-grid living.
Here’s why Hawaii might be a turnoff for many homesteaders:
- Affordability: Despite being a green paradise, Hawaii imports building materials and 90% of its food from neighboring U.S. states. Of course, that comes with hefty transportation costs, making Hawaii one of the least affordable states.
- State Regulation: Living off-grid is legal in Hawaii, and many locals choose that lifestyle. However, the island has some strict zoning and land use laws, which can complicate establishing a homestead.
- Cost of Living: Hawaii is the most expensive state to live in, with a cost-of-living index of 179%. That’s higher than the national average by 79%!
- Average Precipitation: The rainfall pattern in Hawaii is diverse. Generally, areas near the ocean have an average precipitation of between 25 and 30 inches annually.
- However, the islands can receive as little as a third or as much as 15 times that amount per year.
- Cost of Land: Land prices in Hawaii are astronomical. You can expect to pay over $75,000 per acre. That rounds up to around a million dollars for a 9-acre land.
- Climate and Environment: Hawaii has a tropical climate. The island experiences mild temperatures throughout the year, moderate humidity, and rainfall during the winter, making it suitable for growing numerous crops. Hawaii has four active volcanos, which make the soil more fertile for plants.
Like many states on this list, New Jersey is expensive for someone interested in an off-grid homestead. The state has limited land options. Over one-third of the state’s total area is developed, while over 50% is undeveloped, protected land. This means that there is a high population density in the areas that are useable, and this makes purchasing land expensive.
Other obstacles make New Jersey a less-than-ideal choice for homesteaders. Here’s a brief explanation of each:
- Affordability: When thinking about states with the highest taxes, New Jersey definitely pops into mind. With a tax burden of around 10%, the Garden State is only slightly more affordable than a few other states.
- State Regulation: Homesteading is legal in New Jersey. However, the state imposes strict regulations on some activities, like raising livestock and selling food.
- Cost of Living: With a cost-of-living index of around 115%, New Jersey ranks as the 12th most expensive place to live in.
- Average Precipitation: New Jersey experiences some of the heaviest rainfall, with an average precipitation rate between 40 and 51 inches annually.
- Cost of Land: You can expect to pay an average of $88,000 or more per acre in New Jersey. Additionally, the state has the highest property tax rate in the country, slightly above 2%.
- Climate and Environment: True to its name, the Garden State has a humid temperate climate that is hospitable for growing numerous crops. The state experiences warm, humid summers and cold, snowy winters.
Homesteading in New York can be difficult. Although upstate is fertile and has a low population density, the policies coming from the major urban areas influence the entire state. As a result, the Empire State has high living costs, high-income taxes, and property taxes. Aside from that, it has some stringent regulations.
Fortunately, in some areas, you may find cheap land and local laws that can be friendly to homesteaders.
Here’s why homesteading in New York comes with its fair share of difficulties:
- Affordability: With a tax burden of 12.47%, New York tops the list of states with the highest taxes. Homesteaders in certain areas can pay a lower tax rate, but only for their properties.
- State Regulation: The Empire State has some stringent legislation, making living off-grid challenging. For starters, off-grid living is only legal in certain areas, which are mostly rural. Additionally, not all properties qualify to go solar. Under some conditions, building codes can force you to install automatic fire sprinklers. That can affect using off-grid electricity.
- Cost of Living: New York has a cost-of-living index of 125.1%. Housing prices are around 73% higher than the national average. Transportation, health, and other utilities are also higher, making the state expensive to live in.
- Average Precipitation: Rainfall patterns vary in New York. The precipitation average is around 40 inches annually, with mountainous areas receiving about 50 inches.
- Cost of Land: New York’s land prices vary significantly depending on the area. You can expect to pay between $5,000 and $70,000 per acre.
- Climate and Environment: New York has a temperate climate. The weather is generally humid, with summer temperatures ranging from 70ºF to 80ºF and 49ºF-45ºF in the winter.
Despite having plenty of rural areas, homesteading in Connecticut comes with several challenges. Like most states on the list, living in the Constitution State is costly. It also imposes strict regulations, making it difficult to have a 100% off-grid lifestyle.
Here’s why you should think twice before living off-grid in Connecticut:
- Affordability: Although Connecticut is the most affordable state on this list, it ranks as the 13th most expensive state to live in.
- State Regulation: State laws make it difficult to homestead in Connecticut. Some areas refuse off-grid electricity, like wind turbines. You may also need to connect to the municipal sewer system, making it unlawful to go entirely off-grid.
- Cost of Living: With a cost-of-living index of 113.1%, Connecticut isn’t that far off the national average of 100%. You’ll pay the most for utilities and housing, both of which cost around 22% more than the national average.
- Average Precipitation: Connecticut gets plenty of rain yearly, with an average precipitation of 50 inches.
- Cost of Land: Land prices in Connecticut are anything but affordable. You can expect to pay $30,000 or more per acre. The state also has one of the highest property taxes, reaching up to 1.76%.
- Climate and Environment: Connecticut has a mixed climate. The northern end experiences a humid subtropical climate, while the southern end has humid continental weather.
Several factors make Maryland one of the worst states to live off-grid. The state ranks at the top in terms of living costs. Land prices, taxes, and strict regulations are also some reasons that make Maryland one of the least favorable states for aspiring homesteaders.
Let’s discuss each factor in further detail!
- Affordability: Maryland takes 7th place as the most expensive state to live in. Taxes aren’t that affordable either. The state has a tax burden of 9.41%.
- State Regulation: Living completely off-grid in Maryland is generally illegal. Laws require you to connect to a municipal sewer. Building codes, onsite wastewater treatment, and zoning laws can prevent you from going 100% off-grid.
- Cost of Living: With a cost-of-living index of 119.5%, living in Maryland is only slightly more affordable than in six other states.
- Average Precipitation: Like Connecticut, Maryland receives average precipitation between 40 and 50 inches annually.
- Cost of Land: The Free State has some of the highest land prices. You can expect to pay over $36,000 per acre.
- Climate and Environment: Maryland has a continental climate in the highland west and humid subtropical weather in the east. Temperatures range between 38ºF and 65ºF in the winter and up to 107ºF in the summer.
The six worst states to homestead in 2023 are California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Maryland.
High living costs are a common challenge you’ll face in these states. Expensive land prices, steep taxes, and strict regulations can further hinder your homesteading prospects.
While many states, like California and Hawaii, are ideal for crop cultivation and raising livestock, these states pose many challenges that make it difficult to live off-grid.
Although we selected these states as the most difficult for off-grid living, people still find a way to make it work. If your reasons for wanting to live in one of these states outweigh the reasons against them, you should consider all your options fairly. Proximity to family, ideal lifestyle, and emotions are all immeasurable points to consider when choosing a place to live.
Overall, there are many pros and cons of living on a homestead. So, to learn more about the steps you need to take to live off-grid, consider reviewing our checklist for people interested in living a self-sufficient lifestyle.
When deciding our ranking for the worst states to homestead in, we considered: Cost of living, cost of land, Climate, State regulation, and Affordability. These criteria points are measurable and widely reported, making it possible to fairly evaluate all the states in the U.S. From our research, we selected California, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as the six states homesteaders should not live in.
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