Please remember I am just giving a short overview of each issue you should consider...it is up to you to go more in depth when you locate a likely piece of property!
We have covered WATER and LAND USE issues..now on to:
How MUCH land will provide for your needs? For a couple, 2 acres might be good enough, if they don't intend to have livestock--beyond a few chickens. Another family may intend to raise livestock for market and will want to look for property in the 100 acre plus range. A rule my grandfather went by was to buy just a little more land than you think you will need. If you think 2 acres will be enough...make it 2 and a half or 3. Twenty acres? Add one or two, if you can afford it. If you can't use the land or have no need of the *extra*, put in an orchard or a woodlot. Either one is a good investment for your future or your kids future.
Proximity falls into TWO categories...
Proximity of your land to DESIRABLE things
Proximity of your land to UNDESIRABLE things
It is a judgment call.
You may have a need to be close to a military base for use of their medical or shopping as you are retired military.
You may want to be far as possible from a military installation because you feel they will be targets in event of war.
Any *good* thing can be another persons *bad* thing.
Generally, though, there are a few UNDESIRABLES that the majority will want to avoid:
EPA Clean-up sites
Large Industrial Plants, oil refineries, nuclear power plants, nuclear waste dumps, industrial waste dumps, etc.
Old mining areas (lead, silver, gold, coal, tin,whatever)
High Crime areas
Areas that flood regularly
Traditional Wild Fire areas
Areas where any sort of *natural disaster* happens regularly
Just looking at that short list should enable most people to immediately scratch a few areas off their list!
Everyone's DESIRABLE list will be different.
I, personally, HATE *flatlands*. I need mountains at least on the horizon! I like rolling hills and lots of green foliage. I like snow and cold weather and summer temperatures that don't leave me feeling like I am trying to breathe in a blast furnace. I want to live in a more remote area, yet close enough to a larger city to make my farming efforts pay off.
All that helped me figure out what states/regions to focus on in my search.
A further search of each of those states laws pertaining to water and land use winnowed my search even more.
Then I researched local building codes, crime rates and a few other items on my list and finally got down to 3 places.
Once I was able to get down to those three places...I had to get more detailed in my search:
SOIL and TERRAIN
We will go for terrain first here.
Now, suppose, like me, you have gotten your list down to 3 or 4 areas that will suit you. Start looking at real estate web sites for that area. When you see a likely looking piece of property, employ Google maps.They have satellite images and street views that can help. I saw one piece of property in a real estate ad that sounded absolutely PERFECT for my needs. I was able to locate the street view and satellite images....and discovered, to my dismay, that the "gentle rolling hills" described in the ad were actually rocky cliffs and drop offs that were totally unsuitable for my needs.
Soil is another matter...but the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) can help. They have soil maps and/or you can call the local extension agent for the area you are intending to buy property in and ask for information on local soil. If you are lucky, you will come across a chatty extension agent that will talk about various properties he knows are up for sale---that may not be on the MLS system.
If you want to do organic farming, you must find property that will be suitable...buying 5 acres of *exhausted* land that, until recently, had tons of chemical fertilizers and herbicides dumped on it every year is NOT going to be a good idea. Check, check and triple check!
Now, we are back to this. If you have been pragmatic and logical in your search, this will be the last item on your list.
You may want to take into consideration now all those sentimental/personal priorities.
Proximity to family.
Proximity to church.
Feeling of *home*.
Now, although this looks like a short list of things to consider when looking for land for your homestead, every item, Water--Land Use Law--Acreage--Proximity--Personal Considerations, have a lot of *sub* groups under them. You may want to put MORE sub groups under one or another of them. I hope you do! The more detailed your search for your *perfect* property, the more likely it is that when you do find a piece of property, it will be *perfect* for you!