Homesteading in Texas: What You Need to Know

Fertile soil, long growing seasons, mild climate, and an abundance of natural resources are just a few reasons Texas makes a perfect spot for homesteads. 

From the East Texas Piney Woods to the desert landscape of El Paso, Texas is rich with abundant agriculture, hunting, and fishing opportunities. 

Texas also offers very lenient homesteading, homeschooling, and cottage laws that give you some of the best opportunities to achieve the self-reliant dream.

Is Homesteading Legal in Texas

Not only is homesteading legal in Texas, it’s constitutional. According to the Texas State Constitution, any person can establish a homestead that is exempt from seizure in the event of foreclosure or economic hardship. 

Regardless of whether you live on a farm or in the middle of the city, you’re entitled to a homestead exemption. Not only does this secure your land for generations to come, but it also comes with a bit of a break on your property taxes. 

Texas Homesteading Laws

To declare a homestead, your property must be privately owned (not a corporation or partnership) and your primary residence. It also cannot include moveable assets like a boat or mobile home. If you choose to live in a mobile home, you must convert it to real property before including it in your homestead.  

Texas homestead laws are some of the strongest laws in the nation, providing substantially more protection than most other states. Whereas most states impose a dollar value on their homesteads, Texas does no such thing. Instead, it limits the size of the homestead to 10 urban acres or 200 rural acres.  

Is Going Off-Grid Legal in Texas

There are no state laws that prevent you from living off-grid, but certain locations do have zoning laws and deed restrictions that may prevent it. It may be a challenge to live off-grid on land that is zoned as residential or commercial, for example. However, if it’s zoned as farmland or recreational land, regulations are much more lenient. 

There are plenty of unincorporated communities throughout the state that have few, if any, zoning laws at all. Zoning laws vary across the state, but, as a general rule, the more populated the area, the stricter the zoning laws.  

In many areas, it is legal to disconnect from utilities, but it’s ultimately up to the building codes of the governing city or county authorities. However, stand-alone solar systems usually require a permit. 

Still, it is both legal and encouraged to use alternative energy in Texas, and the state offers many incentives for doing so. With Texas Tax Code Section 11.27, you can deduct the cost of installing solar- or wind-powered devices from your property taxes. 

Some areas even have programs that will install solar panels on your home at no cost, allowing you to become an independent energy provider.

Buying Land to Homestead in Texas 

Pasture

Until recently, land in Texas was relatively affordable. However, with the recent boom in the US housing market, prices have skyrocketed. 

Cost and Availability

There is plenty of land for sale across the state. However, unless you’re buying hundreds of acres, you can expect to pay anywhere from 10 to 20k per acre in most places. West Texas is still pretty affordable but comes with its own set of problems. Its desert landscape and remoteness make it extremely secluded and not as prolific. 

Additionally, one of the few downsides to homesteading in Texas is high property taxes, which are typically based on the appraisal value of the property. With the influx of big money from California and other states, bidding wars have increased the median price of homes to over $350,000. This is as much as a 50% increase in some areas.  

What many unsuspecting buyers don’t realize is that their property taxes are proportional to the value of their home. The average tax rate is 1.69%, which is almost 6k a year on a median-priced home. 

Quality and Accessibility

Texas is a big state and, as such, has a wide range of both quality and accessibility. 

Soil Quality

There are over 1300 different types of soil in Texas, and each has its own distinct properties. Where you live will determine what you can grow. No matter where you stake your claim, it’s a good idea to have your soil tested. 

Restrictions

Accessibility to the type of land you want may be limited. Deed restrictions can significantly interfere with land use. 

They often specify requirements for the minimum square footage of your home, whether travel trailers, mobile homes, or tiny homes are allowed, and what animals you can or cannot have. Most often, it’s pigs and chickens that are excluded.

While unrestricted land seems appealing, the tradeoff is that you can end up with some less-than-desirable neighbors. Finding your perfect Shangri-La can be a labor-intensive task.

Accessibility

Many rural areas throughout the state don’t have access to county road maintenance, so if you’re planning on moving to the sticks, make sure you have a vehicle with high road clearance to avoid bottoming out on the serious potholes you’re likely to encounter. 

You’ll also find many areas where amenities aren’t readily available. There are some places in the state that still don’t have the luxury of internet or cell service. Additionally, it’s not uncommon to have to travel thirty miles or more to reach basic amenities, such as gas stations, stores, banks, restaurants, etc.  

Best Regions for Homesteading

The best region for homesteading is the one that matches your needs and desires, and Texas has many to choose from.

  • North and Central Texas: Many Texans consider these areas the best in the state for homesteading due to large amounts of rangeland, perfect for livestock, as well as its major deer population. Popular crops include cotton, wheat, grain sorghums, pecans, and vegetables. Hay and forage crop production are also popular. 
  • East Texas: Land in this region is hilly and undulating, with many streams and rivers throughout. Often referred to as the “Piney Woods,” the region is mostly known for its commercial pine timber and hay production. There are plenty of woodland pastures, making it ideal for grazing livestock. The long growing season runs from March through November, with popular crops including berries, peaches and a wide variety of vegetables. 
  • Gulf Coast: Much of the gulf area is utilized for wetland wildlife habitat. However, there are still plenty of grazing lands and croplands, and the soil is productive for rice, grain sorghums, cotton, corn, and hay. Although there are plenty of natural water sources, including lakes, bayous, canals, and tidal channels, providing fresh water access for grazing animals is still difficult. However, if you like living near the beach, the Gulf Coast is a great place to call home. Where else can you be a homesteader and a beach bum at the same time?
  • West Texas: The lack of rainfall and natural water sources contribute to wind soil erosion, so only irrigated crops and grazing lands flourish in these areas. Also, the growing season is much shorter compared to the rest of the state, running from April through September. Although you’ll need an irrigation system, West Texas still provides flourishing agriculture. Popular crops include cotton, grains, some fruits and vegetables, and vineyards. 

Renewable Energy in Texas

Providing more than 27 gigawatts, Texas is the fifth largest generator of wind power in the world, which far supersedes any other state in the US. It produces enough wind energy to power 12.2 million homes.

Check out our guide to Texas’s off-grid electricity laws to learn more. 

How Texas Homesteads Can Generate Renewable Energy

Texas offers a variety of tax credits, rebates, and buy-back programs for renewable energy.

  • Solar: The average peak hours of sunlight in Texas are 5.65, but this is substantially higher in certain parts of the state. El Paso, for example, achieves 8.6 hours per day, while Corpus Christi and Dallas both achieve over 6 hours a day. 
  • Wind: The installation of wind turbines is regulated by local, state, and federal agencies. However, wind rights have not clearly been defined by the governing authorities. This means if you don’t have access to your mineral rights, you may not have access to your wind rights either. Your best bet is to contact a professional wind turbine installation company for consultation. 
  • Alternatives: Texas also manufactures more biomass fuels than anyone else in the country, which accounts for 36% of its renewable energy. An additional 3% is also obtained from geothermal and hydroelectricity. 

Water Systems in Texas

Texas gets over half of its water from 31 different groundwater aquifers. It also obtains surface water from over two hundred different reservoirs, river basins, and coastal basins.

Check out our guide to Texas’s off-grid water laws to learn more.

How Texas Homesteads Can Obtain Water

  • Wells: Private wells are unregulated in Texas, and there is no need to register them unless your property falls within the jurisdiction of a groundwater conservation district. Water usage is based on the rule of capture.  
  • Surface water: The state owns all the surface water and can grant usage to farmers, ranchers, businesses, or other public or private entities. If you have an interest in gaining the right to use, you’ll have to file a petition for water rights with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality unless you fall under exemptions. 
  • Rainwater: Rainwater harvesting is legal, with multiple laws that support collection for both private and public entities. In fact, one law prevents homeowners’ associations from prohibiting the use of rainwater harvesting systems. Texas also offers resources for designing and installing rainwater systems. 

Waste Systems in Texas

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulates the disposal of sewage in Texas. Chapter 366 of the Health and Safety Code outlines the rules and regulations for sewage disposal.  

Check out our guide to Texas’s wastewater laws to learn more.

How Texas Homesteads Can Manage Waste

  • Septic tanks: The state typically requires a permit for septic installation. While it is legal to install your own tank, some systems cannot be sold directly to property owners and you must go through a licensed contractor. 
  • Compost toilets: Barring close proximity to a public sewage system, composting toilets are perfectly legal in Texas. 

Garbage Disposal in Texas

With the vast number of small rural communities in Texas, trash pickup isn’t always available. And while overall, outdoor burning is illegal in Texas, there are a number of exceptions to the rule. 

Garbage disposal happens to be one of them, but only

when the local governmental organization with jurisdiction over such matters does not collect trash and does not authorize a business or other service to do so.

Texas Natural Disaster Risk

Certain areas of Texas are more prone to natural disasters than others. The entire eastern corridor from the Gulf Coast to the northern border experiences hurricanes, tornadoes, and severe flooding throughout the year. Additionally, summer wildfires are always a risk. 

Thunderstorms, winter storms, and extreme heat are also issues that many Texans routinely face throughout the year.

Texas Climate and Weather

Climate in Texas varies significantly by region, and the weather changes frequently. There’s a motto in the Lone Star State: “If you don’t like the weather in Texas, just blink!” Overall, however, Texas has decent weather year-round. 

Snow is a rarity in most parts of Texas except for the panhandle and along the northern border. It usually only occurs every 10–20 years.

In the summer, West Texas is hot and arid, while Central and East Texas are hot and humid. Winters are universally mild compared to other parts of the country, but Texas still reaches freezing temperatures a few times a year. 

  • North and Central Texas: Rainfall is usually 25–35 inches evenly distributed throughout the year. Soil management issues include brush control, wind erosion, low fertility, lack of moisture, and salt spots. The growing season runs from March through November. Summers are relatively mild, with 70°–80° averages and minimal freezing temperatures during winter nights.  
  • East Texas: There’s usually 40–60″ of rain on average, with summer temperatures in the high 90s and mild winters in the 40°–50° range. While rainfall is abundant, so are floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. 
  • Gulf Coast: Summers are hot and humid in the high 90s, with extremely mild winters in the 50–60s. Rainfall can be as high as 55″ per year, evenly distributed throughout the year, although slightly more likely in the summer months. The area is prone to tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • West Texas: Average temperatures exceed 100° in the summer and 50°–60° in the winter, with occasional drops below freezing. Rainfall is less than 20″ a year and sporadic.

Agriculture for Texas Homesteaders

The Lone Star State is well known for its agriculture and generates almost 25 billion dollars a year in farm revenue. As the largest state in area in the continental US, Texas has around 247 million acres of farmland, making it a premiere location for homesteading. 

Texas Growing Zones

Texas covers four different plant hardiness zones from 6b through 9a. The growing season varies by location, but in most parts can be expected to run from March through October. 

Growing Crops

The most common commercial crops throughout Texas include cotton, corn, livestock grains, rice, and wheat. There are also many peanut, sunflower, and sugarcane crops. The state boasts many pecan farms and fruit orchards as well. 

Root and tuber crops, bulb crops, fruiting vegetables, and melons grow very well throughout the state. 

Raising Livestock

Texas has a prolific cattle industry. The most common breeds include the Texas Longhorn, Black Angus, Highland, and Herefords. There are also an abundance of dairy farms. 

Cow facing camera

Aside from cattle, lucrative livestock options for homesteaders include chickens, rabbits, goats, pheasants, and turkeys. You’ll find several exotic buffalo farms throughout the state, and well stocked fish farms. 

Making Money From Your Texas Homestead

Texas provides many opportunities to earn income from your homestead. There are few restrictions and licensing requirements, and earning income from your homestead is one of the best ways to become self-reliant.

Selling Produce and Plants

Produce and plant production is regulated by the Department of State Health Services and allows for the sale of produce and plants directly to consumers from your own farm, a roadside stand, a farmer’s market, or online via a physical meetup. However, shipping of products is not allowed.

Farmer’s markets are regulated by local health departments and may require licensing depending on location. Generally speaking, if you’re selling whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables with no time or temperature requirements, you do not need a permit. 

If you’re thinking about selling live plants, you need a Class M Nursery Floral license from the Department of Agriculture to ensure plant pests are not being spread.  

For eggs, you must have a temporary food establishment license, and your eggs must be maintained at 45° or below, packaged with safe handling instructions, and labeled as “ungraded.” Raw honey can also be sold without licensing so long as you’re engaging in allowable farm activities. 

The rules for raw unpasteurized milk are a little more convoluted. While raw milk cannot be sold at a farmer’s market, a farmer’s market can be used as a drop point for milk deliveries through herd-share programs in which milk is divided proportionally to all members.  

Selling Livestock and Meat

In order to comply with state regulations, selling meat and livestock requires a permit from your city or county health department whether you sell from your farm or local farmer’s market. Common livestock and meat sold in Texas include:

  • Cattle
  • Bison
  • Sheep
  • Pork
  • Rabbits
  • Chickens
  • Turkeys
  • Ducks
  • Geese
  • Squabs

Aquaculture facilities like fish farms no longer require licensing. 

Selling Crafts and Homemade Products

Crafts and homemade products are a great way to earn income for your homestead. Handcrafted items can be sold at antique malls, arts and crafts shows, carnivals and fairs, festivals, gun shows, trade shows, and vendor malls.  

You just need to make sure you’re collecting and remitting the appropriate sales tax for your items.  

Wind and Solar Land Leases

Wind and solar leases are gradually becoming more popular, especially in the West Texas and panhandle areas. You are legally allowed to lease your land to solar power and wind developers in exchange for rental fees or annual percentages of gross revenue. 

However, doing so results in the loss of any ag exemption you may have. 

Hunting in Texas

Texas has a robust hunting landscape with a large array of animals to choose from. The most common are deer, wild hogs, rabbit, squirrel, quail, and duck. But you’ll even find alligator hunting in Texas. You’ll also find hunting seasons limited exclusively to bow hunting or muzzleloaders.  

State law requires a hunter education course and proof of certification while hunting. However, if you’re active duty military, a veteran, or a law enforcement officer, you are exempt from this requirement. You’ll also need a hunting license, where 100% of the costs fund wildlife management.  

Homeschooling in Texas

Texas is a no-notice, low-regulation state when it comes to homeschooling, which is considered a private school with very few regulations. 

Required subjects only include math, reading, spelling and grammar, and good citizenship. Plus you have to use a written curriculum (online is acceptable) and operate your homeschool in what the Texas Supreme Court described as a “bona fide” manner. 

You are not required to notify your local district, and there are no annual assessments required. Additionally, there are no teacher certification or immunization requirements. 

Healthcare in Texas

Texas has the most uninsured residents of any state, with 45% of those claiming it’s too expensive and unaffordable. In a state that has just over $52,000 of median income, on average Texas pays a whopping 14.2% of that income to insurance premiums, or just over $7,000 a year. 

It’s also worth noting that access to healthcare can be particularly challenging for remote rural areas. You should factor this in when considering what area of Texas you’d like to purchase land for your homestead. 

Not only does Texas provide good land for homesteading, it has some of the friendliest homesteading laws in the Union. With these facts about homesteading in Texas, you can begin your homesteading adventure in the Lone Star State with confidence.

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