Sam Peone | June 23, 2022

Chewelah, my home.

“If the Shire was a real place, this would be it,” I say to my husband as I gaze over the lush valley.
Indeed, the small community of Chewelah Washington, looks like something out of a fantasy novel. Hills covered in rich evergreens enclose the town like the sides of a bird’s nest. In the middle of the hills lies a bowl of vibrant green pastures. Cows and horses graze, yet the air smells of pine trees and wide open space.

Downtown Chewelah brims with rustic architectural character. The first time my mother came to visit our new home, an antique shop in town quickly caught her eye. “I could have bought the whole store,” she said to me. Instead, she purchased a breadbox as a housewarming gift. “I’ll use it for recipes,” I, a Celiac, joked.

Living in Stevens County is a dream come true, a vision my husband and I have spent four years working toward. When we purchased our first home, a love of gardening developed. That hobby evolved into a passion, which became a long term goal: homesteading.
Food shortages, supply chain disruptions, and economic chaos caused and aggravated by the pandemic further solidified my desire to grow most of my family’s food. The problem was, we lived on 1/5th of an acre in an (admittedly relaxed) homeowner’s association. Chickens, bees, milking goats, and dozens of raised garden beds weren’t an option.

Additionally, our property taxes had significantly jumped in Spokane County. Every year, the county treasurer’s office sends out an updated home value assessment, and every year, we’d be shocked by the climbing dollar signs and property taxes. As more and more people moved to Spokane, home prices accelerated, inventory remained low, and many I knew were finding the local real estate market difficult to enter.

It was in that environment my husband and I decided we just had to move out to the country. We couldn’t wait anymore. Our homesteading fevers burned too high! Last month, we sold our city lot and moved out to a manufactured home on a little more than four acres in Stevens County, just 30 minutes north of our then-home in the Spokane area. We traded out our conveniently located house for over 20 times as much property—and much cheaper property taxes.

I strongly believe many people ache to homestead as badly as I do, but they feel locked out of that world for one reason or another. I’m here to say, Stevens County is a great area to consider. One can easily commute to his or her job in Spokane and, on the weekends, work toward building up a self-sufficient lifestyle.

In northeast Washington, which includes the counties of Ferry, Pend Oreille, and Stevens, the average real estate transaction price for a home on less than one acre in the first quarter of 2022 was $277,000, according to Colville, Wash.-based Northeast Washington Association of Realtors.

Let’s compare those figures to Spokane County and Kootenai County, Idaho.

According to the Spokane Association of Realtors, through March 2022, the average price in Spokane County for a single family home on less than one acre including condos was $434,033. That’s up a whopping 21.3% from the same time last year. The median year-to-date sales price was $400,000, up 21.6% from the same period in 2021. For the single month of April, those figures were higher. The average home price in April was $460,388; the median price was $425,000.

In Kootenai County, numbers are even more challenging. According to the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors, the median price of a site-built home on less than two acres, as of April 2022, was $549,950. Unfortunately, data across those different agencies aren’t apples to apples, but it could highlight some of the differences in buying power and real estate opportunities between the different counties.

For my little family, Stevens County overflows with opportunity. If I want to build a farm, I can apply for some permits and do it! If I want to grow an entire acre of tomatoes, I’d have one heck of a spaghetti sauce haul. If I want to build a greenhouse and attempt to grow an avocado tree, well look out Tom Selleck! There’s a new Haas farm in town!

Life in the country is what you make it. Unleash your creativity!

After years of hustling, I still can’t believe I live in Chewelah. The views are breathtaking, and the people are lovely. However, the best part of my new home would have to be the serenity I feel outdoors. Stepping out of my car, gravel crunches beneath my feet. As the wind blows, chime softly sing in my backyard, and I’m transported to a quieter, simpler time.

My new rural life feels like a vacation. I keep waiting to wake up, pack my bags, and head back to the hustle and bustle of city life. After all, how many people can say they live someplace as idyllic and beautiful as the Shire?
This is my home, and everyday brings about new possibilities and adventures.

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