With your future plans, I think that seven acres is too little. I worry about what if's, such as the day the next door neighbor sells their land to a developer, and you end up with McMansions right next to you, and the complaints start from the homeowners, and the trespassing kids start visiting. I worry about set backs, and the need to isolate your horses from the neighbors, and visitors who are a legal hazard. I think you need more land, even if you have to build the house. You can build, stick to a budget, and buy finishings, appliances, and floor coverings yourself, and you'll save a lot that way. I've found wonderful deals at the appliance dealers that buy by the truckload, have really ugly showrooms, and have really bad sales help-in other words the more work you do yourself, and the less fancy the place is the more you save. A friend bought her entire kitchen appliance set (minus the fridge) at one of these places, and ended up with the dishwasher, microhood, gas cooktop, and the larger double ovens for less than the cost of the cooktop at a big box store. You can also get great deals on cabinets from the cabinet only retailers, and if you have to find the installer yourself. Countertops where you buy direct from the company, with the install from them or your own installer can save a bundle too.
I also worry about wetlands, and not just the regulations of today, but what will happen with that in the future, and what that will mean to your usable land area, and restrictions on the use of your entire property.
Thanks all for chiming in! I appreciate the voices of experience and additional things to think about.
My dad mentioned modular homes too the other day and I think we'll try to see how far our dollar goes there too. Seems promising!
The great thing about this community we want to move to is that their land use planning is very restrictive and lots cannot be split to less than 5 acres without applying for special approval. It actually supports equestrian features too and has 30 miles of horse trails on a public/private conservancy tract. The 7 acre lot I don't need to worry about the neighbors because it is surrounded by a horse property on one side and forest preserve on the other sides.
We've got an barn with apartment on 7.77 acres. We have about .5 acres that is unusable due to woods. With the barn, a smaller paddock and a larger paddock/pasture, plus the place for the eventual homesite, we're out of room. I have 3 horses. There's really not a way to put in an arena or hay barn or anything else without the property becoming crowded and ugly and limiting turn out space, so I'm kinda of the opinion 7 acres may not be enough for you, also.
If you are building barns/fencing/etc I would again emphasize getting really thorough estimates. My friend just purchased a land with a house. They did a very good researching/getting estimates. But even with that their ring (large dressage ring) went from $25,000 to 40,000 because they hit too much rock and had to readjust/took more grading/footing. The barn (6 stall) went from $40,000 with water, etc. to $40,000 and now they need a second well and haven't even added in electric being run to the barn. They did all of the fencing themselves but even with that she said they are $50,000 over budget and they are not done! And these are handy, savvy people. But things ended up being more involved, and once they got that far in they couldn't stop (or she would have had a large flat dirt place with no ring!)