DISCLAIMER: The considerations presented here are in no way an exhaustive list of all considerations when preparing for off-grid living. A 100% off-grid lifestyle requires extensive research, and commitment. Most people we speak with are looking for a semi-off-grid solution, usually in the form of a cabin.
Have you been thinking about off-grid living?
Building an off-grid cabin or timber frame home is a fond dream of many. But buying a piece of land to start living the dream is the first step that deters quite a few. Others drive for miles searching for the perfect piece of land for off-grid living and then end up buying a property that either comes with took many strings attached or is just unsuited to the life they had dreamed of creating.
So, here are some tips to help you buy raw land for your off-grid living dream.
1) Research County Planning, Zoning Ordinances And Building Codes
Before buying land for off-grid living, find out and read up on the planning and zoning restrictions. For instance, some U.S. jurisdictions require that your off-grid cabin or house adheres to some minimum size guidelines. (Yes, tiny homes are not allowed everywhere.) Some counties do not allow alternative buildings like straw bale and cob houses.
In some counties with strict building codes, you must have grid-tied electricity if you want to install a septic tank. Some counties require that your off-grid cabin or timber frame house is built on a foundation for you to have a septic tank. Rainwater harvesting is illegal in some jurisdictions, while some others prohibit installing wind turbines on your property.
2) Don't Buy Land With Covenants
Covenants may pose challenges to off-grid living. For instance, some covenants prevent you from raising livestock on your property. Others don’t let you grow a garden!
Even if a covenant does not seem like a deal-breaker at first, keep in mind that your needs might evolve. Off-grid living is a dynamic lifestyle where you will have to keep up with and adapt to new alternative living modes. What seemed like an issue you could work around when you bought the land can quickly balloon into a significant obstacle.
3) Think Twice Before You Buy Land With Easements
Some easements are perpetual agreements. When you buy a piece of land, the easement is transferred to you.
Utility easements are common on private properties. Suppose you are comfortable having power lines pass through your property and utility workers accessing your land to install, repair, and maintain the infrastructure. In that case, you can go ahead and buy the land.
In remote rural and raw parcels of land, wildlife easements are common. Such a situation prevents you from raising livestock on the property. Grassland easements prohibit you from cultivating the land, while wetland easements prevent you from draining, filling, or leveling the wetland areas.
Sometimes the piece of land you want to buy may share an easement with a neighboring property owner. Just remember that this might turn into a cause for conflict with your neighbor later.
4) Have The Land Surveyed By Professionals
You must know the perimeters of your property precisely, so you don’t have disputes with your neighbors. Sometimes land records and maps are ambiguous about legal boundaries. Getting a parcel of land surveyed professionally gives you an idea of where the property lines and corners are and understand possible encroachments so that you can protect your off-grid living investment.
5) Check The Title Of The Land And Insurance Status
6) Don't Buy A Property With Limited Or No Access
A piece of land may sound like a great bargain, but it is useless to you if the neighboring properties completely lock it in. You need access to your property. You must be able to drive a four-wheeler and walk into your property.
Off-grid living is an ever-evolving lifestyle. The road leading up to the property must be wide enough and free of obstacles to let large vehicles carrying machinery, equipment, and bulky supplies pass through.
Properties in remote regions may only have access during the summer months. The roads to these properties remain covered in snow for much of the winter season, and there may be no maintenance.
7) Keep In Mind Your Lifestyle Choices And Sustainability Goals
If you have a well, pond, or a natural spring on your property, you can save time and energy that you would have otherwise spent hauling water from somewhere else. However, this is not a deal-breaker if you can set up rainwater harvesting systems.
You will want to build a sustainable structure that is energy-efficient. The place you call home short-term or long-term should, if you can afford it, have SIPs to save on resources for heating and cooling.
If you want to live off the grid, you will probably want to install solar panels and/or a wind turbine.
To get the most out of solar power investment, the solar panels must face south. Make sure there are no restrictions in place, so you can cut any tree that obstructs the rays of the sun and prevents them from directly hitting the panels. Also, consider what natural features and installations your neighbors already have on their properties. If your neighbor’s large barn casts a shadow where your south-facing roof will be, your solar panels will work less efficiently.
If you want to install a wind turbine, make sure that there are no obstructions in the direction from which the strongest winds usually blow.
8) What Access Will You Have To The Internet?
Unless you intend to cut yourself off from the outside world altogether, access to the Internet needs to be considered. At the very least, you should research the capabilities of wireless phone access, satellite phone, and/or satellite internet services like Starlink. You can regulate the amount of entertainment you consume, but this becomes a critical service in the event of an emergency.
For many who need access for their jobs, this may be a deal-breaker in some very remote locations. It could be a big obstacle on the road to off-grid living and finding suitable, affordable land.
9) Look For Properties In Remote Regions
Those seeking off-grid living will find there are several advantages of buying land in remote regions. These properties generally come cheap and are usually not bound by a multitude of zoning and building restrictions. They are ideal if you are looking for privacy.
10) Buy Land With Mineral And Water Rights
It is not every day that oil or gold is discovered on private properties, but instances of such discoveries are also not unheard of. Besides, many remote regions are yet to be explored fully. So, your property might be hiding oil, natural gas, or gold under all that dirt. Having the mineral rights of your land ensures you can reap profits from your investment.
Most water rights are transferred to the title owner. Make sure yours are to ensure your investment doesn’t get tangled in legal hassles down the road.
Many Say This Is The "New" American Dream
We receive a lot of requests from people interested in semi-off-grid cabins. The trend seems to be headed towards this more than complete off-grid living. Why? Maybe 18 months of isolation taught us a couple of things.
- We could do it, and
- We found it enjoyable to un-plug and spend time with family
Why An Off-Grid Cabin?
The world was a tense place, even at the beginning of the pandemic—and people panicked. Toilet paper was rationed, hand sanitizer was nowhere to be found, and canned goods were flying off the shelves. Then gas prices went up, and the hacks on our power grid began.
The idea of not relying on anyone but yourself became highly appealing, even if it was for a weekend or a couple of weeks. Now that more companies are allowing remote working, having an “off-grid sanctuary” sounds kind of appealing.
Not sure how this off-grid living trend will play out, but before you build your off-grid cabin or home, you’ll need land. Fortunately, there is still a lot of land available, and if you are ok with being in a remote location—it’s still affordable.