Choosing the best location for your off-the-grid homestead will likely surpass the skills of a typical real estate agent. Selecting the right piece of land will not only be one of the biggest decisions of your life, but quite possibly a life-saving one as well.
When a real estate agent is contacted by a new client seeking to purchase acreage, the phrases “beautiful view” and “rolling hills” are often tossed around. While both aspects are good selling points for ordinary buyers, they should by no means be among the top priorities for those in the off-grid and self-sufficiency market.
Choosing the Right Real Estate Agent
Folks seeking a sustainable homestead which also offers geographical attributes which coincide with defensive considerations need a detailed checklist in hand when going to walk a property. Not every piece of property will support the digging of a pond , despite what an agent eager for a sale might suggest.
When I first began showing land and Amish properties to prospective buyers, many of which were looking for an off-the-grid or recreational property, I took along an agent experienced in about every kind of land deal under the sun. I have now learned more about spring-fed streams and the types of wooded areas needed to hunt various types of game than I ever knew I needed to know.
Real estate agent licensure varies by state, but specialized designation are now commonplace. Choose an agent who is a land specialist or at least one which can show you a list of past land sales to demonstrate their experience in property dealings. Do not be afraid to shop around before signing up with a particular real estate brokerage or agent. Develop a series of questions related to your plans for the land and pose them to at least three agents before deciding on who should represent your interests.
A good agent should be able to recommend local contractors or service providers to aid in the search at your request. Have the real estate agent provide you with both a copy of the deed to review and plat maps. Go over the deed carefully to make sure you are aware of who owns the mineral rights to the property and if any easements or shared driveways exist. All too often buyers simply assume if they own the land they also own the mineral rights and that is not always the case. In addition to revealing the layout of the land and boundaries, plat maps will also indicate if the property is a reclaimed strip mine land or if adjacent parcels were once mined as well.
Calling in the Experts
Although an added expense is involved with contracting the services of a preparedness retreat specialist, the better-safe-than-sorry adage truly applies here. If you are not extremely familiar with the logistics and costs involved with creating a sustainable water system or energy system, hire someone who specializes in such projects. The feasibility and expense involved with utilizing water from a stream, creek, or pond to take care of both humans and livestock, especially if moving the water uphill or a long distance is involved, could turn a land deal of a lifetime into a money pit.
Off the Grid Energy Systems
Wind and solar energy  systems also need appropriate location in order to function properly and provide power for the home and workshop. For a solar powered  energy system to work properly it will likely need to be adjusted periodically, at least seasonally. If the land surrounding the top of the hill or home roof where the solar energy system is mounted is heavily wooded, power could weaken significantly. When touring a piece of land with a real estate agent, do not hesitate to take along technicians or contractors who will be actually doing the off-the-grid projects and get an on-the-spot price estimate and feasibility report that can quickly and easily be factored into the home bid. The cost of all services necessary to set up the rural retreat should be factored into the equation when narrowing down land possibilities.
Property Improvements and Purchase Expenses to Consider
- Energy systems equipment and installation costs
- Well-digging or water connection materials and costs
- Fencing and gate costs
- Barn and storage building costs
- Driveway costs
- Septic system materials and expenses
- Home building or remodeling costs
- Livestock purchase or relocation costs
- Garden tilling or greenhouse development costs
- Insurance on both property and livestock
- Property taxes
- Permits for building projects
Not all pieces of land are created equal. Simply because the property is partially wooded does not necessarily mean that deer or turkey are abundant, or even present on the property. If you will be raising livestock, investigate the presence of major predators. If you are buying land in an unfamiliar area, speak with locals and members of hunting groups to learn more about the pros and cons of game issues in the area. Coyotes are a fairly significant problem in many regions of the country for ranchers. Southern exposure is integral if you want to enclose porch and use it as a “camouflagued” greenhouse  as Off The Grid News pal Rick Austin teaches readers to do in his new bestselling book. Southern exposure for the homestead will also enhance solar power production and reduce home heating needs.
How Much Land Should I Buy?
When circling land in the local real estate guide, don’t forget to do a little off-the-grid living math, as well. The amount of land needed must directly reflect the intended uses of the land and the types and amount of livestock which will co-exist with humans on the property. Do not forget to factor in water needs for the family, crops and animals and how achieving those goals will be accomplished during a drought. Redundancy is the key to any successful off-the-grid homestead. Planning now for the well to run dry or for the creek to dry can save your life down the road. Storing rainwater in barrels and purchasing bottled water should not be neglected merely because a functioning well and big pond exist on the property.
If the perfect parcel of land contains more acreage than you can afford, consider networking with like-minded individuals or forming a mutual assistance group , and buying the land together. Working the land, self-defense, and benefiting from the skill sets of others gives you a distinct edge during a survival situation.