Off-Grid Rural Land is Gaining Popularity

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The number of people who are contemplating relocating to rural areas so they can live “off-grid” is increasing. I have received enough phone calls from people searching for off-grid properties in the past few months to prompt me to look into what these buyers are searching for. This article highlights some of the characteristics that are appealing to off-grid land buyers.

Before you read the list below, please allow me to say that prospective buyers for off-grid properties are often unfairly stereotyped as being anti-government, alarmists, militia members, and conspiracists. There is certainly an assemblage of people living off-grid that fit that description, but there are also a number of families that want to “get back to the land” and lead a more sustainable, environmentally-conscious lifestyle. One of our agents sold an 80 acre parcel that joined the Talladega National Forest to a man that wanted to build a yurt and farm and hunt his land. I mention the motivations of some of these buyers so that land agents and brokers do not dismiss a buyer because of a pre-conceived notion about a prospective customer.

1. Distance from a big city. Many of these buyers like the idea of being far enough away from big cities to prevent people from easily walking to their land, but also want to be close enough to enjoy some of the amenities the big city offers like shopping, restaurants, and quality medical care. There is a train of thought that reasons if there is a mass exodus from the larger cities, then you should own land that is not easily accessible by throngs of people looking for food and shelter.

Marion, Alabama, where I live, is 25 miles to the closest Super Wal-Mart, so I am already in the small number (10%) of Americans that are over 15 miles from a Wal-Mart. I appreciate the sentiment that a little geography is a better buffer between neighbors than a 6-foot privacy fence. Rural areas that are 60 to 100 miles from a larger city are going to be appealing to off-grid buyers.

2. Water source. To be off-grid, land needs to have access to a reliable source of fresh water. Alabama is blessed with numerous rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, aquifers, and ponds. This type property requires the ability to drill a private well or utilize an existing spring or creek to bring water to the home.

Additionally, the land will need to pass a percolation test and be permitted by the County Health Department to ensure that the soils allow for the septic system to function properly and remain sanitary.

3. Agriculture/Gardening. Off-grid buyers are often interested in growing their own livestock, keeping a garden, planting an orchard, raising poultry and farming fish on their land. Locating a property with fertile soils and a long growing cycle are important for increasing the prospect that a farm can be more self-sufficient.

4. Joining National Forest or Wildlife Areas. I personally believe, that “Good Forests Make Good Neighbors”. Owning land that borders large tracts of government or privately-owned is desirable because it limits who will be moving in next door. Many of these forests are open to public hunting and use, so finding a property that joins an out-of-the-way corner of the forest helps limit the number of hunters you will see and increases the amount of usable land you’ll have.

5. Minimal Building and Zoning Restrictions. Buyers are looking for areas where they can build energy-efficient or unconventional dwellings and use atypical materials if they desire. I mentioned earlier a man that wanted to construct a yurt, and there are some people in Hale County, Alabama that have used old blue jeans and earth to fashion a home. In addition to exotic home construction, it is also appealing to be able to erect a HAM radio tower, have a wind turbine, water wheel, or other structures that are limited in urban areas.

6. Energy Sources. One primary consideration would obviously include energy-generating potential from solar, wind, mini-hydro, and geothermal opportunities. In order to be off-grid and self-sustaining a property must afford the owners a reliable and efficient method of creating power that can be harnessed to supply whatever appliances they must use.

Other considerations for off-grid property would be the availability of satellite internet and telephone, rural land prices, annual property taxes, hunting restrictions, firearm freedoms, road maintenance (if heavy snows restrict use), and other features that allow owners to be self-sustaining.

It appears that the market for off-grid rural land is going to continue growing over the next few years, and is a segment that rural land brokerages and agents should probably pay attention to.

About Author

Jonathan is a professional land agent with AlaLandCo, serving the historic Black Belt of west Alabama. He is a member of the national and Alabama chapters of the Realtor's Land Institute (RLI), and the only real estate agent in Perry County that focuses completely on rural land sales.

16 Comments

  1. Richard Dale-Mesaros on

    We purchased a 400-acre parcel in NH, with plans to eventually build an off-grid homestead, using micro hydro, solar, wind and propane generator power. Since our purchase we’ve noticed that it’s becoming increasingly harder to find large, private parels like ours that are 15/20 minutes to downtown, the interstate and recreational attractions.

    We’re working on selling a conservation easement to a land trust on the upper two thirds of the land, which will lower the debt we currently have on the property and restrict the uses allowed on portion of the property, which does fit in with how we planned on using the property anyway. This, by the way, is NOT a quick process!

    I agree with the author that we’re likely to see an increase in demand for this type of property and it represents a good long-term investment.

  2. Sylvia Stewart, REALTOR Keller Williams Realty Alabama Gulf Coast on

    Great article on Off-Grid Land. I am marketing a small parcel (14 acres) just 8 miles east of Fairhope Alabama in historic Silverhill. It will be LEED Certified and off-grid development. Very affordable beginning at under $300,000. I think since the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, people will begin to reconsider their energy options and think more “GREEN”. Thanks for sharing this information.
    Sylvia Stewart, REALTOR
    Keller Williams Realty
    Alabama Gulf Coast

  3. I own the Ohio Land Company. I am also seeing a large movement in land owners looking for “off grid’ opportunities. I have found that not everywhere will the windmills work and of course the cost effectiveness in this product has a much longer return on investment.. I would tell people to definately not look at units attached to roofs and the yard mount is truly a bette idea.. but there is a tracking system that follows the sun… feel free to contact me for more information. Mick

  4. I own United Country – Gibson Realty in McComb, Mississippi which is in the southwest part of the state. We sell primarily country properties consisting of weekend retreats, recreational properties, and timberland tracts to people from South Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina sent a flood of new land buyers to our market, and we expect the BP oil spill will do the same. The only difference is that we think more people will be making a permanent move.

  5. Richard- It is good to hear from someone who has actually done the research and purchased one of these tracts. Since writing this article I have heard from a half-dozen other off-grid owners that share an enthusiasm for sustainable living. Thanks for stopping by.

    Sylvia- It will be interesting to see how the oil spill plays out in Alabama. I feel like more people will be looking for “greener” solutions as you mentioned. Alabama is a little behind the curve on sustainability, but you are in the right area for progressive buyers. Good luck on the listing.

    Mick- Installing sustainable and energy-efficient technology does have a long payback in many cases. I have researched geothermal heating and cooling for our house, and the payback would make it fairly prohibitive at our current power rates. I do like being more energy-efficient however. Thanks for your comments.

    Patrick- This oil spill will definitely have an effect. I guess only time will tell the lasting ramifications and the way it changes the behavior of the residents down here on the Gulf Coast. Thank you for reading.

  6. Our United Country-Virginia Realty is located on the VA-NC border where there are many small farms. I recently listed an “off the grid” 23 acre solar powered farm that has seen interest but, it appears that there is hesitation when it gets time to sign. While the buyer likes, and believes in, the idea they are not sure that it is really all that cost saving adding in the work and maintenance involved.

    I agree that it is a good long term investment.

  7. More and more people are sure thinking about living more simply. With less reliance on outsiders. A lot of people are looking for rural land in South Texas for this purpose.

    I was born more than 100 years too late. What a simpler, but likely harder life in the mid 1800′s. If you lived then you didn’t know what off the grid was.

    Thanks for the article.

  8. I have had a surge in secluded, wooded 20-150 acres tracts that are selling recently. There are definately a more buyers out there looking for a place they can come to in case of an emergency and just to get away and enjoy on the weekends and maybe eventually retire to. Some people are calling these bug out shelters. I am in Southern Va about half way between Richmond,VA and Raleigh, NC and only about 3 hours from Virginia Beach and Washington DC. We also offer owner financing which seems to seal the deal for most folks. http://www.ATCLand.com if you want to know more about us.

  9. With modern technologies, internet based education, and an acclimatization to new realities of country living, a very comfortable living can be had.
    Keep your location, your real wealth secret, well guarded, and wait for the final struggles, the death of the American dollar, hyper-inflation, even starvation for our compatriots in the urban situation.
    Even Chinese intelligentsia laughed out loud at Timmy Geithner as he espoused his economic nonsense in Beijing not long ago. They refused him the huge loans he begged for, loans America needed to continue on its current path.
    Pressure canning is a safe effective way to preserve food, even meat. Pickling, sauerkrauting, even salting work. Dried veggies, even potatoes cut into scallops, wetted with ascorbic acid solution before drying, keep for years in jars on the shelf. Good luck to you all!

  10. Hippies, granolas, back to nature labels can make it sound like social deviants head to the woods. Because they can not function in society. That is not correct and being natural, eating fresh locally produced food, being in the best physical shape of your life and not chasing a big stack of dead Presidents means your life is simple, spending under control. Good to show this lifestyle to your kids too.

  11. Astounding, gut wrenching paradigm shifts due for American people now that Asians are able to displace American products from world market place, by better price, by better quality, compete with powerful Yuan for world oil, resources, out-produce, out educate, Americans. Asian competition surprises, even alarms a complacent, even cock-sure American population. Time is now, to realize that over the last two decades, China won a great war on the economic battlefield in the world against all comers, America included, and China never showed up for the WWII styled battle America so fervently prepared for! Surprise, Yankee Doodle! Your militarists were wrong! With modern day ‘Mutual Nuclear Destruction” still fully in place, by an unholy alliance of Russia and China, the new battlefield was deferred to the economics battlefield, a long, long, time ago! Even Ford Motor Company of U.S.A. recognizes this, invests as we speak, billions in three Uber-Smart, Super factories in China and slowly withdraws from all North America – you Google you see! Time up for Nashua and all other places in America like it! Ford’s St Thomas plant in Canada, gone without a trace! Gone are the days of the Oldsmobile, Packard, Hudson, Desoto, Pontiac, Nash, Studebaker, Mercury, kaiser, Monarch. Detroit lies in ruins – a monument to vulture Capitalism, Corporatism, and the American economy is failing faster than ever before. Americans seeking ‘Off Grid’ solutions to sustainable survival, the American Dream an unsustainable anachronism of the past, America convulsing as we speak. Burn to disk all the practical information freely given on this net, it will not be free for long. look for newer designs for Wind Turbines, providing even ‘trickle charges’ from slight breezes, the Shiite has already hit the fan, Obama just a ‘Front Man’ now doing all he can to cushion, delay, the astounding crash the Republican back-lash threatens to bring to America. Use all the modern technologies, all the modern information you can find, combined with wisdoms from older times, and preserve yourselves. Read this: UNIVERSITE DE SHERBROOKE – GMO’s
    http://www.gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/13047-bt-toxin-found-in-blood-of-pregnant-women-and-fetuses
    Research Paper – Made public:
    http://somloquesembrem.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/arisleblanc2011.pdf
    Weep, then avoid! America: When Regan declared U.S.S.R. the Evil Empire, he pointed with one finger, three fingers pointed back! Beware the worshipers at the throne of ROI! Watch as the dark clouds on the horizons befall our nation, but do so from the safety of a sustainable Off Grid lifestyle. The U.S.S.R. fell in less than a decade! U.S. Astronauts still use their technology to get to the ‘Space Station” Amazing! Frightening! The sands of time are most certainly shifting, a new Asian Empire most certainly rises in the East! America: The largest debtor nation in the history of mankind! Who let that happen? Certainly not the arm-pits that earn the money!

  12. I purchased and read a great book recently that I would encourage all brokers selling such property to be aware of and purchase and read as well. Our buyers will be reading it and they will know where the safe places to buy are, this book is loaded with great information for us to be able to help our informed clients more. The book is called Strategic Relocation North American Guide to Safe Places by Joel M. Skousen and can be ordered from Infowars.com. I get nothing out of this I’m just passing it along to my fellow real estate folks, this guy is getting lots of publicity with this book and I think it will become a must read for people looking for property as discussed in this article.

  13. I’m trying to find land in the northwest corner and it’s hard to do. People just don’t want to give a few acres anymore. I’m looking for an acre or just two. As far as living off grid in Alabama yes you can. I have looked and talked to a lot of people in different states and one thing is this as long as you have a septic system installed, you’ll be left alone.

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