How to Find Land to Live Off the Grid

How to Find Land to Live Off the Grid

Finding land to live off the grid is not easy. It can be time-consuming searching for a suitable piece of property. Buying rural land is not like buying a traditional home.  You need to know what you are looking for, how to search for it, and what to expect.

There’s not a lot of help available for people looking to buy rural off-grid land.  If you want to move away from a city and live in the country, this article will tell you how to find land to live off the grid.

It’ll also give you tips on what to look for when searching for land and what to expect once you find it.

How Much Land do You Need to Live Off the Grid?:

How much land does it take to live off grid? You need a land area roughly equivalent to the square footage of the home that you will be living in. So for a small family of two people, a quarter-acre would be enough to provide for food, heating, and lighting needs, as well as shelter for two people. If you want to harvest some timber for heat, then 5 – 10 acres would be enough to support you.

You don’t necessarily have to build an off-grid homestead. But, it’s important to be realistic about what you need to get started. This means thinking about what you want in a place to live:

  1. Is this land close to water?
  2. Do you want access to utilities?
  3. Are you interested in growing your own food?
  4. Does the location of the land matter?
  5. How much time are you willing to invest?
  6. How much does it cost?
  7. What are you looking for in a place to live?

It’s also important to remember that not all rural areas are equal.  This is not like buying a house, you aren’t just looking for a 3 bedroom in the right price range.  To truly be self-sufficient then you need to search for land that has enough features for you to survive initially and to thrive in the future.

Is Off Grid Living Illegal?

First off, there are no laws that directly prohibit you from living off-grid. So, the first thing you should check is whether or not you need a permit to live off the grid locally and at the state level.

A few states, such as Washington, California, Oregon, and Maine, have state laws that require you to get a permit to live off-grid. These laws are usually put in place to protect water resources and wildlife. But, this doesn’t mean that you can’t live off-grid in those states.

If you do choose to live off-grid, you will need to comply with all local and state laws. Many states allow you to live off-grid, but not all states do. In most cases, you will be allowed to live off-grid if you are at least one acre of land away from a water source. There are some states that still require you to obtain a permit. For example, Washington State requires that you have a permit if you want to build or expand your home.

There is no federal law that prohibits you from living off-grid. However, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) does have a few rules that can be found on its website. These rules were put in place to help ensure that you don’t damage the environment. For example, you cannot put in a septic system, or install a dishwasher or clothes washer without having them approved by the DOE. These types of items may cause environmental damage. But, the DOE also states that you can install a composting toilet, solar panels, and other energy-saving items as long as they don’t create a nuisance for your neighbors.

So, how do you know if you can live off-grid? Most states have a department that oversees off-grid living. They will usually have a list of what you can and can’t do. In some cases, they will even have a map showing where you can and can’t build or expand your home.

Top US States that Allow You to Live Off the Grid

The list below shows the top 10 US states that allow you to live off the grid. It’s not comprehensive, but it’s a good starting point to make your decision.

  1. Maine
  2. Montana
  3. Vermont
  4. Idaho
  5. North Dakota
  6. West Virginia
  7. Washington
  8. South Dakota
  9. Colorado
  10. New Mexico
  11. Florida

Considerations for Living Off the Grid:

As was said earlier there isn’t a lot of help out there for people who want to live off the grid, the real estate industry isn’t geared towards you.  You have other considerations like zoning, access, the potential for renewable energy sources, hunting, and what crops you can grow successfully to survive.  Let’s look at these, one by one so when you’re ready to buy you understand exactly what you want and whether a land deal works for you.

Local Zoning Laws in the County

Zoning is the way that cities and counties regulate how properties are used and developed.  For example, local governments may require you to build in a certain style, or use a particular type of land. They may require you to build in certain sizes and shapes of buildings or have certain types of landscaping. In addition to zoning regulations, you’re going to have to inquire about building codes. Building codes define construction standards, including the building materials, how much of them are required, and how they must be built. Building codes apply to both residential and commercial properties. They include things like fire safety, electrical wiring, plumbing, sanitation, and structural integrity.

Practicality Over Price

While price is always going to be a factor you need to consider the features of the land more so than the price.  Low cost land may sound like a great deal until you find out that it has poor soil or poor drainage. Land that isn’t suitable for the purpose you want it for will not be as valuable as one that is. So don’t fall into the trap of paying too much for land just because it’s cheap, make sure you look around and ensure the land you buy is suitable. If you can afford to pay a bit more for land that is better suited to your uses then it’s a better deal overall.

Don’t Buy Off Grid Land that is too Remote or Isolated

Most rural land is not easily accessible.  Even if you want to be self-sufficient as far as food, water and electricity, you may want to have access to the internet and other services that might be available through a cable or cell phone company.  Wanting to grow your own food doesn’t mean you don’t want to be able to communicate with family and friends.

Sources of Water

Finding a piece of property to live off the grid that has water can be difficult.  It’s important to consider how you plan on getting water to your home.  Do you have a well?  If not, where will you get your water from?  Do you have access to a stream?  If so, do you have a permit to use it?  Do you have a nearby pond?  Or, maybe you can pump water from a lake.

If you want to locate land that is near a source of water, you need to look for land that is zoned for it.  This is the best way to get land that is close to water.  Zoning is the legal designation of a property.  For example, a rural area that is zoned for water can be used for livestock grazing, and for growing crops that need water.

1.  Well Water Potential

This is one of the most important aspects of off grid living. It’s an estimate of how much water a property contains. It’s an important consideration when looking for land because the availability of well water can make or break a property. You should consider well water potential before buying a piece of land.

There are two main ways to determine well water potential:

  1. Water Table Depth – This is the amount of water that the property contains at the time of purchase.  It’s determined by measuring the depth of the water table on a property.  You can use a water table meter to measure this depth.  Water tables vary from place to place, so you want to be sure you buy land that has a deep enough water table to support a home.
  2. Ground Water Potential – The second way to check well water potential is through groundwater monitoring wells.  These wells are drilled into the ground and provide a snapshot of the volume of groundwater on a property.  The volume of groundwater is expressed in gallons per minute (gpm).  It’s important to understand that groundwater levels will fluctuate over time.  So, you should be prepared for a decrease in groundwater levels once you move onto a piece of land.  It’s also important to note that some properties may have more than one well, so it’s important to understand what kind of well they have before buying. If you plan on growing crops, you need to find out whether the land has enough water to support your needs.

2.  Rain/Greywater Gathering

This is an old method of harvesting water for use in the home. Rainwater is free, clean, and plentiful. It is usually collected in a barrel, tank, or cistern.  A rainwater catchment system (RWS) is a type of water harvesting system that collects rainwater from the roof and uses it for household or business needs.  It can also be used for washing and watering plants, if you live in an area where the soil is not suitable for growing food.  Building your own RWS isn’t that hard.

Living off grid

Wind Power Potential

This is an estimate of how much power a property can produce using wind turbines.  Wind power potential is usually expressed in kilowatts per hour (kwh).  You can use the potential energy of wind to generate electricity and sell it back to the grid.  You can do this by buying a wind turbine and installing it on your property. The size of a wind turbine varies based on the wind speed in your area.

Most of the wind turbines for sale today are between 100 kilowatts and 200 kilowatts.  There are larger wind turbines for sale if you live in an area with stronger winds.  There are also smaller wind turbines that are suitable for smaller properties.  A common question is whether wind turbines will damage a property’s value.  The answer is that it depends on the property.  If you live in an area where wind turbines are common, it might be harder to sell the property.

Harnessing Solar Energy

If you want to be able to harness the energy of the sun, then you need land that has the right solar exposure.  The sun’s energy is best captured when a property has at least four hours of direct sunlight each day.  This means that the property has to be able to face north, east, south, and west.  It also means that the property can’t be too shaded by trees or other buildings.  If you plan on building a home that can provide energy for your entire family, you’ll need to find a piece of land that can support a solar energy system.

Location is also important.  A property that faces north is more likely to have a higher solar energy output than a property that faces south.  The most optimal location is on the north side of a property because this is where the sun shines the longest during the day.

Native Plants for Planting or Foraging:

Planting your own vegetables is a great way to reduce food costs.  It will save money and help you create a healthy diet.  You can also forage native plants from your area.  This means you’ll be able to eat wild foods that provide the nutrients that you need.  They can be used for everything from salads to teas.

You can also reduce your environmental footprint.  Food sources that are native to the area require less water and little to no fertilizer, which means you’re saving money and the land. If you are looking to make your homestead self-sufficient, start with the local flora. They can handle extreme weather conditions, lack of water, and other challenges.  Are there enough native plants nearby for you to harvest and store to get through the winter or to feed yourself year-round?

Native Plants for Planting or Foraging:
Wild Food Sea Buckthorn Berries Juicing Foraging

Crop Potential

When you buy land for a homestead, you’re not just buying land for building a house, you’re also buying land for your crops. There are many different types of crops that you can grow on a homestead. The best crops to grow are those that require less time and energy than other types of crops.

For example, crops that need a lot of watering or maintenance are not good choices for a homestead. The best crop to grow on a homestead is the one that requires the least amount of time and effort. You don’t have to grow a huge amount of food to be self-sufficient. You just have to have enough of the right crops.

Soil Erosion

Soils erosion is the gradual loss of topsoil from erosion.  This causes the land to become more vulnerable to flooding and landslides.  This type of land can be difficult to live off the grid because it is often steep and rocky.  The best way to buy land with soil erosion is to find a piece of land that has been left to grow wild.  When buying land with soil erosion, you can expect to pay less than buying land that is not eroded.

Livestock Considerations

The animals you raise for meat, milk, and eggs. They all have different needs.  Some require more space than others, and they all require different feeds.

These are all important factors to consider before you start your off-grid life. Although you may have room for all of them, you may not have the resources.  Cattle have more needs than pigs and pigs need more room than chickens.  Consider the animals you want to raise before you buy a plot of land.  Building a barn or shelter for your animals is as big a priority as building your own home.

Natural Predators

If you are going to have livestock then you need to be aware of any natural predators if any in the area.  Hawks and owls can swoop down on chickens and rabbits and leave a trail of destruction.  Coyotes will also come after your chickens.

Raccoons may not go after your animals but they have no problem stealing eggs or raiding your garden and the same holds true for deer.

Wolves can go after livestock but it is extremely rare, on the other hand, bears will come by looking for something to eat.  Find out about the natural predators and protect your animals from them.  Even if you want your animals to be free-range as much as possible, building a barn or even just a pen will keep them safe.

natural predators

Hunting

If you plan to hunt, you’ll need to know whether there is game nearby, along with what and when you can hunt.  A property that’s close to the water will make it easier to hunt.  The further away from the city you are the better your chances are of bagging enough game to survive a long cold winter.

There may be times when you won’t be able to hunt on your land because of state and federal restrictions.  In some cases, if your property is close to a public road, you’ll have to get permission from the county to hunt there.

Hunting on your property

Kindling

To stay warm during winter, you’ll need kindling and firewood.  If you buy land near an established forest, you’ll likely find ready-made firewood. However, if that isn’t available to you, you may need to buy firewood.

If you’re looking to make your own firewood, are there enough trees in the area, do you have a place to store it. The wood that grows best for making firewood is usually oak.  Oak is easy to split because it doesn’t grow very thick.  Some trees grow in thicker woods, but they require more effort to harvest.

Where can I Find Off Grid Properties?

Bare land is often sold as an investment and is not marketed to homeowners. Other traditional housing – like off-grid cabins or tiny homes – are not really part of the traditional housing industry.

The best deals for bare land are typically the ones you search for yourself which are not already in “market conditions” or with a real estate agent. If there isn’t anything that matches your location, this is not uncommon. You can only do it if you take some serious legwork in this first stage.  Now let’s look at where you can begin your search for that perfect piece of property.

Website for Off Grid Properties

Here are some of the more common websites to help you find the right type of property.

Please be aware that some of these sites, especially Zillow, show incorrect or misleading information. Most agents specialize in selling homes rather than bare land.

Craigslist

This is the largest website for buying and selling real estate. It is available in most major cities. You’ll need to be careful when buying from Craigslist. They tend to be less selective in their buyers. There are often scams, frauds, and unethical people on Craigslist. The sellers will often try to make money by misrepresenting their listing or charging you for things you did not get.  I would recommend doing your research first. Get as many details as you can about a property before you make any offers.

Facebook Groups

There are a lot of groups on Facebook that are dedicated to off-grid living. There are many people who post their property and resources. Some of these people are very honest, but there are a lot of scammers on these groups.

The best way to find an honest seller is to read the reviews and look at pictures of the property. There are also many people on the groups that will show you where the good and bad spots are on the property.  If you are unsure about a property, ask other members of the group. They will usually have some experience with that property and know if it is a good investment.

Finding Property Through Word of Mouth

People in small towns often know their neighbors and what’s going on in their neighbors’ lives. Perhaps even knowing that their neighbors may be selling their property. You can ask someone in your neighborhood what they know about the property.  You can also ask around your community or church. Someone there might be aware of someone who has an off-grid property for sale.

Print Property Listings / Classifieds

Many towns still have local papers and may have free classifieds. Various newspapers offer online classified services on their website. Land for sale on this site won’t show up in  Google searches or other websites.

Check Tax Auctions / Sheriff’s Sales

Some counties have tax auctions. Tax foreclosure auctions are typically held if the property owner stops making payments on the property taxes. A sheriff’s auction is when a property is sold at a foreclosure sale. You will need to contact the local Sheriff’s office for the location of the auction.

“Land for Sale” Signs on the road

For undeveloped land, surprisingly many owners still hang signs next to highways in the vicinity. It’s a good idea to take some time to learn about the area(s) of interest that you are looking to purchase. For this reason, I suggest planning a few Sunday trips in the country, while you have a pen and paper in hand or at least a camera. And if you’re able to get cell service to your home then you can always give the phone number and go see the property the same day.

Find Land for No Money

There are many isolated towns and villages providing plots free mainly if you’re willing to live there. Make no mistake these are few and far between and you need to do some pretty extensive research to find them.

At the same time, rural land is easier to buy than city land.  The USDA provides zero downpayment mortgages for low-income families looking to buy rural land. That may be a program you can take advantage of.

Shared Land and Eco-villages

Eco-village is a fairly broad term that applies to many “intentional communities” of households and individuals seeking sustainable living practices. Occasionally they even let you buy or lease land on which you would reside.

It may be worth noting that one of the main features of intentional communities is that you are expected to do the bulk of the work that needs to be done around the community and maintain a certain amount of self-sufficiency. If this is not something that you are comfortable with then maybe this is not the right kind of community for you.

Absentee Owners

This is a great way to acquire land cheaply.  Essentially you see a piece of land that works for you, track down the owner and make them an offer.  You can check the county records office to find out who owns the property and then contact the landowner and try and negotiate a deal.

That is a lot easier than it sounds, tracking down the owners isn’t necessarily a piece of cake.  But if you are willing to put in the leg work you can find a good deal.

Final Thoughts

In the end, you will need to ask yourself what your lifestyle is. If you like to live close to people, cities or towns. If you want to live a more secluded life with a lot of privacy, off-grid living is perfect for you.  For those of you who want to go the full-blown off grid lifestyle and get away from modern society altogether;  there are many options for that as well.

You can choose a remote house or a cabin on a property or even a share farm where you can purchase a plot of land with other people and do all of the work that needs to be done by all of you together.  So what’s your take on rural living? Do you like living in the city or country?  Have you ever considered a more self-sufficient lifestyle? The information provided in this article may help you understand what it’s like to find rural off-grid land.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.