What's the best type of property to buy when starting out?

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by garden_gnome, Feb 26, 2016.

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  1. garden_gnome

    garden_gnome Neophyte Monkey

    I want to DIY (as much as possible) my own eco-house. I don't really want to build, so I plan on buying a simple home and transforming it. My question is what should I look for in a property?

    I eventually want to have a water catchment and filtration system, but I'm probably looking for a well hookup to begin with and for backup probably? I'm not really sure what the easiest, most environmentally friendly way to handle the septic is. I also want to have a greywater system; I'm absolutely in love with the permaculture lifestyle.

    How difficult is it to implement these things in a home that already has established grid-utilities? Would it be best to try to find the most simple home, maybe more like a cabin, possibly even with an outhouse already to bypass the whole septic aspect? In fact, if anyone has any insight into off-grid septic systems that would be great...I'm okay with something semi-primitive, but I don't exactly want to poop into a bucket of sand.

    Any advice would be lovely, thanks guys :)
    Itchba and Motomom34 like this.
  2. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

    It really depends on the kind of location you have in mind--something out in the boonies or something in the 'burbs.

    In the boonies, you can probably start off with something less expensive (i.e. a shack) and expand from there in whatever way you like.

    In the 'burbs, you'll pay more for better digs, but you may have local problems in trying to upgrade toward

    There's a lot to be said for buying a farm at auction. It can be a real running start toward self-sufficiency.

    You just have to turn over a lot of rocks to find what you want at a good price.
    Motomom34 likes this.
  3. chimo

    chimo the few, the proud, the jarhead monkey crowd

    The very first thing to look at when considering buying any property are the state/county/local zoning laws.
    If you live out west, water rights and water law are a close second.
    Motomom34, AD1 and 3M-TA3 like this.
  4. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    And DO NOT forget to check for DEED RESTRICTIONS, on the Property Title... They may be hidden in the "small print" but can come back to bite one in the A$$, Down the road....
    Tikka and 3M-TA3 like this.
  5. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    Any land is better than none and a bird in hand is worth many many times that one in the bush. That said my limited experience has been that one neighbor from the city can negate almost any good location. The busy body who wants to control your house color, your lawn grass and its height, what you use for fertilizer, how early or late you wish to use your tractor, what animals you keep, how they are fed and housed, and so on can use the local codes and regulations and even get the feds into the game. Even in NH the best you can hope for is being ignored and allowed to go to he** in your own way, but it is getting harder to do every day. All it takes is one idiot with fairly deep pockets and a "friendly" lawyer and your little dream retreat turns into a nightmare. I am 78 years old, live in the "Live free or die" state and have a greenhouse, I make it a point to invite my local police and selectmen, local government officials, into it a couple times a year and they tell me that the have had calls about my "pot" operation. I would love to see them smoke tomato leaves or greens etc, but there are people who think that anyone with a garden by nature must be a dangerous pot growing, smoking hippy, and call the police every time they get drunk and paranoid. My limited experience has been that the local codes and how they are enforced, and your interactions with the neighbors and local government are more important than the size and condition of the house or land.
    Water and sewer are really critical, in some areas having a well, using surface water. or even conserving water can be a real problem, and most places now require, sewer, water, electric connection, driveway, heating system, some minimum amount of sq ft of floor space, with a given number of windows, doors, wall thickness, insulation, roof covering, etc before you can get an occupancy permit and without that you can be fined, forced to remove it, or come up to "codes" before being allowed to use it. Since these are "administrative" actions, you can spend a fortune on lawyers and still lose as they will hold you in "contempt" or put the fine on your taxes etc. Meanwhile all your neighbors will hate you for all the money the town is spending on "legal" bills, $120,000 to fire one local cop etc. These things are happening in semi rural NH and thank the Lord so far I have stayed below the radar. You will get less attention from the community if you sell dope, then if you let your dogs run free or put manure on your fields.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2016
  6. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Always nice to have a Good working Relationship with your local LEO.... If he knows you, as a Friend, he is much more likely to approach you in a more Friendly Way, should a question, arise, concerning You, or your Land. It really doesn't matter HOW FAR OUT, you live, or how many people, are around you... We had a reTIRED Rich City Dude with LawDogs on retainer, buy and move into the neighborhood. (100 Sq Miles) and he wanted ALL the Same Services, that he had when down in the FlatLands, from the Borough. Like 911, EMS, Police, Fire, the works.... and brought it up, in a once every 4 years (Election Year) Town Hall Meeting, with the Borough BigShots... The rest of the locals, were "STUNNED" and basically told him off, and that if he needed those things he should move back to the City.... They asked him, how was he going to call 911 when the local Cellsite didn't cover his place? His response was, to have the Borough REQUIRE the local Cell Company to provide a CellSite that covered his place... AND that the Borough should hire a LEO, and EMS Folks to cover this section of the Borough, even though, we are 200 Miles from the Borough Seat of Governance, with No Roads, or even Trails that connect Us to them... and it would REQUIRE a Borough Service Area to be created and REQUIRE the rest of Us, Property Owners, to PAY a hugh Property Tax increase, to fund all these New Services... You can imagine, the Laughing, and Derision heaped down on this LunkHead... So he went out and bought himself a 65Mph Hovercraft, and a SATPhone, so he could make it into Town, if he has an "Emergency" even if the Inlet is Iced Over in the Winter.... I suspect he would have bought a HelioChopper, if he was coordinated enough to learn how to Fly One..... definitely a "More Money, than Brains" kind of Guy...
    kellory, duane, Gator 45/70 and 2 others like this.
  7. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    It always amazes me how little a lot of people with no money want or expect from the government and hope to be left in peace and how much some people with money expect as their rights and demand it.
    HOOLIGANS likes this.
  8. garden_gnome

    garden_gnome Neophyte Monkey

    Wow, thanks so much everyone! This has been a great help. I live in Northern MN, so once you get out of town it's just woods and boonies, it's great. I cannot believe the laws and regulations in some places -- it's like you're left with no choice but to be dependent on the system, which is just another way to enslave people. I don't think this illusion of freedom is noticed by enough people, but that's another topic...

    One quick question, might sound stupid, but do I want to check with my county or my local township for zoning laws? Both? Also, what kind of laws should I be looking out for exactly? Do I need to know about building codes since I won't be building, or do I need to look into those too considering I will want to alter my property most likely? I've never owned property so I really have no clue.
    Motomom34 likes this.
  9. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    You will need to check on "Occupancy Laws"... If they require anything more than a Tent to live on the Property, you may just be in trouble.... In some places, You can't even live in a Trailer.... Of course, here in Alaska, if you are in the Bush, and NOT in a Borough, you can live in ANYTHING..... or NOTHING at all....
  10. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    Each type of property has its own plus and minus . You get what you can and then build what it will be. I chose land on water for the obvious reasons of fish and water birds. also a fresh water source that I dont have to pump. Just filter/boil etc. Most soil can be enriched to grown things. Off the beaten path is always good. good defensive position is always good. Firewood close is always good. I got all of those things when we picked up our place. W e bought an existing house and made it our own .
    Motomom34 and Gator 45/70 like this.
  11. chimo

    chimo the few, the proud, the jarhead monkey crowd

    I went to my first township meeting here this past fall. I laughed...along with just about everyone else in the room, when another new township resident complained about the smell of manure from all the farmer's fields. I laughed even louder when one of the township trustees...a farmer...responded "What smell of manure?"

    Find out what the parcel you are interested in is zoned. "R-3" for example might be a rural residential zone. Then you can see what is or isn't allowed in an R-3 zoned property in the zoning laws.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 29, 2016
    Motomom34 and 3cyl like this.
  12. cabot

    cabot Monkey

    I would look for a property with many options, river or stream would be great, trees for me are a must, even an old run down homestead with out houses which may be converted at a later stage. I would also consider altitude and wind patterns if possible and at least enough size to keep animals or grow. .
    Itchba and Motomom34 like this.
  13. Tikka

    Tikka Monkey+++

    Check the zoning laws. In our search we found remote properties that were zoned no RVs and a minimum square footage requirement.
    In addition, as they may be grandfathered, just because you see what you want to do nearby, doesn't mean you can do it.
  14. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    The zoning and permit nazis in our town say you have to have a permit and inspection for any structure over 120 sq ft floor area. We passed a town rule by over 70 % of those voting to require no permits etc for any building less than 401 sq feet and the town went to the state and it said that the state adopted some standard rule, and we couldn't override it just by voting and we are held to all these crazy rules even if we didn't accept them or vote on them.
    All it takes is one neighbor to lawyer up and your little piece of heaven can turn into a nightmare.
  15. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    Honestly, buy what you can afford.

    I know it sounds obvious but what are your 3 critical criteria, then what are your top 5 and pick a property that fits them.

    My list looks like this
    1) water (stream, shallow well, spring)
    2) off the beaten track and defensible (ok so this is two in one, but there are trade offs)
    3) county zoning only (its usually more forgiving if you choose property in an agricultural zone)
    4) Southern exposure for winter (slight incline so I can put the garden south of the greenhouse)
  16. Tikka

    Tikka Monkey+++

    X2 and that is exactly what we hunted for a couple of years and finally found. A spring fed brook and a creek are close and a lake is very close by. Well off the beaten track. On the south side of the mountain.

    Although it is a ridge with a flat on top and steep sides; defensible varies by against who.
    kellory and Ganado like this.
  17. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    I have been looking and my list mostly consists of what I do not want. HOA is the first no. Since HOA is #1 will not tolerate, the choices are slim in a suburban area. I just learned they outlawed roosters in my area, I know at least two people in the area are breaking this law but I do not care. The no rooster law/regulation obviously came from a new resident vs. an existing one. That is what angers me. Some people have been in the area for 20 plus years, living their lives and all these new people come in and change things.

    Most above have mentioned a defensible area. May sound stupid but that is not high on the list. My thought is, what if I never need to defend.
  18. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    All it takes is one neighbor to lawyer up and your little piece of heaven can turn into a nightmare.

    Quote for truth. Shakespeare was right.
    Motomom34 likes this.
  19. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    If you buy land and set up a farming operation or animal operation consider signing up with the Voluntary Ag District... It will give you some protection from Yankee's and other land grabbers... it requires any buyer to be notified that a farming operation is in the area... and that limits the amount of damage a "Friendly Attorney" can do....
    Motomom34 likes this.
  20. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    Chances are no one is going to build an off grid setup any where remotely close to what you need. Then chances are the off grid power will be at best inadequate for your needs and at worse be barely functional, mismatched cheapest components or non functional.
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