Tips for Buying Off-Grid Land
As of 2018, a projected total of 62 million people will live off the grid. Reasons for moving off-grid include wanting to be in touch with nature, increasing self-reliance and independence, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, enjoying greater freedom, and saving money. After making the decision to move off the grid, the first step is finding the right land for a container cabin or luxury motorhome.
What Makes A Home An Off-Grid Home?
In the most literal sense, "off-grid" refers to a home that is not connected to public utility infrastructures such as an electrical grid. For homesteaders living the lifestyle, the term means more than just finding alternate ways to power your home.
For most people, living in a self-sufficient way that is not dependent on any municipal services is what living off the grid is all about. With no municipal water, sewer, gas, electricity, or other utility services, homeowners are responsible for providing all of these things themselves.
As buyers search for the right plot of land for their homesteads, it's not a requirement that the land is completely disconnected from all utility services and be truly off the grid, only that the site be suitable for creating your own alternate, self-managed supply so as not to be dependent on the public system.
Check Local Laws and Property Taxes
Local laws and ordinances spell out what types and sizes of structures can be built in a given community. In many communities, ordinances actually specify a minimum size for dwellings; hence, a small cabin may be too small for the town. If this is the case, it's better to find out before buyers have purchased the land than once they have invested their savings.
Additionally, failure to start by checking the local laws could spell trouble partway through the project if the town refuses to issue a building permit because the proposed home violates a local ordinance.
Different communities have different tax rates, including property taxes and school taxes. Many homesteaders overlook tax rates in the excitement of shopping for off grid land. This is a big mistake, since higher tax rates mean more money out of pocket every year. Buyers should investigate tax rates in communities where they are thinking of living, and find out whether those communities offer farm exemptions, which can reduce tax liability if they farm their new land.
Once buyers understand the laws, they can determine the type of home they want and obtain plans. A mortgage lender may refuse to offer a loan without reviewing the building plans, so it is essential to start here.
If Needed, Find a Mortgage Lender That Specializes in Land Loans
Unless buyers have enough cash on hand to purchase land and make property improvements they will need a mortgage. Shopping for a land mortgage differs somewhat from shopping for a conventional one.
When a mortgage lender extends a loan, they typically use the home as collateral. If the buyer walks away from the home, the bank will be able to sell the property to recoup their losses. There's no such guarantee with a land purchase, which means some banks are reluctant to do land loans.
After getting approved for a mortgage comes the fun part: Finding a right land for the actual purchase. The perfect site is different for everyone. Many homesteaders want to raise chickens or grow vegetables, which makes agricultural zoning essential.
Solar is a popular option for electricity. Southern exposure maximizes both solar power generation and passive solar heat gain, so it's a good asset.
If the grade is not level onsite, it will be much more expensive to level the land for a home. For this reason, it's more cost-effective to find a plot with level grade.
Some homesteaders want the option of using grid utilities while others prefer total self-sufficiency. Determine what's important before beginning to compare available sites, since some may tie back to the grid while others may be remote. Both approaches have their pros and cons, so Sitka buyers should consider what's right for them.
No matter how attractive, no plot of land is worth it if there are no legal access rights or if access is restricted seasonally. For instance, if seasonal roads close in the winter due to heavy snows, then the location isn't going to work for a full-time off-grid home.
So-called landlocked plots have no legal access and are only viable with a court-granted easement or purchase of an easement from a neighbor. While it is possible to unlock these plots, it's expensive, inconvenient, and time-consuming to do so.
Be patient when looking for the ideal plot of land, and don't settle on something that is not feasible in the long-term. When something ticks all the boxes and simply feels right, proceed with confidence.