Off-grid 101: A Guide for Buying Your First Cabin Off the Grid

May 21, 2021 - By Hayden Outdoors

Living Off the Land and “Off the Grid”

 

Self-sustaining gardens. Star-filled night skies. Only the essentials in the best possible way. A quiet many of us haven’t heard in a long time – if at all. As the world becomes more and more connected and hectic, the idea of living unplugged and off the grid is gaining appeal, and the draws are more relevant than ever.

It can be an incredibly rewarding endeavour, especially if you’re prepared. And the best part? Living in a cabin off the grid doesn’t have to mean giving up some of your favorite creature comforts, like running water and flip-switch electricity (and dare we say – internet access, if you wish).

Consider these key points to help ensure your off-grid real estate purchase is successful, long-lasting and as rewarding as possible. 

 

Energy: How and Where You’ll Get It

When people think of living off the grid, one energy source in particular comes to mind – solar. And it’s a powerful one. It doesn’t take a huge swath of solar panels to provide enough energy to get a small to mid-size cabin through a summer day. But what about a gray mid-winter sky in northern Montana? Or a drizzly week in your dreamy Pacific Northwest coastal enclave? For most people, living off-grid still requires some form of back-up power for life’s basic necessities. Buyers should consider an alternative power source to ensure you’re not left stranded. The most common is a propane- or gas-powered generator. Wind power is another option if your property offers the means to support it. 

Back to propane, one or two tanks, depending on your property size, can be important. When buying off-grid cabin property, consult your realtor to make sure your parcel can safely support propane – and that a delivery truck can access your land at least once or twice a year depending on how much you anticipate using. Tip: Don’t wait until you’re down to your last drop of propane. Try to fill up proactively, ideally before high-use winter and shoulder season months.

 

Water: Vital to Off-grid Cabin Life

When people buy property off the grid, grocery store water dispensers and city taps are typically very, very far away. It’s important to understand what your water source will be. This varies from one region to the next. In rainy climates such as Alaska and parts of Oregon, some rely on rain capture mechanisms. In areas where natural water is prevalent, wells are more typical, but again, it’s imperative to know how deep your well is. If you need to drill down 100-plus feet to find a water source, your real estate purchase just became quite a bit more costly. However, tapping into a well just 20 feet beneath ground-level, or relying on filtered water from a nearby stream or lake, is easier. 

In addition to a well, you’ll need an electric pump, which takes us back to a reliable energy source. If possible, it’s worth installing a hand pump somewhere on the property. Should you ever completely lose power, this will come in handy.

 

Septic: If You Have Running Water, You Need a Septic System

While it’s not the sexiest aspect of off-grid living, a viable septic system is as important as running water if you have it. If you don’t, an eco-friendly outhouse is perfectly sufficient. But for those who appreciate the occasional hot shower or flush toilet as much as they love the solitude of their cabin off the grid, a proper septic system and durable drain field are essential.

 

Location. Location. Location.

Real estate’s favorite catch phrase takes on a whole new meaning when you’re talking about living miles away from anyone or any modern amenities. Here are some things to consider:

 

Solitude

It can be the driving factor behind your off-grid cabin real estate purchase, but it’s important to understand how others are using the land around you. Do you border Forest Service or BLM land? Is motorized vehicle use allowed nearby? Will hunters be walking the woods come fall?

 

Access

It’s all fun and games until it snows three feet and you’re stuck in, or stuck out, of your cabin. Make sure you understand what it will take to access your off-grid property year-round. 

 

Safety

Stocking up on basic medical supplies is a good idea. Have a well-tooled first aid kit handy. Additionally, understand nearby EMS access points, including ALERT landing zones. 

 

Community

Yes, you’re buying to escape. But you might find that your neighbors, even if they’re acres or miles away, provide a unique and elemental support system. 

 

Rural Internet

Sure, off-the-grid doesn’t typically mean high-speed access to the world wide web. And that’s not what we’re talking about here. But for those who are looking to combine the magic of an off-grid cabin with remote work options, you can. Rural Wi-fi and satellite internet is beginning to provide possibilities to those farther afield. 

 

All the Good Stuff

Views. Running streams. Surrounding mountain ranges. Open meadows. Sweeping prairies. Rugged coastlines. Choose land with which you connect. When you’re reliant on it, those points of connection will mean so much more.

 

Food: Going All-in on Living Off-grid

Yes, you can completely live off the land. But if you’re relying on your property as your sole food source, you need to be diligent in understanding what that means. Prior to your off-grid cabin purchase, work with your real estate professional to understand which soil types you’re dealing with.

If you’re a hunter, become well-versed in your state’s hunter safety programs, hunting licensing and local meat processing (unless you plan on doing it yourself). The same rule applies to any local fishing licensing and catch-and-release regulations. Growing seasons are also worth some looking into. The Midwest and Southwest offer plenty of prime days throughout the year to grow a harvestable bounty. But if you’re living in more northern climes, or areas where crafty wildlife find endless ways through your garden fence, maybe consider a greenhouse.

 

Land Improvements: Yes, You Can Improve the Perfect Place

Living off the grid isn’t just a lifestyle; it’s a way of life. It’s a commitment to your property, and forming a partnership with the land around you. More than a townhome remodel or upgrade to a higher-end house, buying a cabin off the grid is a way to establish a connection to wild and uncommon natural spaces, and to reconnect with yourself.

 

Hayden Outdoors specializes in finding clients uniquely remote, off-grid cabins and vacant land in a variety of states, including:

Whether you’re just beginning to explore the idea of off-grid living, or you’re in the market for a remote cabin where you can completely unplug, Hayden Outdoor real estate agents are experts in walking you through the important considerations, and finding you the perfect property.