By Ol’ Tennessee Ridgerunner
The years have gone by fast since the initial excitement. Seems like just yesterday you were selling your suburban home or your condo in the city and making the big move to your pastoral retreat property as insurance for your family in case of a major national catastrophe. Now a new reality is setting in - modern maturity is taking its toll on you physically and mentally.
It’s likely that you recall the initial joy of retreat ownership. You remember trying to suppress a sly grim at the closing table. You watched the previous owners’ truck pull away over the rocky two-track with the last of their off-grid possessions in tow. You savored the inner feeling of success and independence as you wondered aimlessly through your wooded acreage, discovering some new aspect with nearly every step.
You have it all memorized. You know the land by day or night. You know instinctively how many hours your battery banks will support everyday usage without a solar recharge. You know how much rainfall is takes to fill your storage tanks. You know within a few feet how many yards it is from your blind to the fence line trail the big bucks use just before sunrise.
Now it’s gut check time. It’s come after years of hard work and sacrifice building a beautiful mountain retreat with many sustainability features in the Appalachian Redoubt. Your children (who live in worse-case survival locations) have taken zero action to take advantage of the potential blessing that you have created at your retreat. They live for today with no “Plan B”. You suspect that ultimately their suffering, and that of future generations, will be great.
The reality of your situation today is you and your spouse can no longer keep up with the work load. You are moving a little slower lately and your bones offer up aches and pains more often…for no apparent reason. Rural living is hard work, and an off-grid lifestyle is even harder. Your energy level isn’t what it used to be and your family’s needs for medical care are becoming more of a concern. You recognize that your property is slowly deteriorating and surviving on it is increasingly unlikely should society suffer a monumental breakdown. It’s a sad but a realistic evaluation. You know full well that you don’t win the battle with aging.
With no one to pass your beloved retreat on to, you are faced with a dilemma. You have to leave your beloved retreat, but how do you go about selling a unique property with so much added value that can’t easily be communicated or demonstrated to an interested, but uninitiated buyer? Buyers without hands-on off-grid experience (and similarly clueless real estate agents) have great difficulty grasping the totality of the rural off-grid lifestyle. You took great pains and made significant investments to develop a working homestead. It’s tough to “dress it up” as if you’re preparing for a photo shoot from “Better Homes and Gardens.” That’s not what a sustainable off-grid existence is about. So what do you do?
The “for sale” sign
Clearly, it’s a steep hill to climb in preparing your retreat for sale. Most people don’t buy and sell real estate but a few times in their entire life because it’s such an enormous undertaking to take on by yourself. How do you go about making your retreat more attractive to potential buyers? Where are your records of what you’ve invested in the property over time? Do you have documentation to prove your routine attention to maintenance items? What about those “projects” you’ve been putting off – replacing the rotting deck staircase, the new well pump, the deteriorating roof on your greenhouse, the leaky faucet, the fence that deer keep running through, the batteries with weak cells, holes in your siding from carpenter bees, that piece of tin roof on your shed that clatters when the wind picks up or that breaker on your No. 3 charge controller that seems to trip whenever it rains? Can you address these projects yourself or do you need to pay someone to do them for you now? Lots to think about.
Once you have your retreat properly prepared for sale, how do you “show” your property to strangers without giving up the privacy (OPSEC) that you so carefully preserved over the years? Will you call a real estate agent and have them blanket every listing site or will you be discreet and personally spread the word through your church group or local hunting club? Will you build your own website to market your retreat to a specific demographic or use a survival property real estate site to get the word out to people who share your preparedness interests? There are lots of marketing options and no “one size fits all,” so make a list of approaches you might use in the order that makes the most sense to you. Try a number of different methods to advertise your property in a manner that’s most suitable for you. If you’re serious about selling, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. But again, do consider being discreet. The great effort you may have put into keeping a low profile in your community and maintaining the security and remoteness of your retreat is an important attribute that enhances the economic value of your property to perceptive buyers. Don’t unwittingly diminish that special value.
You sold to who?
Another potentially controversial aspect that may be initially overlooked is who you actually sell your retreat property to. You love your retreat and you probably prefer to sell it to someone who can appreciate it as much or more than you do. But that may not be realistic. This is particularly true if you employ a commission-driven real estate agent with no off-grid living experience. The potential buyers that clueless agents may send to you could be, as one disgruntled Tennessee seller recently confided in me, “the very people that you have spent your life fighting politically and preparing to defend against.” It boils down to your choice. You can be as discriminating as you wish or not. If you determine after meeting a prospective buyer that you have a personality conflict or that they don’t share your beliefs, or your love for self-sufficiency, then you can choose to move on to another prospective buyer who might make a better match for your property. If they are not a good fit for the rural off-grid lifestyle of your community, you might be doing them a favor by declining to pursue a sale.
Don’t give up or lose hope. There are win-win solutions available for those who persevere. Sure, many in rural areas are facing their own TEOTWAWKI event – their increasing age. You may have become sheepdogs with no sheep to protect. And certainly, it can be frustrating that you’ve put years of effort into building a rural mountain retreat for your family only to learn later that your kids don’t care a whit about any of it. But there are people just like you who have faced and successfully met a similar challenge and they are a resource to help you through the sale of your retreat with a positive outcome.
Are you getting to a point that your age won’t let you properly maintain your retreat any longer?