Stupid or stoned? Why sell your survival retreat?

By Ol’ Tennessee Ridgerunner

You wake up one day, look over bleary-eyed at your spouse and mumble, “Honey, today’s the day we have sell the farm.”  Is this a bad dream?  Are you hung over? Can this really happen?  Why on earth would you ever consider selling your off grid homestead?  After years of hard work and sacrifice building and stocking a secure mountain retreat with multiple sustainability features in the Appalachian Redoubt, what would ever prompt you to even think about selling it now? 


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You say some macho ex-military type told you that you’ll be toast in a disaster situation because you’re just too old to defend your homestead 24/7 without a squad of hardened survivalists.  This shocks you and in a mild panic, you feel like you have no choice but to sell.  Hold up there.  In our humble opinion, you might do well to consider the ulterior motivation for that “advice.”  Chances are Mr. Rambo’s scare tactic is intended to sell you more supplies, and to do you a great favor by taking this “indefensible” retreat off your hands at a below market price.  Smart retreat owners have good BS detectors that see right through this fraud. 

The real reason

Here’s a more plausible reason why you might consider selling your retreat.  Admit it.  You and your spouse are not kids anymore. Your own kids (who live in worse-case survival locations) have taken zero interest in your preparations and self-reliant lifestyle.  They’ve not availed themselves of the potential blessing that you have created at your retreat. They live for today with no “Plan B”.   You have no deserving relatives to leave your beloved retreat to, and you’re pushing 70. This is a legitimate concern shared by a growing number of aging retreat owners.

The reality of your situation today is you and your spouse can no longer keep up with the off grid work load.  You’re moving a little slower each year 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 loved one’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 kin to pass your much-loved retreat on to, and no chance to bring in a younger family to help out with chores and maintenance, you are faced with a real dilemma.  You make the tough decision to vacate your retreat, but how do you go about selling such a unique property with so much added value that can’t easily be communicated or demonstrated to an 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, but many buyers might not recognize the value. So what do you do?

Your “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 DIY undertaking.  It may be good to start with one bedrock question.  Can you prove you own your retreat? Sounds simple, right?  Maybe. Your safe or your bank deposit box probably has your deed and other sale closing documents. Check through these docs. What type of deed do you have?  Are their liens against your property? When was the last survey?  Where are those survey markers? Do you own all your mineral rights?  Have you paid your property taxes? Is the title company where you got your title insurance still in business?  This is important because your title policy is your guarantee that you have a clear title to your property before you sell it.

How do you go about making your retreat more attractive to potential buyers?  Where are your records to support the investments you’ve made 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? Today’s buyer expects every system to be fully functional.  Unless you want a “fire sale” offer, getting top dollar means everything must be in proper working order.  Very few buyers want to buy a property full of challenges. That means no leaky plumbing, no spooky DC electrical quirks, no roof issues or rotten decking. There’s a lot to think about in preparing to sell.

Showing your property

Once you have your retreat properly prepared for sale, how do you aim to “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 spread the word yourself, for example 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 communicate the sale to people who share your preparedness interests?  There are many marketing options and no “one size fits all.”  Make a list of approaches you might use in the order that makes the most sense to you.   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 discerning buyers.  Don’t unwittingly diminish that special value.

Who is your buyer?

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 preference may not be realistic.  This is particularly true if you employ a commission-driven real estate agent with no off grid living experience.   Any 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 in your community, you might be doing them a favor by declining to pursue a sale.

Last thing on your mind

Liquidating your off-grid retreat probably wasn’t a consideration when you originally bought your retreat.  That’s okay – you have lots of company.  In many rural areas, retreat owners are facing their own TEOTWAWKI event – their increasing age.  It’s frustrating after you’ve put years of effort into building a sustainable retreat for your family only to learn later that your kids don’t care a whit about any of it.  But do persevere.  There is help available from people just like you who have faced and successfully met a similar challenge.  Resources stand ready to help you deal with your dilemma and, if necessary, prepare you for a DIY sale of your retreat with a positive outcome.

It can be maddening when you recognize that you own a unique property with features that appeal to a limited stratum of potential buyers. That’s why it’s useful to talk with like-minded people who have been in your shoes - people who offer candid advice at face value and do not earn a commission on the sale of your retreat. They can share their good and bad experiences as well as their lessons learned which can help to keep you focused on achieving the sales results you want.

DIY help

Experienced retreat sellers can offer recommendations to help you stage your property, develop a mechanical inventory, assist with target marketing and preparation of advertising materials and ad placement that demonstrates your retreat’s unique off-grid attributes in a manner that informed buyers will recognize and appreciate.  Offering a complete analysis and evaluation of an existing survival retreat, some resources can also qualify buyers, based on your criteria, so you don’t have to deal with any tire-kickers.  In addition, they can prepare you to sell the property yourself, or help you find a highly qualified Realtor with substantial experience in off grid and rural retreat properties to assist you in the sale.

Yes, off grid retreat sale preparations are time-consuming, but so was building and improving your retreat. Unless you really want a fire sale, schedule some time now to seek qualified, experienced resources to help you properly prepare your property for sale – by you.  Are you getting to the age where you need to seriously talk with someone about selling your retreat to the next generation of preparedness-minded folks?