Stuff you really ought to know before buying a “retreat” property – Part 2

By Ol’ Tennessee Ridgerunner

This is the second segment of a “you better know” list I developed to help property owners organize and market the unique attributes of their existing retreat properties when they make a decision to sell it to the next generation of prepared individuals.  

I find it very satisfying to help individuals organize and refine their thoughts about what practical features they might require when looking to buy a rural homestead.  That’s why I created this list of stuff you probably need to know if you are seriously considering purchase of sustainable rural properties that offer security for your family and the ability to be self-contained.  This is an updated list that I’d prepared several years ago when I was researching rural properties to buy myself.  I found it to be very useful and you may as well.

Rural cabin in California.

Rural cabin in California.

The original list and accompanying article were published on Survivalblog  in August 2016.  The old list was worthwhile, but in order to be more up-to-date, it needed and received necessary revisions based on additional lessons that I learned the hard way.   Of course, no list is perfect because it can’t possibly include every circumstance encountered and all unique requirements of every buyer.   Let’s continue with this revised list.  It can serve as a pretty good starting place for those with modest experience buying rural land or off grid homestead properties.

Here are more main points to consider.

  • It should be obvious that living full-time at your new retreat property is the ideal situation for family security and a relatively stress-free sustainable lifestyle.  But in the real world, the ideal is exactly that.  If you’re not independently wealthy (means you don’t need to work a regular job); have kids in great private schools or just can’t leave your community friends, it may not be practical or financially wise to relocate full-time to your retreat.  The retreat could become a vacation spot or a bug-out safe house that you furnish appropriately and visit regularly.  Has your family thought this through?
  • If you don’t live on-site full-time, who is looking after your property? Do you have a trustworthy neighbor to look in on the property routinely and report back?
  • If you live on site full time, can you find work if you don’t already have a good, online work-from-home job? Unless you have enough funds in reserve or lucrative investments, you (and your spouse) are going to need a reliable income source.  Will this location provide opportunities for supplemental income? Will it be enough to live comfortably?  Could your family get by on one income if you’ve been enjoying a two-income household?
  • If your retreat area is sparsely populated and county schools are substandard, have you given any thought to the benefits of home-schooling?  It could be a viable alternative to tradition education if one parent is a stay-at-home.
  • How will you get to the retreat location in a disaster?  ls your vehicle reliable and well-outfitted?  Does it have adequate ground clearance to navigate your retreat access road in bad conditions? Can your vehicle carry your family and their supplies?  You have a good spare tire(s)? Tire chains? Extra fuel and coolant?  Common spare parts for on-road repairs?
  • Is the retreat location more than one tank full of fuel away from your current residence?  Give this serious consideration.
  • Do you have a refueling plan if it’s a multi-state drive away?  Do you have provisions and reliable back-up fuel supplies along your evacuation route?
  • Are you prepared if you encounter fallen trees, washed out roads or abandon vehicles that block your path to the retreat?  Think: chain saw and fuel; vehicle with off-road capability, and weapons for self defense.
  • How far is your site from a major metro area or large city? What’s the population of the local area, the county, the closest town, and how close is it to migratory “lines of drift” from major population centers.  During a crisis, areas with high population densities generally can experience the most crime, social unrest, looting, highest likelihood for diseases, and the highest death tolls due to anarchy, depleted resources, and poor sanitation.  Avoid proximity to these areas.
  • Going one step further, is your retreat in an area that is difficult for refuge foot traffic to reach?  In a disaster after vehicle fuels are exhausted, refugees and looters will frequent the routes of least resistance (flat lands, valleys and river basins) to obtain food, water and shelter.  High ground represents an unnecessary challenge to desperate urban migrants.
  • If your site is a raw tract of land, what are the local zoning restrictions for building?  Find out before the tax assessor shows up to inspect.
  • Can you have an airplane landing strip?  Fuel storage tanks?  Can you build a lake or dam a stream?  Can you drill for oil or natural gas on the property?  You do plan to buy property with ALL the mineral rights intact, right?  Research to determine the locations of oil or gas wells that may have already been explored/drilled on your chosen site and capped.
  • Is there adequate road access for bringing in building materials if needed? Are there fences and gates on the property, and in what condition?
  • Will you have to install a septic system, and if so, has the soil been perc tested? If not, what is the confidence of passing a percolation test?
  • Is there electricity nearby? Do you know the cost of extending central station electricity to the building location?   Will you need to clear and maintain utility rights-of-way?  Will you need back-up generation capability? Which fuels (propane, natural gas, etc) are available?
  • Will you consider solar power? Is the site suitable for photovoltaic energy production, wind mills or mini-hydro power applications?   If so, check for adequate sun exposure near the building location (South facing exposure for Northern Hemisphere)
  • What’s your level of capability using hand tools, doing household electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, roof and chimney maintenance, vehicle, tractor and machinery repairs?
  • Is there plentiful timber for building and/or firewood for heating your home? 
  • How adept are you at clearing forested land, felling trees, and cutting/splitting firewood?   Can you afford to have someone do this work (clearing land for future building projects, outbuildings, garden plots) for you?
  • Are you at least 75 miles from the nearest nuclear power plant? What are the seasonal prevailing wind directions from that plant? Are you upwind or downwind from any aerial pollution sources?

There are many more considerations that should be mulled over before you begin to look at retreat properties and talk with property owners.  We’ll cover the final segment of these important factors in Part 3…including practical considerations, vital statistics, and local folkways about the location you’ve selected…plus one critical question that nearly everyone forgets.  Stay tuned.