Off grid homes and homesteads have become increasingly popular. As I’m writing this, a quick Google search for “off grid homes for sale” yields 8.3 million results! And people living off the grid in tiny homes, cob homes, cabins, yurts, and earth houses have taken to Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube channels to share their homes with the world.
Having a great view was important to us, and we definitely got one. The picture you see with this post is part of the view from our back deck.
If you’re seriously considering moving off the grid, think carefully about what you want and need in a property. Picking the wrong off grid property or homestead can be an especially costly mistake that will leave you and your family miserable.
Related: Here’s Why We Live Off Grid
Start by identifying your family’s off grid living and homesteading needs. Next, use these tips and the handy checklist (see the link at the bottom for the FREE printable off grid homebuying checklist) to help make a wiser decision when you’re looking at off grid properties.
Know Why YOU Want to Get Off The Grid
Be really honest about why you want to live off the grid. Knowing exactly what you want (and don’t want) will save you time choosing the best property for your situation, even more than if you’re buying a traditional home.
There are many different reasons for choosing this type of lifestyle and property. Our friends include off gridders who could be considered preppers, survivalists, or backwoodsmen. Some people simply want to get away from the noise, pollution, and fast pace of city life. Or they can’t stand being dependent and are ready to pursue a more self reliant lifestyle.
And others just want to try their hand at homesteading the “old-fashioned” way. Maybe an off grid home is the only way to afford a property. Today, many people are embracing minimalism, and want a basic, back to the woods lifestyle. Or they like the idea of off grid luxury homes in spectacular locations.
Start by writing down your reasons for wanting to buy an off grid property and refer back to them when you’re evaluating each property.
Can You Live Off The Grid Anywhere?
Sometimes, (okay, most of the time) your fantasies and your reality are pretty far apart. Maybe you dream of moving your family to a cabin in the woods way off the beaten trail. You know, one with an outhouse for potty facilities and a wood stove for heat. You plan to hunt, fish, forage and garden for food. However, unless you’re single and independently wealthy or you have your own business, your reality may not match your dreams.
Many of the people we know who live off the grid (including us) are still within an hour’s drive of a town, for four big reasons. Work, schools, shopping and hospitals.
I work from home, we homeschool, and we love the idea of being self-sufficient. And living far, far away from anyone else. However, one of our children has a serious chronic illness and requires close access to medical care. That’s one reason our hopes to move off the grid and homestead in northwestern Ontario failed.
So before you put in an offer to buy property three hours from the nearest hospital/school/work, think about whether your family can really “live anywhere.”
Make An Off Grid Homes Wish List
Now comes the fun part – making your off grid home wish list.
Use the handy free printable (see the link at the bottom of the post) to get your dreams down on paper. And don’t worry (yet) if they seem kind of “out there” or extreme.
List everything you want in your ideal property. Maybe this could include the type of home, type of heating, view (or not) location, on a lake or stream, with neighbours (or not), treed or fields, etc.
Take your time with the list. And make sure your husband or wife shares their thoughts about living off the grid too. If you have opposite ideas about what you want in an off grid home, now’s the time to find out.
Separate Your “Must-Haves” From Your “Nice-to-Haves”
Once you’ve completed your wish list, identify your non-negotiables. For example, maybe your heart is set on a property overlooking the water. Or maybe you just can’t stand the idea of having neighbours nearby. Some people just don’t like the idea of a property on a highway.
Keep in mind that many “nice-to-haves” can be added later. But you can’t change property location, size, and exposure for sun and wind.
Questions To Ask About Off Grid Properties
If you’ve ever bought a home of any kind, you know about home buyers checklists. Knowing what you want in a home before you start looking is a huge timesaver. Yet when you’re looking at buying an off the grid home, they’re even more important. Getting them answered before making an offer can give you a more realistic idea of the costs, renovation/upgrade work, and lifestyle involved if you buy that property.
- Is the home completely off the grid, or does it have the option to hook into the local power grid? (This differs from place to place. Where we live, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, there just isn’t a power grid to hook into. In some parts of the U.S and other provinces, like some parts of Ontario, you can hook into the power grid and sell your residential solar power back to build up a credit.
- Is it up to code? This is important for property insurance and financing (if you plan on getting either/both).
- Is it insurable? Not all off the grid homes are.
- Does it need at least a 20% down payment? Not all financial institutions will finance off the grid properties, especially if they’re far from a water source or fire department.
- What are the road conditions/accessibility? We live on a private dirt road about 2.5 kilometres off a paved highway. It’s a really rough drive. If you’re building/renovating and have to cart materials a long way on a rough road, factor in the cost of a truck when calculating your moving expenses.
- What sort of off grid water system is in place?
- How is the property heated or cooled? And does the existing equipment (ie. wood stove, fireplace, wood boiler, pellet stove, propane heat) need to be replaced?
- How much does it cost to heat the property? Consider the costs of diesel or gas for generators, propane, or wood.
- Is there a main power source already in place? (ie. solar, wind, generator)
- How old is the off grid power system?
- Is there a battery bank and inverter/charge panel, and if so, how old are they? (And if you’re getting homeowner insurance are they up to code?
- If you plan to homestead, how is the barn/greenhouse powered?
- If you plan to install solar panels or a windmill, how are the sun and wind conditions?
- Is there an owner’s manual for the property? This is invaluable for beginners – we refer to ours all the time. It covers things like how our water system works, our in-floor propane, manuals for the generators, batteries, and inverters, phone numbers for the local propane company, the sewage removal company, generator repairmen, firewood services, etc.
Finally, spend some time looking at off grid homes online and if possible, in real life too. (As if you don’t do this already.) This can help you get a better idea of what’s more important to you.
Searching online real estate listings for off grid homes can turn into a four hour time suck. I speak from experience. Yet it can also be a great way to help you figure out what you want in your off the grid home. Happy house hunting!
This post is part of the Homestead Blog Hop #207 !
*FREE* Get Our BIG list of 75 Homesteading & Off Grid Online Resources NOW!
Subscribe (FREE) to immediately access this list in our off grid living resource library. Subscribers get notified of new resources via our newsletter.