Can you own and live on 100 acres, build your house on that property for less than you currently pay for rent? Yes, certainly, and find time you never knew existed, enjoy your “work,” and do almost anything.
The qualifications are simple: an enduring desire, adaptability, moderate intelligence, and a little faith in God’s provision. Anything else is optional, but always useful. Once you can save a few thousand dollars, you’re in.
The cheapest land is rarely a gorgeous “finished painting,” but rather a bare pallet, just waiting for anything and everything you want to include.
My wife and I chose our last two homes, going back over 20 years, on land where pavement refuses grow. We would still consider a bunch of acres in a remote area if we were in our 50s. Most states have places to buy big chunks of land for next to nothing. We have them out here in the great Southwest, but they exist in areas of TN, KY, LA, MS, and AR, too. Probably almost every state has them, but I haven’t checked. The value increases as your demands shrink. If you can “make do without,” it isn’t difficult to find 100 acres for $10,000 or less.
Sometimes the trees and water included are worth thousands of dreams, even if you only want a “get-away.”
“Doing without” means serious hardships for some people. Living without running water, electricity, plowed roads, neighbors, nearby stores or hospitals, for instance, can plow down interest for a lot of people . . . but that is precisely why those great deals exist. Imagine the life you could establish on 100 acres! If you can live without TV or a cell phone, maybe.
My wife and I talk about it often. Just 10 years ago we could have turned our lives around with such opportunity, but we just didn’t know what we didn’t know.
The biggest obstacles may vary. Some properties, for instance, are inaccessible. You can’t reach them. That’s not inexpensive, that’s worthless. Or, the property can be completely under water. We actually looked at 5 acres in New York State that was a pond. There were less than 200 sf of dry land along a dinky strip beside the road. Not impossible, of course — even exciting if there was somewhere to park and store building materials. What a great property for hydroponic and water gardening, fishing, swimming, etc., and a cool place to simply anchor a floating house. We decided against trying — mainly because it was New York, and almost certainly more hoops than jumps left in us.
Water? At first that issue can kill a deal, and in a very few places (like the badlands) it may prove impossible, but bear in mind that one inch of rain collected from one square yard is over 5.5 gallons. We live in the “high desert” of Arizona, getting 15 inches of rain per year. Every square yard of our property gets 84 gallons of rain each year. A basic 20×40 foot roof (800 square feet) would provide 7,480 gallons of water per year — slim pickings, but over 20 gallons of stored water per day just off the rooftop! In the desert.
The cost of wild living is unlimited, in both directions. It’s easy to live cheap or flamboyant, hidden or pretentious. Withdrawn and alone or all lit up with guests and parties makes no difference to anyone else — it’s up to you. On the extremely low side, here are some numbers to work with:
Land: Currently, “the average house” costs somewhere around $165,000. That generally includes about 1/4 of an acre, driveway, maybe a garage and fence, and a patch of land. You will be plugged into the sewer (or septic) water (municipal or private well) and electric, and your street will most likely be paved and somewhat maintained. There’s a pretty good chance of cable access, cell phone coverage, and reasonably local shopping. On a cheap property, whatever you paid is paid. Unlike the conventional mortgage, that’s it. Once you plunk down $5,000 or $20,000, you’re done paying. Better still, land taxes are usually based on “value,” and “remote” usually translates into “cheaper” at the tax office.
Food: On a big lump of land, you can raise rabbits and chickens for almost nothing, eat eggs, vegetables and fruit you grow. You can also hunt and fish, buying just staples like rice, flour, potatoes, lard and oils, for about $100 per year per person. You will most likely need that much plus an allowance for “treats.” Farm animals are also quite possible.
Utilities: What utilities? The rustic ideal is heat and energy from the sun, wind, your own wood, and water. It gets very comfortable with a small windmill, a few solar panels, and/or a gas generator.
Taxes and fees: That will vary from place to place, State to State, but most of New Mexico land is known for “no code” and cheaper taxes. Plan on $500/year and prepare to spend the overage on gasoline or another rain collection tarp and bottles.
Transportation: One of the benefits of remote, barefoot living is you don’t have to go anywhere, but you can probably use a 30-year-old 7 cylinder 3/4 dead $250 Chevy or even a tractor for emergencies. You probably need a tractor, and they cost between 10% of a used pickup and 5x as much as an Italian sports car.)
Building costs: A safe and nominally comfortable lean to, yurt, or very small rustic cabin from your own timber start around $0. Realistically, you probably need a few thousand, especially for a quick move-in and basic plumbing. We have an old RV that cost us nothing, so we’re ahead of that game. Ingenuity always counts double.
Other: Really, it’s more about what you want than what you need. Children can cause added considerations too numerous to name. (But they’re worth every one of them, and might be the very best reason to leave our current, polluted “advanced civilization”!) and a bad marriage can doom the whole idea. My love and I both have health issues, so we had to decide that death is as viable in the middle of nowhere as it is within the speedy range of a hospital. It happens to the rich and famous in jets over the ocean or on safari in Africa, so why not at home in our peaceful desert?
I’d like to spend a lot more time on this topic. Some of the interest is global (the benefits of remote living coupled with high productivity and spiritual peace) much is truly architectural (what can and should be done to make homes better, more efficient and comfortable, without the terrible impact of the processed, expensive, dangerous, short-lived and ruinous “code approved building materials.” And some of the interest falls directly on the experiences we have had and want to continue.