This arti­cle is a response to Suburban’s May 31st arti­cle “Think­ing About Buy­ing Rur­al Land for Your Bug Out Loca­tion”. A good arti­cle cer­tain­ly. I too have been look­ing into the pos­si­bil­i­ty of buy­ing some unde­vel­oped (“raw” as Sub­ur­ban puts it) land, both as a BOL and sim­ply a sec­ond get-a-way home for the fam­i­ly. I am also close with peo­ple who have bought land and built a house in a rur­al area so I have some close-sec­ond­hand knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence with the issue.

Sub­ur­ban made sev­er­al good points in his arti­cle as well as a few I will, with respect, take note or excep­tion with. So rather than post a long reply com­ment this arti­cle serve as both. It is my hope (and Suburban’s too I’m sure) that the fur­ther dis­cus­sion and even dis­agree­ment on the top­ic will draw in oth­er ideas and oppor­tu­ni­ties not pre­vi­ous­ly con­sid­ered.

With that, here I go. For ease of read­ing I will make it as bul­let point­ed as pos­si­ble

Size and Loca­tion

  1. A small par­cel of land, say 3–4 acres, sounds quaint. But I think you need at a min­i­mum need 10 acres (more would be bet­ter) if you’re main pur­pose is a BOL. That much land gives you options for where to place struc­tures on the land, dis­tance from roads and neigh­bors, land for grow­ing or rais­ing some ani­mals (if so zoned), and land for hunt­ing or trap­ping with­out encroach­ing on neigh­bors or state lands.
  2. Unde­vel­oped land is often cov­ered with trees. Good for pri­va­cy and game, bad for build­ing. The cost to clear a spot for a house (or even just a dri­ve­way and a spot for a trail­er) can be huge! One com­pa­ny I read charges as much as $100 per tree. That can trans­late into thou­sands to clear an area for a struc­ture.
  3. On site fresh water is essen­tial! How­ev­er, there are risks. You need to deter­mine the source for the water if it’s run­ning water and who owns/controls that source. That own­er may reduce or even turn off the source! You also need to test the water for con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Nitrates, phos­phates, bac­te­ria, lead, etc all have to be test­ed for. You still should fil­ter or puri­fy the water some­how any­way but more as a pre­cau­tion and not a neces­si­ty.
  4. “Frack­ing” – a process for drilling for nat­ur­al gas – is a grow­ing indus­try, espe­cial­ly in the North East. But the process of frack­ing can con­t­a­m­i­nate local ground water. You should find out if gas drilling is being done in the area around your land, or, if it is allowed (your neigh­bors may choose to lease their land for frack­ing lat­er and impact your water).
  5. Be aware of the pow­er of state DECs (Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion) and DEPs (Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion)!. In many states, espe­cial­ly in CA and in the Cen­tral Atlantic and North East states, the DEC has been under­go­ing a “land grab” for 20 years at least. And it’s been accel­er­at­ing of late. They don’t actu­al­ly take your land; Rather, they “reclas­si­fy” the land so as to make it unus­able. The most com­mon way is to reclas­si­fy your land as a “wet land” and there­fore pro­tect­ed. Sud­den­ly largeswaths of your prop­er­ty are pro­tect­ed from devel­op­ment, hunt­ing, or pret­ty much any use.Example: A friend and his son bought 15 acres in upstate NY. It had a stream run­ning through it, good game and farm­ing, etc. They planned to one day build a house on it. Then out of the blue last year they received a notice from the NYS DEC that 14 out of their 15 acres (remem­ber, pri­vate­ly owned!) had been reclas­si­fied a “wet land” due to the stream. As such they couldn’t do any­thing with it. They con­tact­ed a lawyer and were advised while they could fight it the chances of win­ning are next to nil. So they end­ed up sell­ing the prop­er­ty for lit­er­al­ly pen­nies on the dol­lar com­pared to what they paid!
  6. Loca­tion, loca­tion, loca­tion – If your main goal is BOL then it must be close to where you live now. At most 3, 4, 5 hours max­i­mum way (and that pre­sumes good traf­fic con­di­tions).
  7. It does no good to have a BOL 10–12 hours or more away in the event of an emergency.On a cer­tain oth­er prep­pers’ blog (he lives near DC) he says his fam­i­ly has a farm that he would try to get to with his fam­i­ly in the event of a dis­as­ter. But the farm is in Mon­tana! He admits that if the SHTF is that bad the chances of get­ting there, much less safe­ly, are slim.
  8. There are also prac­ti­cal rea­sons: You’re going to have to trav­el there a lot to work on the prop­er­ty, to main­tain any home or struc­tures on the prop­er­ty (and trust me there is always some­thing to be worked on!), check for squat­ters or van­dals, check for dam­age from ani­mals or weath­er etc. It’s imprac­ti­cal to have to dri­ve 12 hours, espe­cial­ly giv­en fuel and trav­el costs these days. And take into account access dur­ing win­ter.
  9. Sim­i­lar­ly, the loca­tion should have more than one access route. You shouldn’t be forced into one way in/out. There should be a main route and at least one back-roads access in case the main roads are blocked.

Build­ings and Struc­tures

  1. To buy land with a house or cab­in already on it or unde­vel­oped land to put your own build­ing on it has pros and cons. Cer­tain­ly buy­ing land with a struc­ture on it saves time and in this mar­ket may be cheap­er (more on that lat­er). But build­ing your own lets you be more cus­tomized to your needs (though more cus­tomiza­tion is expen­sive).
  2. Adding a trail­er or mobile home instead or to start is an option. But be sure the land is zoned for such. Even rur­al land has zon­ing rules that have to be obeyed before the SHTF. May as well also check zon­ing for size and types of build­ings allowed on res­i­den­tial land.
  3. Pre-fab­ri­cat­ed homes, mod­u­lar or log cab­in style, are some­times cheap­er than full blown con­struc­tion and some very nice homes! But check the pric­ing (more lat­er). And cus­tomiza­tion is often expen­sive and dif­fi­cult (if at all pos­si­ble).
  4. Remem­ber that what­ev­er you get, land with a house on it or build your own, it’s still a home with all the prob­lems and issues of home/property own­er­ship. If you own a home you know what I mean. If you don’t, you won’t know until you do.
  5. Be sure to care­ful­ly sur­vey the land for pos­si­ble loca­tions to add oth­er struc­tures like a barn or a seclud­ed shed. Even if you don’t plan on doing it right away try to envi­sion it for lat­er.
  6. Access to munic­i­pal util­i­ties is ini­tial­ly impor­tant no mat­ter how much you want to live “off the grid” after an SHTF. You need to find land that has at least elec­tric and tele­phone ser­vice on or very near­by (oth­er­wise the util­i­ties charge too much to add it). Munic­i­pal water and sew­er is very unlike­ly.
  7. Sim­i­lar­ly, check local zon­ing for the require­ments to build solar or wind pow­er. There could be restric­tions on wind tow­er size. Or, as in one com­mu­ni­ty I know, solar pan­els must be on a sep­a­rate stand­ing struc­ture instead of the on the house roof.
  8. A dirt road sounds nos­tal­gic but imag­ine try­ing to tra­verse it after a heavy rain! Or dur­ing win­ter snows. A paved road may not be an option in rur­al areas either but just be aware nature gives, nature takes. You don’t want to be trapped on your land.
  9. If you’re going to add a house or cab­in (includ­ing a trail­er) you’re going to need an in-ground  sep­tic sys­tem. Depend­ing on the zon­ing and land con­di­tions that will mean either a cesspool or a leech­ing field. That too has to be care­ful­ly planned so as not to con­t­a­m­i­nate your ground water (why a deep well is bet­ter).



  1. Potable water is essen­tialon the land. But chances are you will need to drill a well. It’s unlike­ly a reli­able source of clean water will be shal­low enough to dig by hand. Even if it is, it would like­ly bet­ter to have it dug pro­fes­sion­al­ly. Also keep in mind shal­low sources have greater chance of becom­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed later.The land I know has a good well on it but its 1500 feet down! No way you could dig some­thing like that by hand.
  2. Even with a good source of potable water you should con­sid­er adding a qual­i­ty whole-house water fil­tra­tion sys­tem. Or at least have a reverse osmo­sis sys­tem installed in the kitchen. They usu­al­ly work with­out elec­tric­i­ty (but have fil­ters that need to be changed annu­al­ly).
  3. Larg­er land is more like­ly to attract a pop­u­la­tion of game. But don’t expect to live off your land entire­ly. You can eas­i­ly strip the land of game with indis­crim­i­nate hunt­ing.
  4. Trees and sources of wood for con­struc­tion and fuel should be avail­able. Same prob­lem with using too much too soon.
  5. Be sure to research the grow­ing sea­son and cli­mate for the area. If you plan is to have much plant­ed food you need to know the cli­mate, soil type, and sea­son­al tem­per­a­ture swings for suc­cess­ful grow­ing.
  6. A fresh­wa­ter source with fish or capa­ble of sup­port­ing fish (small fish farm­ing) would be good too. A natural/native fish pop­u­la­tion would be best again sub­ject to over harvesting.The land I know has a small stream a very short dis­tance way that con­tains both clean water and decent pop­u­la­tion of native brown trout that could help sup­ple­ment the diet if har­vest­ed care­ful­ly. It also con­tains a small pond that sup­ports a health frog pop­u­la­tion and could like­ly sup­port some carp if intro­duced in to it.
  7. Run­ning water will help attract game. But it will also attract peo­ple look­ing for water. Catch-22.
  8. If you plan to tar­get shoot zon­ing is again an issue. Even with­out zon­ing gen­er­al safe­ty needs to be observed. Remem­ber that even a .22 can trail­er over a mile! And you don’t want the neigh­bors call­ing the police when they hear shots being fired.



  1. Land with nat­ur­al defens­es is also land that usu­al­ly isn’t good for build­ing, farm­ing, hunt­ing etc.
  2. At least get the high­er ground. Stay away from val­ley floors. But keep in mind you have to trav­el up (and down) to your home with sup­plies, vehi­cles etc. As pre­vi­ous­ly stat­ed, keep in mind the change of sea­sons. I have seen some very nice homes on seclud­ed hill tops. But just imag­ine try­ing to get up that road in the win­ter! Or the del­uge of water dur­ing a spring thun­der­storm.
  3. Hav­ing good vis­i­bil­i­ty to your access road is impor­tant (you need to see far enough in advance of any­one com­ing up the road). If it would be pos­si­ble to real­is­ti­cal­ly block the road if need­ed that’s some­thing to con­sid­er.
  4. For long term sur­vival after an SHTF event you can’t be a her­mit. You’re going to need to work and min­gle with oth­er peo­ple. So your BOL has to be close enough to neigh­bors or a small com­mu­ni­ty yet far enough to be off the obvi­ous path of raiders and refugees. It’s a judg­ment call.

The peo­ple I know with the rur­al home are in a good loca­tion. They are acces­si­ble by major road or if need be by back roads. The land is about an hour off the major road­way, close enough to get to if need­ed but well far enough to be out of the range of peo­ple look­ing for a quick and “easy” tar­get. There are also sev­er­al small towns between them and the main road. This pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ty for trade, help, and com­mu­ni­ty sup­port (if you can win over the locals who usu­al­ly don’t like “down-staters” com­ing into their com­mu­ni­ties) yet – as cru­el as it may sound – pro­vide enough of a buffer so that raiders are less like­ly to pen­e­trate so far inland from the main roads. Even if they do there should be ample warn­ing. The land sur­round­ing this home is most­ly moun­tain­ous with no for­mal roads or log­ging roads. This I believe lim­its the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a raid­ing part­ing com­ing from behind. Even strag­glers and refugees are unlike­ly to be com­ing over the sur­round­ing hills (more like­ly to opt for the eas­i­er path through the val­leys).


  1. Sub­ur­ban is absolute­ly right the so called real estate crash has not impact­ed every­where the same (if at all). While some inner city hous­es might be going for pock­et change (and I have my doubts about those sto­ries too) rur­al land isn’t. You real­ly have to go waaaaaaaaay out there for find decent acreage at rock bot­tom prices.
  2. Part of that is the fact that both real­tors and banks don’t want to sell prop­er­ty, even so called “dis­tressed” prop­er­ty, at clear­ance prices. Why? Because that brings down the val­ue of the sur­round­ing land which the real­tor also like­ly rep­re­sents and the bank like­ly owns!
  3. Tim­ing is every­thing. And it’s pos­si­ble the time for cheap land near­er urban areas is gone.The peo­ple I know with the land paid about $2,000 per acre 10 years ago for unde­vel­oped land. Today, plots half the size in the same area go for $8,000-$9,000 an acre! This in spite of the alleged crash in real estate.
  4. Luck, good for­tune, etc. also place a fac­tor. I’m sure 10 years ago these peo­ple didn’t even think of their prop­er­ty in terms of a BOL. But today it could be used as such. When I vis­it their home I make note of the hous­es around them that, in my opin­ion, aren’t near­ly as well locat­ed and orga­nized for a BOL.
  5. Prop­er­ty tax­es for unde­vel­oped land is usu­al­ly low. But not always so low. And once you add a struc­ture it will like­ly sky­rock­et!
  6. Keep in mind too that some states have addi­tion­al tax­es on per­son­al prop­er­ty such as your car which you may be liable for if you own prop­er­ty in that state.
  7. There is insur­ance (at least lia­bil­i­ty on unde­vel­oped land), util­i­ties, etc.  And if you’re going to keep firearms on the prop­er­ty when you aren’t there extra insur­ance is pru­dent (as well as a real­ly good safe!).
  8. Once you do put a struc­ture on it more land main­te­nance is need­ed. At a min­i­mum grass has to be cut, snow removed, etc. That means you either need to own a ride own cut­ter and blow­er or pay someone.The peo­ple I know with the house spend 5–6 hours a week­end on gen­er­al main­te­nance in the sum­mer (a lit­tle less in the win­ter but still a lot). Grant­ed, they take it to a bit of extreme (they don’t need to cut as much grass as they do) but it does make the prop­er­ty look nice.
  9. Adding a trail­er or mount­ing a mobile home, if zoned, is cheap­est but you have less options and fea­tures.
  10. Tra­di­tion­al build­ing gives the most options and flex­i­bil­i­ty but is most cost­ly. And there is the real­i­ty of deal­ing with rur­al con­trac­tors. Not the same as con­trac­tors clos­er to more urban areas. From per­son­al expe­ri­ence with home remod­el­ing con­trac­tors I assure you that you must be onsite all the time to watch what they do no mat­ter how good they are.
  11. Pre­fab­ri­cat­ed homes such as mod­u­lar or mod­ern log cab­ins are a good though not always as cheap as you may think.For exam­ple, at the top of this web­site one of the rotat­ing pic­tures is of a log cab­in home with a green roof. My wife and I saw a mod­el for the same (look­ing) home. We thought it would be a very good part-time rur­al house. And in this econ­o­my espe­cial­ly would (should) be cheap. We fig­ured it would go for around $50,000, $60,000, maybe $70,000 max. When we inquired we were shocked -$90,000! And that’s before adding any upgrades (like a met­al roof) or appli­ances. PLUS, we had to sup­ply either a base­ment or slab on the land for the house to be mount­ed on. That, in addi­tion to the land itself, access road capa­ble of deliv­ery trucks for the cab­in, and util­i­ty hook ups, brought our esti­mate for the whole thing to be at least $225,000. For that much you can buy land with a decent house already on it! No bar­gains there.
  12. There is also the very real­is­tic issue of bring sup­plies, tools, machines and appli­ances to your rur­al loca­tion. Deliv­ery costs to very remote areas are extreme­ly high, if at all pos­si­ble. You may need to haul your own appli­ances, con­struc­tion wood and dry­wall, tools, etc. and that means you need a vehi­cle with capac­i­ty – either a large pick up or SUV. Or the added costs of truck rental.


Ran­dom Thoughts

  1. As I pre­vi­ous­ly indi­cat­ed, locals don’t often wel­come sec­ond-home own­ers. Part of the rea­son is the nat­ur­al close­ness of rur­al com­mu­ni­ties. The oth­er part is the surge in urban peo­ple com­ing into the area and buy­ing up rur­al prop­er­ty over the last 10 years espe­cial­ly. Even if you have owned your sec­ond loca­tion for many years you still will be seen as an out­sider.
  2. At the risk of using a broad brush, local busi­ness­es and con­trac­tors willtry to take advan­tage of “city folk”. Urban and sub­ur­ban peo­ple are seen as hav­ing lots of mon­ey and pret­ty much have a bulls-eye on their wallets.The peo­ple I know, dur­ing the con­struc­tion of their house, had a dis­pute with the gen­er­al con­trac­tor that even­tu­al­ly went to court. Dur­ing pre-court hear­ings the GC said on record in front of every­one includ­ing his own lawyer  quote “You’re from the city. You can afford it.” The case was closed in the home owner’s favor almost imme­di­ate­ly.
  3. If you have nev­er been in the wild at night you can’t imag­ine how dark it is at night! Imag­ine being in your BOL with­out elec­tric pow­er. If you’ve nev­er done camp­ing try it first before invest­ing in deep rur­al BOL prop­er­ty.
  4. Sim­i­lar­ly, add in the cold (even in the sum­mer rur­al areas can get cold at night) and it’s a cul­ture shock.
  5. Iso­la­tion is always a weak­ness. Raiders know there is no one around, no one to hear your screams (or gun shots), no one to come to your aid (at least not quick­ly). You will tru­ly be on your own.
  6. I think too many peo­ple see going to a BOL as a week­end camp­ing trip. If events are real­ly that bad it won’t be! As stat­ed by oth­er prep­pers time and again, if you’re forced to go to your BOL and be off the grid in every sense the vast major­i­ty of your time will be spent gathering/obtaining food and main­tain­ing secu­ri­ty.
  7. Pay­ing all cash is a good approach but very hard to do. You may need some kind of mort­gage. And in spite of the [alleged] eco­nom­ic recov­ery even peo­ple with stel­lar cred­it are hav­ing a tough time get­ting loans.
  8. You may be able to qual­i­fy for a prop­er­ty tax break as a “farm” if you keep just a few farm ani­mals (goats are often easy to raise).

This turned out to be one of the longest arti­cles I’ve ever writ­ten. It isn’t my intent to talk any­one out of rur­al prop­er­ty own­er­ship for BOL or oth­er­wise. Just point­ing out prop­er­ty own­er­ship isn’t a sim­ple thing espe­cial­ly if BOL is the pri­ma­ry goal. The prep­pers you see mak­ing rur­al or BOL videos on YouTube have either been doing it slow­ly for decades or choose to live the rur­al “home­stead” life style with all the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of being out of the more urban and urban-like life.

Remem­ber the old say­ing about land: They aren’t mak­ing any more of it!

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