With global economic instability rising and personal security issues taking center stage in the U.S., consumer demand is increasing for remote properties that offer security and the ability to be self-contained. This could include providing your own electric power, drinking water, food, and personal protection. In other words, it’s the ability to live independently, in a self-sufficient manner, with renewable resources far from urban chaos. Are you looking for a remote survival property?
Think very seriously about it. We did, and what follows is a checklist of considerations for finding a survival retreat. It is the culmination of a four-year process of searching, site visitations, and more searching. When we started our search 10 years ago, we were living about 100 miles from “ground zero” for every nutjob with a terrorist death wish. There was some urgency, even then. We knew we had to prepare to Get Out of Dodge. We were convinced that, when things go South, having a dedicated safe retreat for relocating our loved ones would put your minds at relative ease, and it did. It would make no difference what the SHTF crisis was. It could be man-made or a natural disaster that causes you to leave your immediate area; it could be a nationwide financial melt-down or a long-term security situation that could make returning to your primary residence perilous or impractical. Having a retreat, when facing TEOTWAWKI, provides you with a secure place to go that is far from inner city anarchy and where you can safely maintain food reserves and other supplies and start your life over again. If that sounds like a practical alternative to holing up in your house while looters with sledgehammers crack open nearby ATMs, then our experiences could be a good primer for you.
Where do you start in determining a good location for your survival retreat? Start by doing your own research. Understand that it’s going to take some time commitment to find what you want. It’s probably one of the most important purchases of your life and for your loved ones, so take the time to be thorough. Read up on what makes a good retreat property. James Wesley, Rawls’ book, Rawles on Retreats and Relocation, is a good place to start. Joel Skousen’s Strategic Relocation is another well-known reference. Use popular Internet sites (like SurvivalRealty.com) to select your top two or three areas of the country, and learn all you can about those locations. Be sure what you select is within your budget and is a practical choice for your family and/or retreat mates. Unless you have unlimited funds, there will be trade-offs and compromises in your selection process. Eventually, you’ll boil down to the lowest common denominator– the “must-haves” at your retreat property. Once you’ve really narrowed your choices to one single area, get some professional help. If you don’t buy and sell properties on a routine basis or have a very close friend who already lives in the area you’ve selected and is willing to help you, you’ll want to consider finding a seasoned real estate broker– a highly experienced expert in local retreat properties. Talk with all of the rural property brokers in the area you’ve identified. Research the brokers thoroughly, and talk to their past clients. Consider someone very familiar with the county courthouse and who can demonstrate a good track record of satisfying clients, not just having the most listings or selling the most houses. Remember, this person must be someone you trust to be knowledgeable, thorough, and discreet; you’re not looking for a fast-buck artist. An expert who understands pricing elasticity in your area can guide you to properties that you can afford and assist, if necessary, with finding owner-financed properties and other purchasing options to meet your needs. Of course, you must have your finances in order and be seriously ready to pull the trigger when you find the property that you want.
Significant Points to Consider
Once you have pinpointed a short list of properties in your chosen area, these are some significant points to consider. Later in this article, I’ve included a fairly complete checklist of critical considerations and questions. It’s not exhaustive, but based on our own experiences it can serve as a practical guide for most everyone. These are some initial questions to ask yourself about the best sites you’ve selected.
Location: The most important rule of real estate is always location, and this is the overriding consideration in choosing any retreat location. How will you get to this location in a disaster, if it’s a multi-state drive away? What’s the population of the local area? Is the property defensible? How far off the beaten path do you want to be? How close is it from major population centers and evacuation “lines of drift”? How many access points are there?
Water: You must have year-round reliable drinking water. Are there wells, streams, springs, rainwater collection potential, and/or ponds? You need redundant water sources that are independent from city water services. What will it cost to develop or remediate these? What are average rainfall amounts for the area?
Self-sufficiency: Is the site suitable for solar energy production, wind mills, or mini-hydro power applications? Is the soil favorable for growing your own food, if necessary, and for raising livestock? Is there plentiful wild game? Is their adequate timber for building and firewood for heating your home? If you need it, what would it take to get central station electricity and city water, natural gas, and sewer to the location?
Cost of living: Can you find employment in the area? What’s the zoning situation, and how about property taxes? What are insurance costs? What sources are available locally for various services, such as hospitals, diesel mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and/or earth movers? Where are schools and churches?
Finally, don’t procrastinate. If you’re reading this, you already recognize a serious need for the security of your loved ones and close friends, should a disaster occur. Get started now. Identify a general location that is accessible and well suited to your needs. As noted in other SurvivalBlog posts, you can use City-Data.com as an effective tool to pare down your location choices. Contact a local real estate expert that specializes in retreat properties from your chosen area. Good luck and good hunting.
Checklist for Choosing Remote “Retreat” Property
- How will you get to the retreat location in a disaster? ls your vehicle reliable and well-outfitted?
- Do you have a refueling plan if it’s a multi-state drive away? Will you have backup supplies along the way?
- How defensible is it? Is there high ground to control access and maintain security? Mountainous, rocky terrain limits access, but is it also suitable for planting a garden, digging a root cellar, or building a tornado shelter?
- What are the prevailing area weather patterns? What’s the average rainfall? Length of seasons?
- Is your site near an earthquake zone or susceptible to river flooding and/or mudslides?
- Will any structures be visible from the nearest county road? Is there high ground from which to overlook and control your access points or build an LPOP?
- Is there more than one ingress or egress point? Is it a private entrance or a county-maintained roadway? Does it require 4WD to access? Does the property entrance look inviting to solicitors, spooners, hunters, or other uninvited individuals? A county road sign (ie: Shady Cove Ln) is an invitation to wanderers. You do not want “curb appeal” at your retreat.
- ls there year-round fresh drinking water– wells, streams, springs, rainwater collection, or ponds? Look for multiple water sources independent from convention city water services. What will it cost to develop or remediate these?
- Will the soil need to be amended for agriculture or is it adequate for growing crops now?
- What is the year round climate, and will you be able to tolerate it (for yourself and for your garden and livestock)?
- Is there plentiful wild game? Rural areas are home to many insects, rodents, and other indigenous critters that you may not be familiar with. What are the natural predators in the area? Feral hogs and coyotes are growing into a nuisance in the South. Learn what to look for so you’ll not be surprised at what already lives on your selected property.
- How far is your site from a major metro area or large city? What is 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.
- If your site is just a raw tract of land, what are the local zoning restrictions for building? Can you have an airplane landing strip? Can you have 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 with all of the mineral rights intact, right?
- Is there adequate road access for bringing in building materials if needed? Are there fences and gates on the property, and what is their 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 bringing electricity to the building location? Will you need back-up generation capability? Which fuels (propane, natural gas, et cetera) 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).
- Is there plentiful timber for building and/or firewood for heating your home?
- Are you at least 50 miles from the nearest nuclear power plant? What are the seasonal prevailing wind directions from that plant?
- Do you or your family need professional medical services? Occasionally, you may need medical treatment from a metro center, e.g. special health care). You might not want to live too far away from a city but beyond the reach of an evacuating mob. We like a 50 mile minimum, but further (75 miles or more) is much better. What about local ambulance service? Do you or your family members have allergies to any environmental (natural or otherwise) elements that could be aggravated at your selected location?
- What is the general cost of living in the area? What are the median income and education levels?
- How expensive are the property taxes? What’s the local regulatory climate?
- What are the State and Local taxes? Is there a state income tax?
- What about educational opportunity for school-age children? How far away are the schools?
- What religious affiliations are prominent in the area? Where are the churches?
- Will you live on site full time? Unless you have enough funds in reserve or lucrative investments, are you going to be able to find employment? Will the location provide a supplemental income? Will it be enough to get by?
- If you don’t live on-site full-time, who will be looking after your property? Do you have a trustworthy neighbor to look in on the property routinely and report back?
- What’s the attitude of local law enforcement? How about the local elected Sheriff? The local Road Commissioner is also good to check out.
- What are the crime statistics for the county your property is in? Review the local newspaper and consider prevalent arrest statistics.
- Who are your neighbors, and might they be like minded? Stop and visit them prior to any purchase. Make a good first impression; your life may depend on your neighbor’s good will at some point.
- What is the political climate of the state and in the nearest town that you are considering? Will you be able to tolerate it?
- What will it cost to insure your property for fire loss and weather-related damage.
- Are you surrounded by other private property owners or do you have some natural boundaries or Government, National/State Forest, or BLM boundaries? This could be advantageous or not, as some Western ranchers have recently discovered.
- How far is the location from the nearest small town? (You will need to occasionally replenish your supplies.)
- How far is the location from the nearest mid-sized town? (They will have special services that you may require from time to time, like refilling your buried propane tanks.)
- Would it bother you much if a high percentage of county residents were illiterate? What other characteristics of a local population should you be concerned about?
- What sources are available locally for mechanical services, such as electricians, plumbers, earth movers, and vehicle repairs? If these are scarce, how far would providers have to come to help you, and at what cost? Can you learn to handle property maintenance work and minor medical crises yourself? Are you physically able to handle manual labor and DYI projects common in a remote setting?
There’s a lot to consider in seeking a survival property, but take it one step at a time and you won’t be overwhelmed. You’ll find it’s a lot like prepping; you start with your top survival priorities and work at it with conviction and patience over time until you have assembled what you need and learned how to deploy your acquired resources. A survival property search can be fun and very rewarding, even though it can be a long, thoughtful, decision-making process that you and your family do not enter into lightly. Sure, finding the “right” property for your needs and budget takes some time, but don’t drag your feet on starting your search process. Consider the alternatives; they are not pleasant. Leaving the city at the last minute with your family and a car full of luggage is definitely not a smart strategy. You need a specific safe destination and a solid plan (or two or three or four plans) to get to your retreat. Being aimless and mobile is high risk for even the best prepared individuals. Believe me, most city dwellers assume they are safe if they stay in their cozy house. That’s their survival plan. The error of this supposition becomes sadly obvious when the first well-armed looters invade their neighborhood. These pillagers definitely had their own plan all along, which was to take what you have as a means for their own survival. Of course, there are other city folks who really believe they can “head for the hills” and survive with their old “Boy Scout” skills. That scenario does not have a happy ending. What’s left is about 97% of the population clueless and totally unprepared. By the time they figure out there’s a serious problem and no one is coming to help them, the Seven-11’s are already empty. Be smart; be among the 3% that have a secure retreat location in advance and a plan to get to it in an emergency if you are not already living on site. In fact, have multiple backup plans to reach your retreat expeditiously, with the fuel reserves for a reliable vehicle to transport you and loved ones there as safely as possible.
Finding a good survival retreat location is not a difficult task. But putting off your search will only ensure that you’ll likely not have a safe retreat when you or your family needs it most. Start your research now. Select a general retreat location (multi-county) in a region you like, look over these checklist questions, and contact a local expert in survival retreat properties. Good luck on your journey, and God bless.