How To Go Off Grid without Owning Land
Daniel Mark Schwartz
May 19, 2019
For many the idea of going off grid seems like a unubtainable dream. But, let me be the first to tell you that going off grid can be obtained without owning land, and without having a lot of money in the bank. All you need is a few creative ideas to get started.
Can you go off grid without owning land? The short answer is yes. There are many opportunities for off grid living without buying land including renting land, owner carry contracts, backyard tiny homes, and cooperative living (intentional communities).
If you have a will, there is a way to live off grid no matter your income. The basis here is that you need to get someone involved that does own land and is willing to let you use it. In this article I’ll go over 4 creative ideas to live off grid without having to shell out for a parcel of land.
Creative Ideas for Going Off Grid Without Owning Land
Although owning their own land is the ideal of many aspiring homesteaders interested in an off grid lifestyle, the fact that purchasing off grid land usually requires $10,000s just to get started can be a huge road block for those who want to get started. The fact is, although you may not own the land, there are ways to begin living off grid right away.
Backyard Tiny Homes
With the tiny home craze in full swing, there are many opportunities for living off the grid by building yourself a small cottage on wheels. Benefits include:
- Cheap to build
- Have your pick of locations
- Avoid legal trouble
- Lots of information out there
- Little or no rent
Renting Land or a House
Renting land is probably the most common option. Whether you rent a full home, or just bare land, you have more options about the size of your living arrangements than if you try to fit within the 200 sqft limit of a tiny home. The cost may be more than living in a tiny home, but will be much cheaper than buying the land outright.
- More freedom in your activates
- Can have a bigger dwelling
- Less to explain to the neighbors
Owner Carry Land
If you are set on having almost complete control of your homestead, but you don’t have the cash or credit to buy a property outright, you have the option of an owner carry land contract.
- Have the most freedom (as much as the law allows)
- Never worry about getting kicked off your land
For the adventurous and group oriented individuals, there are many groups around the world that exist for the purpose of living entirely or partially off grid.
- May be able to work trade for right to land
- Live with like minded communities
- Many lifestyles available, find a group that meets your needs
In my neck of the woods (the Pacific Northwest) many people work together to buy and share land in a neighborly fashion. Consider asking like minded friends if they might consider going in with you. You might be surprised how many people you know have an off grid dream the nurse in secret.
Otherwise, network in local off grid related events like permaculture courses and mother earth news fairs. Also, the land for section of Craigslist can be a good area to put a “seeking land mates” type post if you are out of ideas.
If you are concerned about co-owning land with another person, consider forming an LLC. With the help of a lawyer you can easily craft a formal agreement around your land partnership that makes sure everyone is on the same page, and has a legal stake in the ownership of the parcel you buy together.
How to Find / Build a Tiny Home to Live In Off Grid
Tiny homes can be rented, bought, or built. Search your local Craigslist to see what is available. I personally have rented a tiny tree house for more than a year out of an ad on crags list.
Although there are many tiny home manufacturers popping up around the country, the trend is for tiny home prices to be relatively steep. If you have the means, consider buying one from a local tiny home builder.
For the budget constrained, and individualistically minded, the best option will always be to build one yourself. Look for cheap or free materials online. Also, don’t be afraid to approach local construction sites to see if they have extra materials. Many builders are happy to give away or sell at a modest price lumber and other building material they would otherwise be throwing away. Just be able to pick up the materials yourself.
How to Rent Off Grid Land
Because of landlord tenant laws that exist in every developed country, you will not find off grid homes for rent as full time residences. When looking to rent off grid, you have two options:
- Rent a rural home with utilities, and don’t use them
- Rent bare land and live there under the radar
If you plan on renting a traditional home to live off grid, make sure your lease agreement doesn’t restrict your ability to grow food or keep livestock if that is your goal. You can find such properties easily in classifieds, through property management agencies, or real estate agents.
Bare land is rarely adversed as for rent. Your best option here is to find land for sale online or through a real estate agent and approach the seller to see if they are willing to lease you the land (maybe with an option to buy!)
What is Owner Carry Land and How to Find It
Owner carry land (aka land contracts) is a process where you make payments to buy a piece of land directly to the seller. This is something in between a mortgage and buying land outright.
In my area, owner carry contracts typically last 10 years, require a 10%–20% down payment, and have a 4%–6% annual interest rate. You are required to make monthly payments for the duration of the contract, but you can use the land as you wish during that time and you own the land when you are done making payments.
You can find owner carry land listed on specialized land websites like <landsofamerica.com> and sometimes general real estate sites like <zillow.com> if you are careful to apply the right filters. Many properties listed for sale may no explicitly say owner carry in the listing, but if you contact the list agent you may be able to get the owner to give you a deal. Lastly, there are increasingly small investment businesses like <ozarkland.com> that specialize in selling off grid properties on land contract.
How to Find an Intentional Community
Intentional communities come in all shapes and sizes:
- Shared Housing
- Spiritual or Religious
Search the web and places like The Fellowship for Intentional Community for options in this domain. Make sure to do your research!
Here are some related questions that you might have.
How to Live Off the Grid with No Money?
The best way to live off grid without money is to find an intentional community or land landlord that will let you exchange work for the right to live there. Otherwise, if you own your own land you will need to pay property tax in any state.
How to Live off the Grid in the City?
Buy or rent a home and/or tiny home. Intensive gardening techniques and small livestock (chickens, rabbits, etc) are legal in many suburban cities. Just avoid areas with restrictive HOA or other covenants.
How to Find Living Off the Grid Communities?
Search the web for ecovillages, intentional communities, or communes. Attend permaculture, mother earth news, or other off grid related events and ask around. Put an add out on Craigslist for “land mates” who might also be search for land at the same time as you.
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