The S hits the fan and you pack the family into your 4wd, drive an hour to your bugout location (BOL) just before the crazies overrun your suburban house. The property isn’t much but it’s yours, 20 acres with some water and deep in the woods. You then build a shelter, plant crops, establish a community and thrive as the pioneers once did.
Reality or Fantasy.
The real scenario (for most of us) looks more like this.
1- Property already occupied by armed locals and you are not invited. But that land is yours you say, you bought it 2 years ago and have the title you say. They say (while they point various guns in your direction) that possession is 9/10th’s of the law, they know the local Sheriff and you can go pound sand (or get shot).
2- You get to the property and set up a tent (or maybe you have a small hunter’s cabin). After two weeks of living in the woods the suck factor starts to set in, your kids are complaining and your wife is restless. Nobody likes those stupid freeze dried meals and all your attempts at hunting and trapping have failed even though you brought a lot of books which were supposed to help you succeed. Someone finally gets injured / sick and supplies are running short, this is not what it was supposed to be. You need help and realize that this in fact is much harder than you thought it was going to be. There is no internet, youtube, cell phone service and everyone hates every minute of every day. Did I mention your dog got killed in the night by Coyotes?
3- You bought this land because it was very isolated and you finally made it there shortly after T-SHTF with all of your supplies in tow. The only problem is, Cletus and the locals know that you just arrived with all of your supplies in tow as well. Chances are Cletus and his 30 cousins will wait to take advantage of you and your family because they know every inch of the land and well….you have to sleep sometime.
SHTF / Bugout / Recreation Land: The dream for most of us
I’m an advocate for having some land to move to if things get nasty or simply to have for recreational and educational purposes in the meantime. My wife and I are currently on the hunt for some of this land ourselves and after viewing some this week (which turned out to be unsuitable) I wanted to share some things which we came across and discussed. We’ve been searching for a couple years now but have only recently gotten serious and started meeting with folks to turn our dream into a reality. Just to frame this up, our goal is to purchase a piece of raw land which we can improve upon in stages, maybe even over years. So if you are in that position or plan to be soon maybe this article will help you out.
Owner Financed vs Traditional Financing
I get it, buy everything in cash. Well sometimes there are exceptions to that rule and in my opinion a nice land purchase which could be paid off in 10-15 years (or sooner) is one of those exceptions. Maybe I could buy it in cash but I don’t want to drain my savings account, there are a multitude of reasons for wanting to finance but if you are thinking of going that route keep reading.
I’ve never really purchased land before so I wanted to check out my options and initially the idea of owner financing seemed pretty good. By owners I mean the types of companies which purchase up large tracts of land and then split them up and sell them for a markup. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a free country. In researching some of these companies it appeared that they did their own financing with as little as 10% down. On the surface it seemed good but if something seems too good to be true…
First of all the interest rate for the remainder of the purchase was very high, sometimes 10% or more. Secondly in researching some of their properties there were very strict protective covenants in place which were obviously there to protect their interests. These were very restrictive limiting just about every activity on the property, from what type of structures to logging timber to what type of recreational or commercial activities one could participate in. No thanks.
I then looked at traditional financing, not through a bank but rather an organization called Farm Credit. In speaking with their loan officer I would be able to put down 15% of the price, finance the rest at a reasonable rate for the next 10-15 years. Additionally the property would be mine with no protective covenants, I would be much more “free” to do whatever I wanted as long as it was in line with the local ordinances / law. A much better option in my opinion but it did required going through the more aggressive loan approval process: similar to buying a house. In contrast the owner financed process was easier than getting a TV from Rent A Center (at least that’s what they told me).
Lesson Learned: Do your research, make phone calls, ask questions.
The land we looked at was 1.5 hours away (75 miles via back roads) from our home which doesn’t sound that bad. Heck I drive 1.5 hours (or more) one way for meetings throughout the week, what’s 1.5 hours to a piece of land. Actually, it kind of sucks. The distance involved means weekend visits probably will be intermittent and weekday visits will be just about non-existent. Also the chance to get to know the neighbors will be tough since we would be spending much less time at the property which is not an optimal scenario. Lastly and worst case scenario, 75 miles on foot after SHTF means quite a bit of walking and who knows if we would even make it there after passing through all of the small towns or privately owned land along the way.
Lesson Learned: Get something closer, preferably 30 minutes or less drive.
For us the plan is to secure a piece of land which has a minimum of 10 acres, maybe 20-30. We could get a small camper to tow to the land for the first year or two where we would make improvements and enjoy it (hiking, shooting, burning stuff in large piles and consuming adult beverages). During this time we could look at building a permanent structure and maybe further down the road bringing utilities online and an ever larger structure which we could occupy full time.
When we were out at the property today we knew that it would not fit our purpose, although it had plenty of woods and was isolated the terrain was very unforgiving which meant the opportunity to build was restricted. The only place which might have been acceptable to build looked as if it could be a flood risk as it was close to a creek. Not a good fit.
Lesson Learned: Topo maps, google images and pictures are great but you need to WALK the piece of land before making a decision. This piece looked great until we got there and then it was like….um….no.
Make no mistake we were in God’s country out there. American and Confederate Flags out in yards with mobile homes (broken down vehicles and tractors too) and pole barns dotting the landscape. I wondered if this was how my grandparents grew up in the hills of West Virginia and in some aspect I felt a little sad that just two generations later I was so far removed from that lifestyle. These were hard working folks scraping by to making a living, far removed from the mostly stupid problems that most of us stress about every day. For me it would be important to get to know a few neighbors surrounding the property, this for the simple reason that I would not always be there and I’d want an ally near my land. This would would be very difficult if we were so far away from the property, once again distance factored in.
Lesson Learned: The land itself is just ONE component of the overall strategy. The people / neighbors are a massive consideration when going through an exercise like this. If one thinks he/she will simply circle the wagons and rely on the AR15 out there in God’s country, one will have another thing coming (many many other things).
15 to 20 minutes before we got to the property we lost all cell phone signal, both on AT&T and Verizon. This is a big deal for us because while it’s nice to get off the grid one still needs reach back capabilities when it’s NOT SHTF and something happens. Maybe our daughter needs to reach us while we are away for the weekend because she is in trouble. Then what? Maybe someone gets injured and needs medical attention ASAP, how long would it take to walk to a home with a land line? Yes I realize there are gadgets out there that do not rely on cell phone towers but this was a consideration which we had a tough time budging on. As a matter of fact we did get into a tough spot with our vehicle at one point which had me wondering, if I can’t call anyone should I just start walking down the gravel road until I come to a house and then knock on the door? How would that work out?
Lesson Learned: For us, having commo capabilities is a big deal. While it might not matter after SHTF it does matter now. Best bet is to get out there and check out the land, see if you have connectivity.
This whole thing has been a learning experience for us, we’ve been researching this for years and finally started to make moves in the last few months. What we have found is that things are not always as they seem and plans made on the couch do not always reflect reality when actually out standing on the ground. While the land we looked at was indeed isolated and in a decent area it would be useless to us, especially after T-SHTF. It’s too far away, it would be too hard to build anything and we just aren’t equipped to make it suitable for family living. The pioneers were able to live the hard scrabble life back in the day but let’s not kid ourselves…pioneers most of us are not these days. Plus I do enjoy some creature comforts every now and then.