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What We Covered
Here’s your cheat sheet of questions to ask before purchasing a country home or property.
In this episode, we cover 5 of the key questions that need discussion here. But you can also download the full sheet of 20 questions, accompanied by details on why they are important and how to interpret the answers. Just visit the link below…
00:00 – Intro
02:50 – How remote or secluded is the property?
17:32 – Is it located in a high, medium, or low regulatory state/county?
22:39 – Has the property been surveyed?
26:17 – Various questions regarding septic systems (including permits & percolation)
33:51 – Is grid power present on the property?
- Download “20 Questions To Ask When Looking At A Property“
- Sustainable Preparedness – details on how to make your homestead systems (water, power, heat, etc) more independent
Hi, I’m Lisa Meissner. And I’m Nick, her husband. Welcome back to the Ready Life podcast, where we show you how to make your home and your family as independent as possible for things like water, heat, power, and food.
In this week’s episode, we’re going to be looking at 5 questions that you should ask when you’re looking at a property. You might think this is only for someone who’s relocating to a new place, but some of these questions are really healthy to ask of your current situation or your current location. I can’t tell you how many folks we know that have moved out into the country and after they lived there for a little while realized that this really wasn’t what they were after and they can’t really get set up as independently as they want to at their current location. So, these 5 questions are for everyone. That’s right, that’s right.
And by the way, there’s actually more than 5 questions. We have a whole list of 20 of them that are beyond the basic questions that you’re already going to be asking like, you know, how many bedrooms are in the house, what color is it, these kinds of things. We’re talking questions that have to do with the independence of your home and in-depth things that you may not have thought of. And so we’ve got a whole list of 20 questions. We don’t have time to look at all of them, so we picked 5 that we felt like we could really shed some extra light on here on the podcast.
But we’re giving this whole list away of 20 questions that you should ask when you’re looking at a piece of land or a home. We’re giving this away as a downloadable PDF it’s our gift to you if you visit the ready life dot-com forward slash questions that’s plural the ready life dot-com forward slash questions So let’s jump into our first question. All right, so our first question is, how remote or secluded is the property? Yeah, so this 1, it’s kind of a loaded question. There isn’t 1 stock answer that we have for you because it’s going to be different for everybody but it helps if you break it down into 3 dimensions 1 is population density another is secluded and the third is remoteness.
So let’s start off with that population density 1. So what are we talking about with population density? So I think that’s 1 you’re gonna have to answer I don’t know I’m not as good with that oh you’re fine so what I what I think of with population density when the population is dense it’s going to be more challenging for you to have the space you need to have a independent home, independent homestead, whatever you wanna call it. Just things, even things like regulations and laws become more obtuse, shall we say, when the population goes up as a general rule when there’s more people It seems like there’s usually more government also more people means when the population density is higher generally the cost of property is gonna be more. And it’s gonna be harder for you to come up with the size of property that you’d like to end up with to have some independence and some elbow room.
Takes space to grow food, raise food, it takes space to have timber on your property for privacy and for heating your home and things like this. It takes space to have an independent water system. All these things take space and you have less of that space when you’re in a densely populated area. So how do we find out what is a densely populated area and what’s not? My favorite map on this topic is the Census Bureau map, and we’ve got a link to it in that download.
So if you go to the readylife.com forward slash questions, under this question, we have a link to the Census Bureau map or you can Google it. It’s the Census Bureau interactive map where you can look at population density and they’ve got it color-coded. You can zoom way in when you look at it from afar, it’s showing you just the averages for states, for entire states. I feel like that is kind of misleading because and well maybe misleading is the wrong word but it doesn’t give you a good feel for that for the particular area right because you can have situations where 1 portion of the state is extremely densely populated and then other portions of the state are very remote and rural and with low population. And if you’re just looking at the average of the state it’s not going to give you a good picture of that so if you zoom in if you zoom in on that map it’ll get to the point where it’ll show you counties and then if you zoom in even further a lot of times it’ll show you what they call Census Bureau tracts which are even portions of counties where you can get even a little bit finer detail than that.
That’s really helpful but if you look at the bottom 6 categories on the population density map starting out the the lowest 1 is fewer than 50 people per square mile and then the next is 50 to 99 and then 100 to 499 and then 500 to 999 so on and so forth and then they get up into the thousands, 1 to 2,000 and 2,000 on up. These 6 categories are what we’re not even gonna talk about beyond that, it’s very clearly urban setting. But to try and help you when you’re evaluating an area, we’ve tried to put some labels that we’re all used to on some of these categories. So for instance, the fewer than 50 people per square mile category that you’ll see on that map that is what I would call remote actually I feel like it should be probably less fewer than 25 to be considered remote but that’s the closest you know these categories that they have don’t always match what I would choose for my definition So that that’s what I would think of as remote then stepping up 1 air at 1 step to a little bit more populated would be rural.
And so for me, that would be like a country place where you can have a nice country property. It may not be remote, like way out in the middle of the boondocks, but it’s still very rural. You can have some acreage. It’s not densely populated things like that. And so in my mind when I look at the Population density map and I look at areas that I consider to be rural not remote but not suburban then I come up with somewhere in the range of the the 50 to 99 people per square mile color category that you’ll see on the map I actually feel like it should be a little broader than that like 25 to 150 somewhere in that range but you know we’re talking rough ideas.
This is not an exact science. There’s a lot of variables here. And then beyond that you get into the suburban areas which are you know 100, 150 or more people per square mile. And then in my mind, I feel like you’re getting into what I would call urban when it’s 2000 people per square mile or greater, somewhere in that range. Now, obviously, like I said, there’s a lot of variables here and Is it don’t get stuck on these particular?
Metrics or how we’ve broken it down or things like that this is just so that when you’re looking at something from afar, you can kind of get a rule a general idea of what does this look like in in words that we actually use like remote rural suburban urban these kinds of things and the general idea is that you kind of want to stay less than 150 or 100 people per square mile for ideal conditions if you want to have an independent homestead. Now having said that, I’m sure that you could find plenty of nice country homes that you could make independent and all of that in an area that the Census Bureau is saying is you know 150 people per square mile or 200 or whatever perhaps you know there’s there it’s not an exact science here but we’re just general rules of thumb. But another factor to bear in mind, we’re talking fewer than 100 to 150 people per square mile is ideal, but also you don’t want to always get so low where it’s almost nothing because it can be hard to find work if you’re trying to get a job locally and so fewer than 25 people per square mile and that could be challenging maybe even fewer than 50 maybe perhaps it just depends if you’re working remotely then that’s not an issue but if you’re trying to get a local job that could be a challenge and you’re gonna have to commute to an area where there is more population.
So that’s kind of the breakdown in my mind of the population density dimension of this but then we also are talking secluded that’s another factor here. Yeah and now secluded doesn’t necessarily mean remote, way out in the boondocks. Secluded just simply means that you, like how far away are your neighbors? Can they, do you have to put blinds on your windows in order to have privacy in your home or can you- That’s a good litmus test by the way. Yeah, it is actually.
If you can leave every window in your room, in your house rather, without any blinds or curtains, and you can walk through your house without any clothes on and not be embarrassed and you know you’re probably in a secluded location kudos to you yeah so that’s I think that you summed it up really well there you know I think of a friend that owned an entire valley from ridge to ridge. He had inherited it. His parents had bought it way back when land was dirt cheap. The entire valley, if you can imagine. And, you know, it was a small valley, but still, the whole valley.
And he decided he had a friend that he wanted to work with, and he decided to break off a little portion of land in the middle of that valley and sell it to his friend. His friend built a house there and then his friend decided that he didn’t want to live there anymore. He sold the house to a complete, you know stranger that that our friend didn’t know and The placement of that house. It was right above our friend’s house. It was looking right down on his house It was just a little ways up the hill And so now this man that owned the entire valley he had a stranger looking right down on his house.
And his home was no longer secluded. So that, in my mind, is another illustration of this idea that you can be remote, but not necessarily secluded. How many people do we know of that have a public road running right through their front yard but they are extremely remote? Yeah we even have some neighbors like that bless their hearts way out here in the boondocks and yeah, they’re right on the road. So why is this something that we’re concerned about, being secluded?
You know, what are some of the things that come to mind why somebody might want to be more secluded. Well 1 reason would be noise. I mean you kind of move out here because you want you move into the country because you want to have that quiet and that peace and that slower pace of life and then you’ve got neighbors that are partiers or maybe they’re not partiers, but they just run the generator 24 7 and they happen to have a really noisy 1 or sound travels really well. Anyway, so yeah, noise would be 1 reason why you would wanna be secluded, privacy. Just being able to do what you want and the freedom of your own home and your own property without others looking on and saying, oh, did you see, whatever.
It’s about being private and having your own space. It’s true. And there’s even a freedom dimension here with being secluded, because I think of the little saying out of sight out of mind and it reminds me of a friend who grew up down south in south, Georgia and his dad was a farmer and he remembers his dad out farming on 1 Sunday and the police got called out because at that point in time there were Sunday Blue Laws that you couldn’t work on Sunday. And the police got called out on him. And now, let me preface this by saying, we’re deeply spiritual people ourselves.
We observe the seventh day as the Bible says, and we do not work on the Sabbath day. So I’m not knocking the concept of not working on the Sabbath. But it’s not the government’s place to dictate conscience and when you should or shouldn’t do your work. So I just wanted to make that clear, but he was a farmer and he had to get some work done before the rain came and messed his crops up. And so he had another field that was back out of sight from the road.
The field he had been working on was right on the road. And so he went back to a field that was out of sight of the road and he never had any more trouble. Nobody gave him any hassle or anything. And so- Take care of his business. Yeah, out of sight, out of mind is the saying that that came to my mind that there’s something to be said for being secluded out of sight so then the third dimension that you mentioned let’s see if I can remember all of them.
This population density and then secluded, so then remote. We’ve kind of alluded to remote quite a number of times, but let’s go ahead and address exactly what that is. Yeah, basically distance from town. How far are you from town, in my mind, is what remote means. And while proximity from town is certainly important, I feel that proximity from your neighbors is a dimension that affects your life every day far more than proximity to town does.
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Now, and another consideration, too, with the remote question is remote might not be a good fit for you if you’re somebody that needs to be close to a hospital or if you’re someone who, you know, works and commutes every day in town, then you might want to consider something that’s a little bit closer to town so you don’t have to drive an hour each way to get to work. We know that from personal experience because we have an hour to literally everywhere from where we live but we don’t commute to work every day. If we did that would be a bit more of a challenge.
Next question, is it located in a high, medium, or low regulatory state or county? Mmm, that is a really good question because that can pose a lot of challenges for certain people depending on what issues are important to you and to your family. I know for us, 1 of the important issues was homeschool freedom. We wanted to be able to be free to homeschool our children. I have dreamed about homeschooling my kids for as long as I can remember and so that was really important to me that we lived in a state where the homeschool laws were very free and so yeah that’s 1 thing you want to consider.
And another 1 that comes to my mind is the school vaccination exemption options and what I’m talking about is in some states you have vaccination exemption options that are philosophical or personal in nature where you don’t have to it doesn’t have to be a religious exemption in order to be approved there it’s approved just by you saying just for personal reasons or for philosophical reasons, I choose to not do this. Just wherever you stand on vaccinations, it should be a person’s right bodily autonomy to be able to choose what is injected in our person. And that kind of goes hand-in-hand with another thing that is kind of a metric that I would look at, and that’s what happened not very long ago with the whole COVID debacle and you know how did a particular state or area handle things like mask mandates and vaccination requirements and things like this and you know once again whatever your position is on whether you chose to take these things or whatever is beside the point. It’s about whether the state was of a mind to step in and force its people to do something that it had no business dictating.
It comes down to freedom really, you know, freedom to be able to choose and body like you mentioned bodily autonomy and these kinds of things they’re important and how states handle those things is it can affect where you might want to choose to live. Matthew 40 Yeah, like you said, it’s about freedom. I’m looking for the freest state. That’s 1 of the things that I’m looking for. It’s not the only thing, but it’s an important factor that you want to take into consideration.
Other things that I look at are Second Amendment freedoms, states that have constitutional carry, that’s an indicator that the state respects constitutional rights and that they are trying to safeguard these things. And that’s a good indicator to me when I’m seeing things like that happening in the legislature that they are recognizing these things as constitutional rights that don’t require permits and things like that. The tax burden, you know, how when there’s more government they want more money. When it’s small it’s not going to need to be draining us of as much tax money. What are some other things?
Yeah so occupational license burdens. I mean some states are so regulated You have to have a license almost to breathe. Right. And building codes and building permit requirements, things like this is another thing that I look at coming from a construction background especially because I’m a constitutionalist. And I feel like the government should not have the right to tell me what I can or can’t build on my property you know unless I’m harming someone else’s you know infringing upon someone else’s rights it’s a double-edged sword It’s a good thing from a buyer’s standpoint, but from a freedom standpoint, I’m not a big fan of it, but wherever you stand on it, most areas are gonna have some, almost everywhere has some degree of these, but in some locations, especially more populated locations, it’s just obscene, the hoops you have to jump through anyhow I’ve been on my soapbox here I’ll get off my soapbox all right well let’s move to the next question and I should mention in the download we do have links for some of these items because you might be wondering well how do I know about homeschool laws or about this or that or the next thing.
We don’t have we may not have links for all of these items that we mentioned but we do have links for some of them that send you to resources where you can evaluate for yourself and see how different states stack up against each other in that particular regard. Yes, okay so our next question, has the property been surveyed? Yes, so surveying an official survey is how the boundaries of a property are legally established. And it’s where a licensed surveyor comes along and they’re able to, with a great degree of accuracy, establish where the corners of the property are where the lines are and all of this. Now if you’re in an area that is remote and doesn’t have any recent surveys that have been done nearby it could be a little bit spendy to have a survey done, but it’s worth it because you really, really need to know where the corners and lines of your property are.
And so if there’s any way, I would highly, highly recommend it. If you’re getting a mortgage on the place, it’s probably gonna be required because a bank is not gonna loan money on a place that does not have legally established boundaries on it. So very much recommended. 1 thing I will say is that sometimes a neighbor may have done a survey on their property and 1 of 1 or 2 of those lines may be adjacent to your property and so you can benefit from their survey that can make the cost of your survey less because you’ve already got some legally established points there and the surveyor just has to jump off of those and so on and so forth and But what some people have done in those circumstances is they say, well, I’m in a remote area, I’ve got 20 acres, 30 acres, whatever, I’m not going to be building anything real close to the property lines. I know positively that this where this corner of my property is and so I’m just going to use a compass or GPS and flag a rough estimate of where my lines are based upon that pin based upon that survey that was done.
And some people may be OK doing that. I’m not quite as concerned about that if you have at least a corner or a line that you absolutely positively have a good survey on and if you’ve got plenty of space You know, you’re not gonna do anything near the lines and you’ve got lots of acreage So this isn’t like tight spaces in town where every foot counts and that kind of a situation. Maybe that’s okay You know, we’ve we have a GPS receiver that’s really really accurate and I probably wouldn’t have a problem doing that on our property because we’re not going to be doing anything within 20 feet of our line. But just just be aware of that because you know I have a I know somebody very well who enjoyed target practicing on his property enough to where he actually built a target range on his property over on the edge of his property and years later the property next to him on that side was logged and before they did before they logged it they did a survey and what do you know It turned out that part of that target range that he built was actually on the other piece of property Oops is right.
So yes Just beware So what’s our next question, okay, so our next question is there an existing septic system is it permitted If permit is not required was it installed by a reputable contractor? Once again, that double edged sword that we were talking about before. Like I said, my constitutional principles tell me that this is not something that the government should be involved in, but from a practical standpoint, if you’re buying a place, that does give me a much greater peace of mind, a greater degree of confidence in that septic system, because that’s, it’s not readily obvious. We’re talking stuff that’s underground for the most part. And so if it was permitted, then if they got a permit, which means it was done by a licensed contractor, had to be inspected, yada, yada, then I do have a greater degree of confidence in that septic system.
Still not a bad idea to get it inspected you know by a private inspector before you buy just to make sure everything’s functional I I do think of a story where it makes me laugh every time we had some friends that live over in north-central Washington in county named Ferry County and they told us about how this was many years ago they said Ferry County is really cracking down on septic systems they’ve gotten tight enough where they won’t allow you to use a car as a septic tank. It’s like what? You got to be kidding. People were doing this they dig a big hole they drop a car in there roll the window down run a pipe in the window and bury it up and that was the septic system. Let me guess, the bleeder lines came out the tailpipe.
Oh my. So anyhow, the point is you would like some assurance that the system is properly installed and you know especially if it is not a permitted system definitely get it inspected or plan into your budget what it’s going to cost to put in a good and legitimate septic system because that’s kind of a mess. It is a nasty mess. But If they’re set up right they can work extremely well with very little trouble for many years. Okay we are nearing the end of our questions here.
If a new septic system will be needed is there adequate percolation in the immediate vicinity of the building site or home? This is once again kind of tagging off of the last question but it’s just an another layer here. What are we What are we talking about with this? So I guess if there isn’t already a septic system in place on land, you want to make sure that you have the ability to install a septic system. And in order to install a septic system, you need adequate percolation in the land in order for you to…
What is that? That’s a good question. Percolation. I mean, I… Did I put you on the spot there?
Yes, you did, actually. It’s OK. I mean, I could try and explain it, but I think you would do a much better job. Well percolation is simply the ability of the land to absorb liquid waste. See I told you he would do a good job.
So If you have a bunch of hard pan clay, for instance, you’re probably not going to percolate very well. Or if you’re in an area where there’s solid rock, lots of rock, and almost no soil on top, not going to percolate probably. And that could make it very costly and difficult to get an approved septic system installed. But I think wasn’t there a story this is kind of something that was kind of near to your dad’s heart because of something that happened to him like making sure that the percolation spot on your property is actually close to the building site where you’re gonna want to set up the building. Yeah he went through an experience where whenever we would give seminars he would almost always tell the story.
So in memory of dad I’m gonna tell you this story. He was a land developer years ago and he would add a contingency and when he would make an offer on a piece of land that he was buying, he would put a contingency in there that this sale is contingent upon adequate percolation on the land, but this 1 time he’d made an offer on some property, I think it was fairly expensive property, and the owner swore up 1 side and down the other that the land perked. That’s kind of short for percolation. Oh yeah it’s I’ve got perked tests it perked don’t don’t worry about that. Well dad being the good businessman that he was he held out for perked tests and checked with the county they didn’t have record He had them checked 2 or 3 times.
They couldn’t find any record of perk tests. Good thing he checked because, you know, rather than just taking the man’s word for it. So he did the trust but verify thing. And so he had a guy come out and dig perk tests on the property and the guy dug hole after hole after hole, and the water was just sitting there. It wasn’t going anywhere.
And so, thankfully, because of that contingency that Dad put in the contract, he was able to back out of that offer that he had made and didn’t get stuck with a piece of land that he wouldn’t have been able to build on. But years later, he ran in. He was down at the county for some reason. And they said, hey, you remember that property? You had us searching high and low for the perk tests on it?
Said, we were cleaning the files out the other day and what do you know way back at the back of 1 of the files scrunched up in there was a perk test sure enough there was a perk test and that land did perk but you want to know where it perked way out in tinbuck 2 pretty much It was way back on a corner of the property, way far away from the building site, and if they had found that perk test because of the way his contingency was worded, he would not have been able to get out of that contract. And so he learned a good lesson from that, that you want to make your contingency not only contingent upon adequate percolation, but adequate percolation in the immediate vicinity of the building site. In fact, I’d nail it down with an X number of feet of the building site and nail down where the building site is. And that would give a higher degree of security when you’re making an offer, unless you can get the perk tests run before you make an offer. So.
So I think that’s been 4 questions. We got 1 more. Enough about septic systems. Yes. They’re the thing that people don’t often think about.
So that’s why we wanted to bring those those 2 questions up here yes but finally our last question is is grid power present on the property yeah that is really important so there are still a lot of remote areas with no power nearby and a lot of people don’t realize how expensive it can be to run power to a property. So you just want to make sure that there is, if you know, if you’re going to use grid power, that there is power already to the property line, or check to see how much it’s gonna cost to run that power into your property. Because you could find yourself in a bad place, having a huge bill to foot, just to get power into your property. Or you could go off grid. Which shall we do our weekly plug for off grid here?
Off grid power, yes. So. But I just want to put this in perspective what you were talking about there with is the grid power present because You know, we’ve got a friend. In fact, I was just talking to her the other day about running power in, she was saying that it’s about a third of a mile into their property where they’re building, where they’re wanting to build. And she got a quote for $20,000 just to run it a third of a mile.
I don’t even wanna know what it would be for 2 or 3 miles. I mean, 15 years ago, it was 30 to $50,000 to run it a couple of miles, but who knows what it could cost even now. And so she was like, you know, this is $20,000, I could, I think I could probably do a off-grid power system for that. And I was like, yeah, you know, if you’re, if you are strategic and you use the principles that we lay out about becoming as efficient as possible and things like this. Yes, you could you could very likely do that.
And the question that I had for her was, why on earth would someone want to pay $20,000 to a company just for the privilege of receiving a bill every month. No thank you. Not I. Thank you. Not I.
And you get the independence and all of these other perks that come along with it. So many benefits from living off the grid. If you have that option, like that is 100% the way to go. But here’s the thing, if you need to be aware of this and if the property is a little ways away from the power lines, You wanna get a quote from the power company because you need to use that as a bargaining tool for getting the price down because that property is not worth as much. If it doesn’t have grid power there, you’re gonna either have to pay to run power in or you’re gonna have to pay for an off-grid system.
And that means that that property is therefore not worth what another property that has grid power would be worth and the price needs to reflect that. So use that to your advantage and that could potentially pay for your off-grid system. So I think we’re at the end of our 5 questions. Yeah. There’s still 15 more questions to go.
That’s great. So how can they get it? Well don’t forget to go and download our PDF of 20 questions. Yes, you get to play 20 questions. Where we even give a detailed description with each of those questions with links to all the different things that we reference in the document, in our PDF ebook.
So please just visit the readylife.com forward slash questions, that’s plural, questions, because there’s 20 of them, to download this free list. And it’s our gift to you. Yep it is. Just because you tuned in on this episode. Yes.
We appreciate you by the way. Yes thank you so much for joining us. Yeah and send us send us a note sometime let us know you’re listening and how you found out about it It’s always great to to hear and we’ll just look forward to seeing you next week and sharing with you again. Until then, we’ll see you later.