What is Off the Grid Living?



by Laura Mueller

As more people seek to escape population-dense cities for greener, wider pastures, there’s been an increased interest in the concept of off the grid living.

There’s a certain allure to total self-sufficiency, especially as it pertains to land use and ownership. But off the grid living definitely isn’t for everyone, and those who do seek it out are advised to get as much information about the realities — and legalities — of living a life fully separated from the traditional infrastructures that tie our homes and our towns together.

So what’s the 411? Here are a few basics to know about off the grid living.

  What is Off the Grid Living?

Off the grid living means living in a home that is completely self-sufficient – so, detached from public utility systems like public water, gas, and electricity.

For a lot of people, off the grid living is considered to be more of a lifestyle choice than simply a housing choice. Many of those who live off the grid do it as a means of divorcing themselves from the structures of society in addition to its public systems, as well as to minimize their carbon footprint and live in the most sustainable way possible.

It may sound a bit out there, but off the grid living is actually growing in popularity. Some reports show that there are at least 180,000 individuals and families living off the grid in the United States, with the number increasing every year.

  Is Off the Grid Living Legal?

Technically no, but there are some caveats.

Each state has their own laws about off grid living, but in general, expect that while the functions behind off the grid living are legal — think growing your own food, relying fully on solar energy, building a private well and forming your own water supply, opting out of public utilities — they cannot be performed in a way that goes against local zoning or building regulations.

Other things that can turn a perfectly legal off the grid situation into an illegal one:

  • Failing to pay taxes on the property
  • Not having a clean and reliable water source on the property
  • Not adhering to building codes with one or more of the structures on the property
  • Improper sewage containment and removal

If you’re purchasing land for the purpose of living off the grid, it’s a good idea to fill in both your real estate agent and your attorney about what your plans are. This way, they’ll be able to help you navigate the steps that you need to follow to ensure that your off the grid home meets all the legal requirements of your state.

  Buying Land for Off Grid Living

Regardless of where you live, there are usually an abundance of rural and/or otherwise undeveloped properties that could be considered for off the grid living. But just because land is raw doesn’t mean that it’s suitable for total self-sufficiency.

Some things to keep in mind as you seek out land for off the grid living: how you will secure clean water, how suitable your property is to capture solar energy, and what the building and zoning regulations are. Each of these factors will play a big role in whether a piece of land is suitable.

Visit our land listings page to get started on your search!

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