Nick Rosen | |

 240 square ft - all you need and available now
240 square ft – all you need and available now
Why should we wait till we are old and inform to enjoy the best that life has to offer? We put up with the indignities of life in the City while we work and then if we are lucky, spend our declining years somewhere warm or beautiful or both.

It doesn’t have to be that way. By embracing the off-grid lifestyle, you could be ready for retirement by the time you are 25. You then get to enjoy this lovely place for an extra 40 years, at no extra cost – possibly at a lower cost.

Most aspiring retirees are not looking for an existing house, however, whatever its eco-credentials. If you want to build, the first and hardest job is finding the land. It can take as long as two years to get local permits. You can also expect to deal with environmental quirks; water and septic conditions are all over the map in rocky places such as Maine and other mountainous regions. In remote southern Colorado,for example, people will pay a premium for building sites where there will be 320 sunny days a year to power their solar units.

In the East and Midwest, you’ll pay a premium for proximity to skiing and hiking trails, good roads, and beautiful vistas. Land becomes less expensive about a three-hour drive from a major city. The farther you go, the more land you can get for less.

Whether its for leisure use or actually for retirement most prefer a smaller dwelling. The cost of construction is higher in rural areas, because the materials and laborers have to travel further, unless you happen to have local resources. And the climate can require that the construction withstand storms, floods and wind. The total cost to build can easily reach $250 per square foot.

Plus you need budget for a 10% to 15% overrun in building costs because something will go wrong, whether it’s a drainage problem or new regulations that magnify the cost of installing utilities. Fortunately, once you’ve acquired land, no one can outbid you. If you decide not to go ahead with the project, you should be able to sell the tract for a profit.

Financing an off-grid home can be a problem – some major lenders will not offer loans for bare land so owner-financing becomes critical.

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

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