We have had our plot of land for about 3 years and our dry cabin for about 1.5 years and it is still a work in progress. As we were reminiscing about how we found this land and why we decided on this place over another, I thought I would write about what exactly was it that helped us narrow it down.
For us, we always wanted to have a little piece of land somewhere. Especially because my husband has a long commute and we thought a “just in case” spot to stay the night might be nice during the winter and fun in the summer. We both had different ideas of what we wanted for a cabin. I wanted running water to have a real toilet and shower. The hubby wanted a wood burning fireplace. I wanted something very easy so if I wanted to go up alone, I could manage whatever systems we had by myself. My husband didn’t mind chopping his own wood and wanted more land than I originally did. But we both agreed that it needed to be close enough to home that we would go there often to getaway and relax. For us, this meant under a 2 hour drive.
Honestly, I think if your cabin is close by, you will visit more often than “It’s kinda far…..do I have the time? I do have things I need to take care of at home.” We looked for about 1 to 1.5years. We looked on Zillow and other websites along with driving to the locations as road terrain can vary. One place we turned down because during the winter, we knew the road would be ice.
Ask about utilities. Not all land has them and one property we looked at, had the connections at the site but “connection fees” were almost another $10k on top of the plot purchase. Surprisingly, some plots of land even had a community HOA.
Speaking to the locals about the area. We found good and bad things in many areas before finalizing where we wanted to buy. Sometimes, it is just something simple like who might be your future neighbor especially if the acreage is small.
Also research the county and state regulations before purchasing. I did for some of the areas but not all and was not happy with some of the California regulations for new builds. For us, we are off-grid and some of the new regulations call for fire sprinklers (we don’t have a well) and solar panel fittings into the roof. We have so many tall trees that we only get about 2 hrs of sun before a panel would need to be moved to continue to collect energy. I even called the county and told them our situation as this would not a be full-time residential property as the road is buried during the winter and you would have to snowshoe in. Luckily the county knew of the location where we purchased and was willing to work with me on permits to make sure it was all legal before construction. I really do feel LUCKY!
We looked at travel trailers, yurts, shipping containers and weighed them against a Shed. In the end we decided on a shed as:
- Could be locked up for the winter (we wanted something stationary vs. trailer but didn’t want to rule out a trailer as an option as it had everything we needed in it)
- Felt safer with the snow load that we get (Alaska amounts)
- Wood and dry wall is easier to DIY
- Could move it later with ease in case we changed plans and want to do something else.
Another aspect to think about is topography. Some people want a view and are willing to build on uneven terrain. We were the opposite and as beautiful as that sounds = is very EXPENSIVE!!! We wanted something more DIY and manageable from our standpoint. We didn’t want to have to rely on hiring someone else to do it. We finally found land in the middle of winter (the holidays) where someone was just wanting to dump it and got it for much less than the surrounding properties. We knew it needed work but it was LEVEL and already had a natural driveway as a nice touch. But level was our main focus and at least 2 acres.
Prioritizing your desires is key! And being out in the woods or going off-grid, have a plan B. We both have been flexible from what the dream originally was and sometimes a little heartbreak; but in the end, it has been more cost-effective and easier to maintain or break-down for the off season. Who would have thought?!