Going “Off the Grid” Continues to Attract Real Estate Buyers in Oregon
Did you ever think about becoming one with nature, growing your own food, managing your own power and basically doing everything you can to be self-sufficient?
As a real estate agent in the Portland Metro area, I honestly hadn’t given it much thought. Yes, I would get calls from potential buyers for my acreage properties who would ask for maps, plot line layouts, aerials, etc., but I never really stopped to think about what was in the minds of those calling, until about 6 months ago.
Off the grid means freedom
Now I understand that more and more people in the great Northwest, not only want to go off grid, but do it in a way that allows them to stay connected with their community, while being self-reliant.
People are becoming more interested on alternative energy options (generators, wind, and, of course, solar) and with today’s energy crunch, these alternate energy sources have been brought to the fore front of most people's mind.
The great thing is that we live in an area blessed with fertile soils, rain, wind, as well as creeks and springs, so we have everything we need to get off the grid and take full advantage of what our blessed corner of the world has to offer.
As I told you, all the calls that I’ve been getting as a realtor are from people with a dream of living with nature and having more than 10 ft of separation between them and their neighbors. It’s only natural that people would choose some place with a few more feet of separation and more independence.
Below are a few things to consider if you’re ready to join the growing number of people in and around Portland that are now doing it.
Laws, loans and taxes
If you plan to go green, some regulations you need to consider. Some of the toughest land use laws in the country are here in our area and one of the biggest pitfalls buyers are running into has to do with knowing the state and county restrictions for building on land. As easy as it may seem to purchase land and build, it’s by no means that simple.
The building permit fees involved can vary significantly between counties and if you are applying for a loan, there can be ratios on the cost of land vs. the cost of building a home.
Choosing the right lender and loan product is also extremely important. Some lenders are not willing to loan on larger parcels of land while others do it day in and day out. Rates can also vary dramatically between lenders.
Property taxes will depend on the county you choose to live and are also impacted by the land use regulations and type of dwelling approval the county has agreed to on the property. It isn’t uncommon for two parcels of land with similar attributes to have significantly different tax bills.
There are great deals to be had right now on acreage and existing homes on acreage but making sure you go into it with “eyes wide open” is extremely important. The rewarding experience and lifestyle that comes will be more than worth the leg work you should do upfront.
There are some financing renewable energy solutions available, and if you’re building your system from scratch, choosing the right materials can help you a lot (e.g. reclaimed materials).
Solar energy panels
The example above is a simplified version of what happens when you capture the sun’s energy through a solar panel and direct it into a charge controller. You can then store the energy in a battery for direct "DC" power or pushed through an inverter to create "AC" power.
Things are really that simple. Considering today's climbing energy costs and concerns about global warming, going off the grid is the smartest choice for you and your family.
The initial cost of going off-the-grid is a bit higher than standard living, but in the long run you’ll have countless benefits: no more utility bills, no power outages, less contribution to global warming, clean, pure rain water and an overwhelming feeling that you are in charge and not dependent on large utilities.
Wind energy systems
Probably the best option for alternative energy in Oregon is a wind turbine system. It converts the solar energy by collecting the wind’s kinetic energy and turning it into electricity. The state of Oregon has vast wind energy resources and ranks 6th among states for total installed wind capacity, with 1,758 megawatts.
The American Wind Energy Association communicated in its Year End 2009 Market Report that despite loans tightening, federal stimulus budget continues to encourage wind development.
The great news is that a wind turbine reduces a household electricity bill with 50% to 90%. A domestic wind system makes less noise than a washing machine. In the long-run, a wind turbine is a highly profitable investment because a well-located wind system dramatically increases property value, just like any other home improvement.
Some things to consider when buying off the grid property:
- If the house doesn’t face South, forget about passive solar home design and prepare to spend twice as much on active solar (e.g. solar panels).
- Find out if the property retains the water and mineral rights
- Make sure the land has been perk tested, because if it doesn’t drain well it will be very difficult to get a septic system in place and it will affect your garden, too.
- Determine the water source and see if there is a well or a spring. If not, find out how deep the neighbors had to drill, as an off the grid house without water is almost useless.
- See how you’d be connecting to the internet, because if you’re reading this article, you’ve probably realized already just how useful it is. Also, cell coverage.
- Check how the land lays. Aside from having a south-facing building site, is there a pasture area and garden area that gets plenty of sun? Is it flat, sloping, or steep? If you have “great views” that might be a keyword for “steep”. Homesteaders who plan on having any kind of livestock or sizeable garden should have a few acres of level to sloping land.
- Make sure there are no easements and that you don’t have to go through someone else’s land to reach your property.
- Find out if the road county is maintained properly.
Living off the grid is simply about properly using electricity in such a way that you’ll minimize as much waste as possible. It's about making sure that all electricity created is spent usefully and purposely.
Some people may say that living off the grid is all about refraining to use electrical appliances and eliminating the comforts that these appliances can give you in order to spend less energy, but such claims couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Such belief can only come from lack of information about renewable energy sources. With some research, people will easily realize that we can both enjoy our modern lifestyle and not be guilty of consuming too much energy or worrying about high utility bills at the end of the month.
Whether you want to buy a green home or purchase a land to build your green property, we’re here to help you make the best choice.
John Bacon, Principal Broker
For further reading on reusable energy, please visit: