Rural Properties – A Sustainable Life “Off the Grid”

Real Estate Broker/Owner with MBA Broker Consultants CalBRE Broker #00983670

By Regina P. Brown

Photos at

Do you love the country?  Green rolling hills, giant trees, animals roaming, crops thriving, and breath-taking starry skies at night amidst peace and quiet.  If so, consider specializing in selling rural property.  Your clients will be motivated by your zeal for the country lifestyle.

Whether you have buyers looking for a hobby farm, an equestrian estate, a vineyard, a self-sustaining family compound “off the grid”, or a simple homestead, rural properties are both challenging and thrilling to sell.  Architectural styles range from rustic ranches to custom castles, log cabins to custom Mediterranean, buried eco-conscious walls to manufactured homes to elaborate gentleman estates — every home is unique.

Jim Taylor, Realtor®, Broker, and Senior Advisor at Sperry Van Ness Asset Advisory Group, observes some buyers moving out to the country to “raise their children in a wholesome environment.  They can live minutes away from the city yet enjoy a slower pace lifestyle with a strong sense of community.”  Home buyers are moving from the city to the country because they enjoy the privacy and isolation.  Life is calmer without light pollution or noisy neighbors — unless your buyers bring the dirt bikes and quads for racing!

Rural property can be less expensive if it’s far out in the “boonies”, but remember it won’t be valued at price per square foot of the house, like regular residential property.  Perhaps your buyers need a place to store an inventory of classic cars, or work on their hobby.  Maybe they want to relocate their entire family together, or just be closer to nature and live off the land.

Variety abounds because no two properties are alike.  In addition, you’ll become familiar with unique aspects of rural properties.  Let’s discuss sustainable utilities.

Sustainable Utilities

Have you ever seen an electrical meter that runs backwards?  The home owners are generating power and selling it to the power company, instead of buying it.  You’ll learn the 2 types of creeks:  those you can see, and underground creeks you can’t see.  You discover septic tanks (hold your nose when it's being pumped out), propane tanks (remember the on/off switch), water wells (they need power to operate), leach fields, and natural wind / solar power.


Drilled Water Wells

Gone is the old-fashioned method of lowering a bucket into an open well. Today’s drilled water wells consist of pipes driven into the ground until they reach the groundwater table, then water pumped up to the surface. Other types are dug wells and driven wells for more shallow water tables. Well water must be tested regularly for bacteria and the quality must be maintained due to possible contamination.

Water levels are different on each property, so digging a well may be simple or more complex, depending on the water level depth, and how much rocky soil is above it. Note to your buyers: the cost of digging a well depends on how deep they must drill to find the water level. Often, buyers will want to locate water sources as part of their due diligence investigation before purchasing.


Creeks are a good source of water, although not always reliable year-round. Fresh running water is available after a rainy season, or when snow melts on the mountains above. Note that neighbors may block or pollute creeks on their property, which would affect other properties downstream.

Rainwater Collection

Rainwater collection is a sustainable method of harvesting clean water by collecting it in barrels.  Rain from rooftops can easily be routed into the collection system and stored for garden irrigation later.  Although it won’t supply all of the home’s water needs, it can certainly help conserve home water usage.



Propane Tanks

Propane tanks are the ranch’s answer to a sustainable fuel source. Those giant metal tanks are seen near the house and supply propane instead of gas. Home owners contract with a propane company that fills the tank regularly. Creative country dwellers have even painted their propane tanks to turn those ugly metal creatures into cute and crazy features.



Wind Turbines

Old-style wooden windmills have been exchanged for modern wind turbines that generate energy from the air flow, a renewable energy source, and convert it to electricity.  Tech advances helped create vertical wind turbines, effective for home use. Small, residential wind power systems are installed as towers atop large properties.

Old-style Wooden Windmill

Wind Turbine

Solar Panels

Solar panels, either on top of the house or spread throughout the property, are often seen in rural properties. Solar power is the most common type of renewable energy. The panels capture sunlight with photovoltaic cells and turn it into electricity.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy taps the earth’s thermal energy by collecting energy under the ground and pumping it into the house. It comes into the heat exchanger system and then can be used to heat or cool the house.

Power Generator

A power generator requires fuel, such as gasoline or propane, to operate.  In an emergency, it can power an entire house.  For more self-sustaining energy sources, refer to our article on “Green” energy.


Waste Disposal

A septic system removes wastewater from the house through the plumbing pipes, just like a sewer system, except that the waste remains on the property.  It flows into a septic tank in the back yard where the solid waste accumulates and gets pumped out every few years.  It can be treated with chemical and organic compounds to minimize the odor and build-up.

A septic tank inspection, which buyers usually request, will require the tank to be emptied.  As an agent, you can usually identify the location of the drain field (also known as leach field or absorption field) because of the tall, green grass growing on top of it.

Before recycling, there was recycling.  It’s what people did years ago before landfills.  Today, rural homeowners sort their trash, dispose of it accordingly, and then recycle the rest.  For example: paper gets burned in the fireplace; edible food scraps get fed to the animals, inedible food waste goes in the compost pile; and plastics get recycled, reused, or repurposed.

Occasionally home owners will burn trash in a barrel, a pile, or an outdoor boiler.  Burning trash is a last resort, because even if it is allowed in rural areas, it creates thick smoke that may be toxic.  Hopefully, those sellers will have hauled their trash into a landfill instead of letting it build up or burning it.  Watch out for abandoned trash which becomes an eyesore on the property.


On rural properties, landline phones may be the only form of telephone communication when mobile phones do not receive a reliable signal.  Unless you drive up to the top of a hill — then you’re bound to hear it crystal clear.

With the advent of small satellite dishes, rural residents can receive both TV and internet reception (although it may be spotty at times).  For those work-from-home business folks, slow or low-speed internet may not be sufficient and they may have to upgrade with a powerful antenna.


Join us next month for Part 2 as we explore land usage, and tips for showing and selling rural properties.  See the photos posted on Pinterest at

Article is also published in The San Diego Realtor® magazine, pages 26-27.


Read more in our "Learn the Lingo" series:

1) Backyard & Outdoor Structures: Learn the Lingo
2) View From the Windows: Learn the Lingo
3) Architectural Styles: Learn the Lingo - Part 1
4) Architectural Styles: Learn the Lingo - Part 2
5) Learn the Lingo: Luxury Bathrooms
6) Learn the Lingo: Fences & Gates
7) Learn the Lingo: Vintage Features of Historic Homes
8) The Kitchen: The Heart of the Home Can Be Gourmet
9) The Gourmet Kitchen: Everything and the Kitchen Sink
10) Open the Door of Possibilities (Exterior Doors)
11) The Difference a Good Door Makes (Interior Doors)
12) Tiles
13) Sustainable and Eco-Conscious Home Features (Part 1)
14) Sustainable and Eco-Conscious Home Features (Part 2)
15) Sustainable and Eco-Conscious Home Features (Part 3)
16) Roof Architecture – Don’t Let it Go ‘Over Your Head’
17) Let There Be Light Fixtures ... And There Are Many!
18) A Discussion of Ceilings Will Have You Looking Up
19) Fireplaces: Literally the Hearth of the Home
20) Learn the Lingo of Walls
21) Apply Your Knowledge to Major Appliances
22) Don't Be Floored By this Topic: It's Right Under Your Feet
23) HVAC / Mechanical Lingo
24) Rural Properties - A Sustainable Life "Off the Grid"
25) Land Usage, and Showing & Selling Rural Properties
26) The Dramatic Effect of Stairs and Staircases - A Flight of Fancy?
27) Electrical Components - Get Wired for Understanding
28) Learn the Lingo: Plumbing Fixtures (Part 1 of 2)
29) Learn the Lingo: Plumbing Fixtures (Part 2 of 2)
30) Swimming Pool and Spa Lingo


Posted by

Regina P. Brown
Broker, Realtor®, M.B.A., e-Pro, GREEN
California DRE # 00983670


Text copyright © 2011-2018 R.P. Brown, All Rights Reserved

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape  

Comments (17)

Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

This post provides a boat load of information about living off the grid.  We seem to be increasingly seeing folks who are interested in this lifestyle.

Dec 10, 2015 10:18 AM
David Alan Baker | Laveen & South Phoenix Realtor
Keller Williams Realty Phoenix - Laveen, AZ
Your local Expert

I'm not sure I agree with Myrl Jeffcoat , this post actually is more like a BARGE or SHIP load at the very least.  Great post.

Dec 11, 2015 04:21 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

There's a lot of great information here. I cracked up about the watermelon fuel tank. I've never seen one of those around here!

Dec 11, 2015 04:22 AM
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Las Vegas, NV

Hello Regina ... great post my friend, I love this post because it's full of so much great information on living in the country.

Can't believe there are only 4 comments including mine and your post has been featured to the group:

Addicted to Active Rain

Dec 11, 2015 06:20 AM
Regina P. Brown
MBA Broker Consultants - Carlsbad, CA
M.B.A., Broker, Instructor

Myrl, yes it does seem to be a nationwide trend of folks fleeing city life to get back to a more comfortable country lifestyle.

David, a barge of information is a great way to describe.  There are so many things to know about the rural lifestyle, believe it or not this is just Part 1.  Keep your eye out for Part 2 next month.

Kat, isn't that painted propane tank cute!  You can find many more fun fuel tank ideas on our pinterest page: 

Robert, so great to hear from you!  Thank you for featuring this post in your group Addicted to ActiveRain, that is wonderful.

Dec 11, 2015 07:45 AM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Very intersting.  I am sure that those who desire to live off the grid will find this  post most informative.

Dec 11, 2015 12:44 PM
Pamela Seley
West Coast Realty Division - Murrieta, CA
Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA

Hi Regina, this is a great post about sustainable properties and the many alternatives for life off the grid. I like the lady bug propane tank. Cute.

Dec 11, 2015 01:10 PM
Sham Reddy CRS
Howard Hanna RE Services, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

Great points:

Whether you have buyers looking for a hobby farm, an equestrian estate, a vineyard, a self-sustaining family compound “off the grid”, or a simple homestead, rural properties are both challenging and thrilling to sell

Dec 11, 2015 09:04 PM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Most excellent hosting and hosting for the subject matter. Seek out Regina P. Brown is all I know and..... all anyone has to know....

Dec 11, 2015 11:10 PM
Richie Alan Naggar

Change one of those "hostings" to a posting please

Dec 13, 2015 08:55 AM
Colleen Fischesser Northwest Property Shop
NextHome Experience - Chelan, WA
A Tradition of Trust in the Pacific NW since 1990!

Wow, what a comprehensive post for anyone looking into sustainable living! And that propane tank...yowza! Love it :-)


Dec 12, 2015 12:04 AM
Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

This really is a step by step way to understand rural living. Very tempting. 

Dec 12, 2015 02:25 AM
Ella Reape, Realtor 603-821-1140 ~ Selling Homes Throughout Southern New Hampshire
Keller Williams Realty Nashua NH - Nashua, NH
Luxury Homes Division, Keller Williams

I have a few clients that would love this. Thanks for the Post!

Dec 12, 2015 02:27 AM
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
HomeSmart - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Regina - I love how detailed your post are, as you take your time and never leave anything out. Thanks for sharing all of these ways to help one live "off the grid".

Dec 13, 2015 10:27 AM
John Mosier
Realty ONE Group Mountain Desert - Prescott, AZ
Prescott's Patriot Agent 928 533-8142

Thanks, Regina P. Brown, for writing this well-researched post.  I dominate the market for recreational and rural properties in the Juniper Mountains near Seligman, Arizona.

During the summer I had over 70 listings in the area. I have a website that is dedicated to the area at SeligmanAZ.US. I am trying to change the focus from just selling homes and land to selling the ADVENTURE.

There are very few power lines in the area so almost every home is on solar power. Most of the lots in the area are over 36 acres and the land is not very expensive.

Doing showings and the listing work is quite time consuming. The area is a two-hour drive for me.

This work does get me out of the office and into the country. I often see Pronghorn (antelope), deer, javelina, wild burros and other wildlife.

Dec 13, 2015 02:39 PM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Regina - I really love the top entrance picture.  I would like a place like that.  I actually prefer well water.

Dec 18, 2015 12:56 AM
Regina P. Brown
MBA Broker Consultants - Carlsbad, CA
M.B.A., Broker, Instructor

Joan, I hope they'll do.

Pamela, isn't it cute?  I like it too.

Sham, that's true.  It's challenging and at the same time rewarding too.

Richie, thank you for the recommendations.

Colleen, I'm glad you liked it.

Karen, thank you.

Ella, that's great!  I hope it would help.

Troy, thank you for the nice comments.

John, that's interesting!  I like the words "selling the ADVENTURE".

Grant, homeowners in rural properties have that privilege to view the majestic beauty of nature.

Dec 18, 2015 09:21 AM
Linda Guess
Keller Williams Tri-Lakes Branson, MO - Branson, MO
Branson area real estate sales.

You have posted such great information.  Really great post.

Dec 26, 2015 06:27 AM