Buying Bug-out Bunkers 101

Tue, Mar 3, 2015 - 12:07pm

My wife and I will be completing a sale on our new bug-out property in a couple of weeks. We are getting a smoking deal. I know that many of you are interested in a similar deal, but perhaps do not know all the tricks of the trade to get the kind of deal you deserve. Not that I know them all either, but we have had some experience buying properties on the cheap and I simply wanted to share what we have learned and open a conversation that invites the expertise of several real estate pros that I know haunt these forums.

In a nutshell, since 2006 we have purchased ten foreclosed properties. Some have needed extensive renovations, others just minor repairs, flooring and painting. Of these homes, we have sold four, making a profit on each. We still own four as rentals (underwater now). We live in one, and have recently acquired the bug-out property. We purchased each home at the low end of market value, or far below it.

What I presume many of you may be seeking is a home where you could live off the land, if you had to. We all seek varying degrees of security, as well as the “remoteness” factor that may provide safety from rioters and help one keep out of fascist crosshairs. We all have other constraints of family, feeling at home, nearby nuclear missile sites* that motivate us.

So here is our method:

  • Have a well-connected, aggressive realtor
  • Line up your money
  • Know what you want.
  • Be patient and watch
  • Act fast
  • Make a cash offer
  • Do not fear

We have had discussions here about locations. That is your first decision. Are you going to stay close to where you currently live, or move to a familiar location, or really get out. It is easier to buy close to home because you know the area and already have some ideal of real estate valuations.

We have had our best results buying from banks. They have no sentimental attachments and are often willing to let go of a home for much less than it is worth. Usually, they just want their money back out.

Have a well-connected, aggressive realtor

There is often a realtor in each market who has more or less locked up all the foreclosure business. Learn who that realtor is and watch her/his website, or subscribe to that persons email notices of new listings. You probably do not want to deal with that person directly, because they are very busy. But you want a realtor who is on a first-name basis with that person. Our most recent offer was accepted because our realtor has worked with this “guy” often. He knew that she always brings a serious buyer. We don’t bother our realtor with a the search process—just the offers, because she does not make as much money on low offers and we don’t want to lose her good-will. We don’t ask her to show us a house unless we really like it. Then she acts fast on our behalf.

By the way, the commission comes out of the seller’s pocket, so using a realtor to buy costs nothing extra. Homes that are offered by owners are usually priced much higher. I could consider that route if the owner would carry the note.

Line up your money.

Well, this is the tricky part. I have a credit card with a 50K limit that we have used to buy several properties. Then we refinance ASAP to get out of the high interest. It is expensive to use with a 4% cash advance fee, then hefty payments until we pay it off after refinancing. But it is much cheaper than paying loan origination fees, required inspection fees, and a dozen other fees that the bankers and real-estate industry manage to stack into a normal deal. After acquiring the property, we “refinance” or get a “Home equity” loan. There are far fewer fees for these kinds of loans. In this case, we had enough metal to sell that would pay for the home. Fortunately, my wife’s brother encouraged us not to sell our metal to a stranger—he offered to buy it at spot. We also want this home to be lein free. We could pay for the house with a home equity loan on our current residence in the city, mortgaging it to the max, but making the bug out property free and clear.

Know what you want!
Make a list. But be flexible within an acceptable range. You probably will not find your dream home this way—you have to build that one from scratch—and that is expensive if you are not a builder. So consider each property that interests you on its own terms. We find that we often like a home better after we buy than before. We recognize benefits we did not notice before (could be cognitive dissonance). But the old adage is true—location, location, location. That is the one thing you cannot change or repair.

Our list looked like this:

  • Sufficient interior space
  • Sufficient land—2 acres
  • Good water
  • Zoned for Farm animals
  • Sufficiently remote (edge of small agricultural-retirement town)

We got four of five. AFter we install a well,, it will be fine. the electric to run a well pump is much cheaper than a water bill. We always look for a “twist”—a garage that can be built into a room, zoning for a 2nd home on the property, an existing 2nd residence, room for RVs… Once you see a home that roughly fits your list, check the county website for tax rates, drive by the home—walk around it, look in the windows to see if it has damage and trash. Our property came with a few extras that we like.

  • Animal pens
  • An 800 square foot building.
  • An old "cottage"
  • Two out buildings

Be patient and watch

Start watching closely now, even if you are not ready yet. Get familiar with pricing in your market. Your realtor can send you every new listing as it comes out. Now, your realtor probably will not find this home for you. You’ll have to diligently search for it. We have set up to email us new listings. New listings also appear on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also have websites that will send you email alerts. You can also have it sort out the ones you are not interested in by price, by lot size, etc. Be ready to wait a while. Currently, in our market, we see about one home every six months that is severely under priced. Several years ago, there were always two or three on the market.

  •—this incredible site tells you what all homes are worth—just click on the ones around the area. Bankers are now using it to do rough estimates for loans to see if a deal can work. IN our experience, the site seems to be 10% above an actual sale value.

Act fast

Make an offer in the first 24 hours if possible. Every hour counts. You don’t have time to ponder unless the home is listed on a Friday and they will not accept offers until Monday morning. This is where your realtor’s connections will show their value. Often, a listing realtor will call an investor friend the day before it is listed and give them a sneak peek. There is not much you can do if this happens. But the “foreclosure realtor” in an area has too many homes moving through their office to do favors like that for friends, so you have a fair chance.

Make a cash offer

We found that in our market, you have to offer over full price to have a chance. Your realtor can advise you in this. In this recent deal, we offered about 1% more than they were asking. Our contract offer was set to close quickly (7 days). Let the buyer tell you more time is needed—and they probably will. The seller (Fannie Mae) required a 10% earnest money payment with the offer. That surprised us, because usually $1000 is enough.We also had to provide a bank statement showing the cash. We provided our credit card statement showing the available balance. They accepted that. Just yesterday, I sent over our bank statement showing the funds from our metal sale in the account. A photo of you fondling a stack of metal will probably not suffice. Our realtor told us that the seller on the recent offer took ours because it was over full price, was fast, and it gets the property off his desk and he can tell the next 50 people interested that “ it is already sold—go away!”

Do not Fear

Real estate tends to be forgiving--unlike AGQ options. These foreclosed homes always have issues. Some are in horrible shape. Now and then, the seller will pay to have it repaired and still not ask top dollar. Usually, you can expect some clean-up and superficial work. But if you can paint, repair stuff, and do cleaning, then don’t hesitate to take on a project. If it needs more extensive work, you will not have time to get a contractor to bid it. But if your price is low enough, the deal will work for you. Our current purchase needs a well.

Until we need to live on that property, we will rent it out at a nice profit, using the income to make improvements. We will be planting nut and fruit trees this Spring, renovating a small old cabin into a “tiny house” and setting up several RV pads—just in case the in-laws need a place (temporarily). We are already getting to know our neighbors—the guy next door is a vet and I don’t mind a friend like that. The property came without a well—tied onto a neighbor for water. I suspect that “flaw” is why we got the first bid accepted. We were not afraid of hiring a well driller at whatever the cost (5-10K) and knew this flaw could be corrected.

We were blessed with this one. We are paying about 48K plus the cost of a well. I believe this would sell immediately for close to 150K if we flipped it. THAT's the kind of deal you can find if you are patient and act fast.

I know that several of you are builders and in real estate. I am closer to being an amateur than a pro and I think we would all appreciate your corrections and additions to this article.

Good luck.

* Yes, there are cleverly disguised missile silos about 18 miles from my current home. I don’t feel good about that.

Rhabdomancy... or Dowsing for Water? I doubt it!

Well, I got me a edjumacashun this morning. This new prepper property we bought is just beyond the extent of the city water lines. It has no well. The prior owner, who is now deceased, was supplied with water by her sister, who lives a quarter of a mile away, through a thin plastic agricultural waterline that was only buried six inches deep in some places along its route over hill and dale. They have dug it up and repaired it often over the years. While the sister is likely willing to provide us water as well, with a shared well contract, we decided that we are better off being self-sufficient. Hmmm... what are my options?

I calculated that rainwater harvesting in this region would provide about 1500 gallons per month (14 inches of rain per year). While that may supply a water-frugal family, it isn’t enough for gardening, orchards and livestock. Besides, the rains are not even y spread throughout the year and it wouldn’t be safe to drink without serious treatment (birds shitting on the roof). Hmmm… need more and better water. I began researching other options.

I have an old friend who is a geologist with the State. He is checking the maps for me and will suggest a good location for my well. I told him about a water finding service that uses underground sonar to measure the density of rock and water content underground. For a mere $2000, they will come out and find water. My friend said I didn’t need to hire them, he doesn’t trust their technology, and whatever I do, stay away from those water-witches. They are nothing but charlatans!

I called several well drillers and asked for bids. The first one bid $9000 (cough, gag, choke, cough) He did not guarantee finding good water. The next gave me a quote of $5500 to drill (gag, cough) and I would install of all the pump equipment. The third guy, Bill, came out today. His grey hair and beard, bronze skin, and bone-crushing handshake made me like him instantly—and that is when my learning began. A little later he quoted me a price of $2700 to drill the well. I’ll cover the costs of running electricity, the water line, and the other plumbing myself.

I showed Bill where the septic system leach-field was, cause it is not a good idea to drill there (water tastes icky) and we walked to the opposite corner of the two acre parcel. Along the way, we stopped at a mesquite tree where Bill cut off a small branch with some handy pruning shears he had in his back pocket. He trimmed it down into a pretty little Y shape. (Yes, you know where this is headed…)

He then held the stick by the branches of the Y pinched between his thumbs and palms (at the end of his lifelines), palms up, wrapped his fingers around next, and then curled his wrists upwards causing the stem of the Y to point upwards, and started walking slowly across the sandy field, chanting an ancient rhyme with his eyes closed. (Actually, I am kidding about the chant and closed eyes)

Then it happened!

the stick went “zoink,” twisting downward in his hands with the stem pointed at the water underground.

“I didn’t do that.” Bill said. He walked over the same spot from the other direction and it went “zoink” again. We walked around a bit more, finding a couple more “hits,” which my wife and I promptly marked with piles of stones. As we walked around, he told me that an old woman taught him this method. He had drilled 4 holes on one property—all dry. The woman came over from next door, did her magic, and said” Drill here” The spot was a mere 18 feet from his last hole. They drilled. Sixty feet down they hit good water. He put a high powered pump on it to clean it out and 100 gallons per minute flowed out consistently. He concluded (from his drill material) that she had found an underground depression in a layer of clay that collected underground water in that area.

Then I asked if I could try it. Bill showed me how to hold the stick. He explained the need to walk north and south in this area to cut across the direction of the underground flows. I started walking and sure enough the stick went “zoink.” I started chuckling. That was just weird. I tried it again, being oh so very careful not to inadvertently move the stick on my own. “Zoink!” I laughed again. That is really, really weird. My wife tried it next, but it wouldn’t do it for her. She thinks she held the stick wrong. I think she is not a witch.

I am very curious now to know what kind of water, if any, we find down there. Does the stick make a difference? The direction you walk? Prayer? Bill didn’t seem too particular. In short, I’ll do some empirical testing. Is this witching method actually scientific? Is it spiritual? Is it evil—even without incantations and animal sacrifices? Does a mysterious ability to find life-giving water come from the God or the devil? Logic would suggest that a good thing comes from a good spiritual place. Science does not know everything—a fact which scientists too often are loathe to admit. Whatever it is, it sure was weird. Science has not been able to verify any greater success rate than statistical chance would indicate. But scientists can sure be irritating when instead of simply stating their statistical results, they ridicule and cast aspersions upon the “believers.”

Did I mention that it was really weird when that stick moved on its own?

But seriously, I thought my practical research into securing a good supply of water might be handy for others. No matter what we do, it is going to cost something--hopefully, not my soul.

A pump, pressure tank and all associated parts currently cost about 0-600, new.

Professional Well System: Total set up cost: -9000.

I was surprised at the bids I received (except Bill’s). Expensive, hit or miss success in the western US. You have to pay the driller whether you find good water or not. State permits required to drill. Only licensed drillers can get a permit. Electricity required. I am sure Bill will find some water, but it may be so mineralized that it is not fit for drinking or running through plumbing fixtures in the home—just gardens and livestock.

Self drilling: Total set up cost: 00.

In this state, you better be somewhat sneaky about it. We found a used “mud pump” for sale for 0 that would supply wonderful water pressure and drill multiple wells. You can also rent these by the day—figure all day or two to drill down 30-60 feet. The rest of the casing materials needed would run a couple of hundred. Electricity optional—a hand pump or windmill would work to get the water into storage—just like grandma and grandpa used to do!

A mud pump will provide good pressure through a 1.5 inch line and can handle sand & debris that would damage a regular pump. You have seen these at construction sites where they are pumping rainwater out of a hole or trench to continue underground work. The rest of the materials needed would run a couple of hundred. Total set up cost: 00.

Hauling water: Total set up cost: 00.

Many people here in the desert buy their water and haul it in a trailer and pump it into a tank at their home. It’s very cheap, but then you have to do the hauling every 2-3 weeks, or hire someone deliver water in a big tanker truck (haulers charge more than a water bill from the local water company.). I like that plan due to the low expense of buying a tank and pump-pressure equipment. I’ll have it all set up in a day. And we’ll still harvest the rain for gardens and animals. The problem is that the water supplier could shut me off in a disaster—not self-sufficient. But I need the storage and pump equipment no matter what route I take.

Trailers can be bought in these parts for as little as 00. Our water company charges .50 per thousand gallons. The water is good for drinking. A family of four with lavish American water use will consume at least 4000 gallons. Conservation helps greatly. Storage tanks cost about a dollar per gallon. They can be above or below ground.

Rain harvesting: Total set up cost: 00.

You need a storage tank, pump and all other water equipment. For gardening or live stock, no filter needed. But if you want to drink rainwater, you better pay for a good filter and use a chlorination system.

City Water: We all know how this works. You get a bill each month.

The bottom line for me is self-sufficiency. I plan to harvest the rainwater, and drill the well using the licensed driller. I will install a solar electric system to run the pump. I may self-drill an un-permitted second well just for fun. The rainwater will go for the garden, chickens, & perhaps livestock. I’ll filter what comes out of the well and we’ll use a Berkey system in the house for drinking water.

I am not a wealthy man. Whether or not this economy totally collapses and I need to be self-sufficient for survival is to be seen. But either way, I do not expect social security to provide my retirement. My employer retirement account will probably get MYRA’d into T-bills, providing just a trickle of income—or nothing. So my PMs will pay for my home, my water, my solar electric system and I’ll do my best to survive after I can no longer work in my industry. This planned system will eliminate my utility bills. Currently, those run about 0 per month--00 per year. The system will pay for itself in four years, and right now, I can afford to install everything. After that, I have free water and electricity for life, with some maintenance costs along the way. I’ll have a paid off home. Taxes will have to be paid, but I think I can set aside enough gold to cover property taxes for life. Right now, it is an ounce per year, but hopefully that will change soon.

I liquidated a chunk of my stack and bought this particular property because it cost only 30% of its current realistic market value. I have not ruled out reselling or renting it after the renovation and improvements are complete, then purchasing a better property with profits (or rental income).

My advice? Choose your land and long-term property carefully. Consider all costs. If there is already a good septic system and productive well in place, with good water available, that is a huge advantage. And if you don’t have a well on the property yet, find a good Y shaped stick from the tree, use the method above, and start witching!

But I don’t know everything, and much of what I think I know is flawed. So flame away, straighten me out, augment, or refute. I hope all can take away something useful from this discussion. And how in tarnation does rhabdomancy relate to precious metals? Well (pun intended), they say you can find gold using this method also.

Some Sorcerers do boast they have a Rod,
Gather'd with Vowes and Sacrifice,

And (borne about) will strangely nod
To hidden Treasure where it lies;

Mankind is (sure) that Rod divine,
For to the Wealthiest (ever) they incline.

Samuel Sheppard, 1651

About the Author


Mr. Fix
Mar 3, 2015 - 12:14pm

1st !

I've been living in my “bug out bunker” for nearly 20 years now…

There's no place like home.

Mar 3, 2015 - 12:28pm

Timing is everything

Second, but who is counting

We bought raw land up north a few years ago on a fresh water lake. I have followed your posts and not sure it will ever become our bug out location based on how you have educated me



Joseph Warren
Mar 3, 2015 - 12:46pm

a Community with Connections to others

is important, in my opinion. If you can find a place where such connections to others already exists, that is best. (For example, you have family active and well regarded in the community.) Church groups may also provide a connection. Then, you personally have to get involved in that place and its people. A relative of mine had a medical problem, and mentioned that no one in her neighborhood helped her. - She doesn't know her neighbors names. She doesn't go to a church or is involved in any activity with others. And she laments that others didn't offer help and my other (very active) relative is "so lucky" because she has lots of caring people in her life? Real estate & gear are very important - but not # 1 in importance

Mar 3, 2015 - 1:54pm
Mar 3, 2015 - 2:02pm

Thanks Doc

As usual more interesting stuff from Dr Jerome. I'm in a different situation dealing with a a couple of wonderful side by side view lots that together are over an acre of very usable space. I bought them in 2004 as part of my retirement investments with the theory real estate always goes up and in a few years of course the collapse of the market put me well underwater in a very stagnant real estate economy in my rural area an hour and a half away from Seattle. So I'm selling my house to develop the lots myself.

Finally my wife has conceded to selling and right now there is a bit of interest in real estate here but only in homes, not land. No big recent gains in value just finally some turnover which I think is just a temporary window of opportunity before the shtf.

So I'm getting prepared to sell my house which is only 3 miles away from my lots and plan to first build a smaller mother in law apartment layout connected to a decent size garage, leaving room on that lot for an additional 2 bedroom house. I will install a 3 bedroom septic and already put a well in a few years ago. I will be attempting to sort of replace somewhat in stages the current residence. 2nd lot will be for probable green house garden area, chicken coup and perhaps more. I don't have the extra cash to plow into development before I sell my house and refuse to sell my investment positions currently held or borrow the money. I don't owe anything now and don't plan to so the shuffle to the next residence will be game on once I sell but the wife and I have built 3 houses for ourselves over the years. If I don't sell with money in hand before July I'll probably stay put.

Kinda scary at what I think is a late juncture to make such a move. I'm prepped up pretty well at my current residence built 2003 1 1/2 acres with magnificent sound, mountain and river view at the end of a private lane next to state timberland 2,300 sq ft house, water well, nice sized 2 car garage with attached 18 x 36 stall with 12' door, yep tall enough for a car lift or a nice sized boat, 50 amp RV outlet and RVseptic hookup and don't forget the chicken coup and garden area. Not a bad bugout itself.

Mar 3, 2015 - 2:12pm

Walapini underground greenhouse

Year round food production... Plenty of plans and YouTube vids on how to do it To paraphrase Timothy Leary....turn on, tune in...bug out

Mar 3, 2015 - 2:43pm

@DrJ and Friends

Good for you Dr J on what you are doing but remember you are buying in a declining market especially in my area and although I'm in the business I myself would definitely not be buying in this market, NOT YET. buying at $45K in my area is no problem but selling for $150K, man that would be a stretch. Lol Anyway I can buy a livable 2000sft home for that right now that would cost well over $200,000 and if your planning to build then I would have second thoughts on that as you can find lots of great deals out there away better than the costs of building. Remember housing prices are still falling but construction wages and materials are not.

As for "Usually, they just want their money back out" for bank foreclosures the banks have the upper hand as they can sell for any price they want to as "It's A Write Off of Bad Debt For Them" so be aware of that when you go to buy a Bank Foreclosure. By the way every foreclosure that I know of that has had an offer rejected, it always happens that a few days later the Listing Price is lowered again by usually 10%. So if you see a listing you like make an offer and if rejected watch for the reduction in the next few days and make another offer if your so inclined.

Commissions my friends are paid from the Sellers funds but it does cost the Buyers something because without the Buyers funds there are no Sellers Funds, no Commissions, hence no sales.

BUYERS HAVE THE UPPER HAND IN A DECLINING MARKET AND IT'S NOT OVER YET. JUST WAIT TILL THE SHIT HITS THE FAN. LOL Talk about something on the cheap.Lol So Friends and Neighbors are away high on my agenda rather than real estate as friends and neighbors are going to help me survive I am a firm believer in that. Charlie

P.S. I think this is the longest post I've ever done on here. lol

Mar 3, 2015 - 3:01pm


Great post with excellent current info.

Mar 3, 2015 - 3:25pm

Doc- have you looked at windmills for your well?

This is a concept that has always intrigued me as a SHTF no-eletricity needed method of getting and storing a supply of water, but I have never followed it up with hard research... have you looked at these things? Has anyone here done cost-benefit on windmills (link) vs. solar powered pump? Seems like a very low-maint. and reliable way of pumping and storing water (with an attached tank/cistern of course).

We currently have a 3,000 gallon in-ground concrete tank attached to our barn roof drains, so when we get a 1 inch rain, the water in the tank totally turns over and is refreshed completely. This amount would be fine for personal water needs, but not enough for watering crops and trees if it came to that... have always wondered if a windmill pump and cistern would be economically reasonable.

Mar 3, 2015 - 3:48pm

Planet Earth is my bug-out location

I do not operate based on a spirit of fear, but of power and love and with a clear sound mind. Those who fearfully waste today digging a hole to crawl in because they fear tomorrow, ...have wasted both today and tomorrow.

Mar 3, 2015 - 4:34pm

I would not call that a waste or fear

I would call that a piece of mind. Just like stacking!

Mar 3, 2015 - 5:20pm


SS121: I suppose it depends. Two years ago, I saw a number of places for sale that were designed as bug-out locations. It was sad to see all that hard work lost to the bank and now for sale cheap. And the locations were remote. Personally, I want to live on a few acres, raise a few animals and garden, whether it becomes necessary or not. I only live in the city today so my kids can finish college and be close to a social life. Once it is just my wife an I, to the countryside we go.

Marchas: Thanks for the advice. All markets are different. I have been holding out, but I couldn't pass this one up. We are closer to California-esque real estate pricing here in AZ. I'll be saving a portion of the stack to buy property when the next real-estate crash arrives.

Pining: I just saw one of those the other day and wondered about it--fully operational. They worked just fine for our grandparents. No electricity is the part I like.

Mar 3, 2015 - 6:46pm

Dr Jerome and Current Real Estate Market

Great Post. Thanks for sharing the info. I agree with your thoughts that all real estate is local. As I posted on turds blog I recently moved from central florida to the mountains outside of Denver. The central florida market is currently flat after some nice growth where as the real estate market in the Denver area the home inventory is at all time lows with prices growing rapidly. We are already up considerably on our purchase we made last spring. At the time i agreed with Marchas point that real estate was a bad investment but having a family of 6 and in need of an area with good schools we bought instead and it turned out to be a great decision. If indeed real estate crashes i have got a hefty stack to hedge my investment..

In the meantime I enjoy the peace of being on my own several acres on the top of a mountain with only a couple neighbors in the nearby area. You couldnt give me the suburbs for any price after living here. Plus the added peace of mind know that if SHTF i am in a much safe environment that a city center....

wonderer Doctor J
Mar 3, 2015 - 8:34pm

To Dr. Jerome

About drilling your well...

There are a couple of things to discuss with your chosen well driller - years ago, my husband (architect) and I bought a nice mostly wooded 20 acre plot, built our little retirement cottage, and put in a well, run by an electrical pump.

We decided, after a prolonged power outage one summer, that we wanted to be able to hand pump from the well, and asked the driller to add one. He explained that he couldn't, because he always put in some kind of brace that prevented the stuff inside from rubbing against the sides, and that would prevent installing a hand pump. So, we dug a second well, and installed a hand pump on that.

My explanation is probably a bit garbled, and who knows if the driller really couldn't have done it. My deceased husband isn't around to correct my misinterpretation of his explanation at that time.

And, I am sure different drillers have different ways of doing things. Our driller enjoyed the best reputation in the area for finding the best spot to drill, and drilling good wells that didn't go dry (a few neighbors had that happen, but used a different driller .

An Amish friend of ours installed a windmill on his land, on the top of a hill, and had a tank, with gravity feed to his house and barn. He tended to worry when there was a long period without rain. I miss our cottage. Now I am in "senior living", and will be toast if there are "problems".

Fred Hayek
Mar 3, 2015 - 8:41pm

Ask questions and then ask more questions

I'm a civil engineer and the firm I work for has done a lot of work for real estate developers. In the course of going to look at new project sites I've encountered a lot of abutting property homeowners. It is stunning to me how little research people do when buying a house.

For instance, in the case of a purchase like Dr. J's, if you were doing that in central Massachusetts, the Registry of deeds is on line. You could use a Town web site and the registry and find out who owns every parcel in the area around the one that interests you. You could find out who had owned the property that interests you back around 100 years. You could use the Town web site to find a zoning map for that Town and review the zoning bylaw to find out what is allowed on the properties near you. You don't want to be surprised by finding that the land next to you is the only parcel in Town zoned to allow an adult entertainment site or pig farming or a methadone clinic. You may be able to use the Town or state web site to determine if there are any flood zone areas on site. There are federal gov't web sites (and some state ones) that will tell you what kind of soil you should expect to find on your site and what grows well in that soil.

The thing I want to get across to you is that there may be huge reservoirs of additional information available to you at the Town, County, State and even Federal levels. Whether or not they should have bothered is a side issue. The information is there. Make use of it. Much of the time this information won't do you much of any good but occasionally you might avoid a real problem that would have made a purchase a complete fiasco.

Mar 3, 2015 - 8:43pm

I Can't Help

But... Why are all these bug-out places cold with snow. Can't somewhere warm be safe

Mar 3, 2015 - 9:24pm

Fred: some of these counties

Fred: some of these counties have fabulous websites that are filled with information. they have floodplain maps, satellite views, tax history, sales history. I have also found the county employees to be very helpful in providing information.

Lakedweller: my home is in central AZ 3100 feet in elevation, with average summer highs in the upper 90s and Winter lowes above freezing.

but I fear that hte upper midwest has cold winters. even manly lower midwest states have cold winters. The south is nice--as is most of the southwest.

AJwhiteshirt Pining 4 the Fjords
Mar 3, 2015 - 9:38pm


Important to know about windmills that is often not considered.


It seems simple but to really make good use of a windmill for water pumping or power generation you should have a consistent average wind speed about 10 MPH or above.

I think the overall windmill idea is great but I live in Daytona Florida. The yearly average wind speed is around 4 MPH. No good & non-starter. Intermittent winds are not good enough. The web has US gov. wind maps which provide the wind info needed to make a good decision for your area.

Mar 4, 2015 - 12:20am

Fantastic information here...

I can only echo Marchas' thoughts beyond what the doc has put together here. The only thing I can say from being a title examiner is youd be amazed how much information is just sitting out there in the public record for free. You can find the tax and zoning information pretty easily and if theres transfer taxes involved you can figure out what the seller paid by just looking at the deed which is also almost always easily found in the public record.

I would only add that you should be sure to examine your survey properly so you know exactly where you can build. Nothing worse than building on an easement or building line or missing a restriction that runs with the land. A decent title company should be able to locate all that for you.

Finally I would add if you're using a lawyer you damn well better trust them and be sure to verify all their costs because from my experience a lot of them are bogus.

Mar 4, 2015 - 1:42am

Proverbs 22:3

The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, But the naive go on, and are punished for it.

Mar 4, 2015 - 2:59am


Yes indeed, and concerning the evil financial system, where better to be than Silver and Gold?

otherwise... #nofear Psalms 23 4-6

Keep Stackin

Mar 4, 2015 - 7:47am


Back in the early 50s, my father the engineer, designed a roof withdrawal fan unit in Houston. Everyone was using the wind turbine. He couldn't get a bite. There was no wind in Houston. He had 33 pattens on other stuff. Now they don 't use wind turbine roof vents. He also had some inventions on oil blow off valves that wasn't accepted by Hughes Tool or Halliburton. All these things came to pass. He also had some proposals about getting the auto off of gas back in the 50 s and 60s and was rejected by Gm (didn't mention others ). Supposedly every oil bath filter on Jeeps and Trucks in WWII was his. He was very negative about Federal Government and the oligarchs 60 years ago. He never was in it for the money but the intellectual accomplishment. The others were in it to perpetuate income from the status quo . He had a financially and successful life, but was frustrated by government and oligarchs . An honest man in a dishonest world.

Katie Rose
Mar 4, 2015 - 5:40pm

lessons learned

Since I bugged out right before the housing collapse, I have learned more than I will ever be able to share. Much of what I have learned came through my 89 year old Mom who was a child during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.

When I was looking at homes for our family I found one that belonged to an MD. It was a beautiful home in our price range on 20 acres of land. The well gave 5 gallons a minute. My Mom went to view it, loved it, and then found out the well info. She absolutely refused to have anything to do with that home.

"You mark my words, Katie, there will be trouble in the future with this home. There is NOT enough water here. I had to haul water as a child from a neighbor's spring when our well went dry. It was terrible! When drought comes, this well will go dry."

That time is now. The East Coast may have been clobbered with snow. We have had a very mild winter. There will be lots of dry wells here this summer. I personally would not settle for any property that gives less than 10 gallons per minute. Gardens, animals, etc. all need water to survive. A holding tank just won't be enough when the well goes dry.

The next topic I want to talk about are outbuildings. Even with a few acres one needs outbuildings and a barn. I was told by local folks here, "Forget the house, you can always remodel a house, what you need are outbuildings. When the snow arrives, everything not under cover will be covered with snow all winter long. You need outbuildings for your wood, your livestock, animal feed, farm equipment, etc." I took that advice. I am very glad I did.

One more thing before I sign off. We planted a large orchard. We used many different nurseries and growers to procure the trees. By far and away the best supplier is Peaceful Valley Farm. Their trees were large with fantastic root balls. Other well known suppliers sent terrible trees that did not survive. The folks at have the best trees and farm tools I know of.

edit to add:

If you do put in an orchard, please put it on level ground. My sister's degree is in Fruit Tree Science (Pomology) and she is adamant about the fact that orchards need to be on level ground. She witnessed a farm worker fall off a ladder while picking fruit on a slope. He broke his back. Too bad so sad for him. He was an "Illegal" and had no rights. It broke her heart. It makes me really sad as well.

And less is better than more. Once mature a semi-dwarf tree will give a lot of fruit. It is expensive to keep an orchard pruned and sprayed. Organic sprays are very, very costly. Plant what you need. My sister planted a half acre orchard. It is too large and she is unable to keep it properly pruned and cared for.

Also look for fencing. It cost me thousands of $$$ to fence my goat pastures - that included costs of the fencing and labor. Check the condition of the fences. You will be glad you did.

Also check for outdoor water spigots. They are so necessary and cost mucho $$$ to put in. Check to make sure any that are there work and the water isn't dirty. In areas where are hard winters the water lines need to be at least 4 feet underground. That involves a back hoe to dig the lines. Back hoe owners are usually very nice and very expensive. Running hoses everywhere is a real drag. Outdoor water spigots make farm life and gardening bearable.

Mar 4, 2015 - 8:38pm

Katie Rose

Good to see you post now and then. We will look up that website and order trees there. I hate it when you pay for a tree at a nursery and it dies.

Mar 5, 2015 - 1:27am

Katie Rose

So, so happy to see you posting here. You have been missed! Your comments regarding rural property must-haves is invaluable. As you said, outbuildings on rural properties are a must even if they are a little run down and not so esthetic. When we moved to our 30 acre poperty 31 years ago we had numerous small outbuildings and an old corrugated tin sided barn. We raised 30 laying hens in the barn and 8 turkeys in a smaller building. We used the other places to store garden tools, tomato cages, a rototiller, and a John Deere tractor lawn mower. The buildings and lean-to's weren't pretty, but served a definite purpose. Would love to hear how things are going out your way, Katie, and hope you can post more often! Deb

Patriot Family
Mar 5, 2015 - 1:54am

We moved up to NE Washington

We moved up to NE Washington about 20 miles north of where Katie Rose is located. In fact I blame her for our decision to move here (in a really good way ;) ). KR coached us quite a bit on what to look for and we finally bought a 30 acre property with a house, couple of larger outbuildings and a productive garden area. I will be spending the next several weekends selecting fruit and nut trees, berry bushes and installing garden structures to support vining plants. Water is good with a 15 gpm well that we are planning to hook up to solar. We are also fencing in a 1/2 acre chicken pasture next month.

One of the things we learned - test your water!!! A couple of the properties we were interested in would probably have turned us into cancer factories a decade or two down the road, along with kidney and liver problems (mostly from naturally occurring materials in the soil around the water source like uranium). Don't simply use the sniff/taste test. Source the water directly at the well head and not after it is filtered in any manner. The house we settled on offers very clean water from the local aquifer, and although we are in mountainous terrain our well is only about 100 feet deep.

Also look at the frequency of forest / brush fires in your area. We are making immediate investments in firefighting equipment with neighbors. Thankfully the previous home owner cleared all trees and brush within hundreds of feet of the house.

We didn't buy this outright like Dr. Jerome but we got a pretty good deal and very low mortgage interest rates.

boomer sooner
Mar 5, 2015 - 11:59pm

Late to the Party

First of all, thanks Dr J for another great article. Most of what you said is buried in my brain, thanks for putting it on digital paper. Great review.

The county websites around here are the places to trace info. Only problem is you have to know which site will give what information. County assessor, County clerk, County Court Clerk, County Treasurer. It is nice to sit in my truck in front of a property and find out the day/price of the last sale, how much the loan was for, what kind of loan, any 2nd's or 3rd's (amount, date, institutions), taxes on property (up to date or behind), foreclosed or just sitting because the bank doesn't want to show on balance sheet. If you scan the refs. on types of loans at the County Clerks site, you can see whether the people paid of one and rolled to another and another and another. On a bankruptcy you can see which bank filed, then call the court clerk and find out how much the filing was for.

My personal pet peeve are inspections. DO NOT hire an inspection company!!! Find competent trades (plumber, electrician, hvac, water well, foundation) people (if not from the area, ASK for some references). Most inspection service companies I am familiar with charge $300-500 and spend 2-3 hours at the property (and most do not know sheet when dealing with rural). They do not guarantee their work! Oops, sorry missed that. Tradesmen may miss something (no guarantee either) but will work with you on the repair for their mistake. Too many unknowns and too many $$$ if you want perfect. Most tradesmen will charge a service call or flat hourly rate and usually it will work out even with the price of an inspection service, but you actually had someone that is licensed in that field and performs the repairs on a daily basis. I have found the estimates from the inspection cos. to be off by a fair amount, too much and not enough.

Now title work. Attorneys have a field they specialize in. Find one that does title work (ask the county clerk). I have had more headaches with title work than any one thing when purchasing a property, before and AFTER the completion of the sale. Oh, did I mention, the title attorney DOES NOT GUARANTEE HIS/HER WORK EITHER!!!

Forgot to mention surveyor. Make damn sure they mark the pins CLEARLY. Then go out for yourself and site the lines, pull your own string if you question a boundry. I had one that had a retaining wall built over the line, but the surveyor said in wasn't. He even got out a transit and said the line was ok. We met, I pulled out my string, he held one end while I walked to the far end, pulled that sucker tight and what do ya know, over the freakin line!!! OOPS. Now to deal with variance and neighbor AFTER the purchase. Double, triple check easements. This part of the property is off limits for permanent construction and sucks for so called "moveable" buildings. Can't tell you how many times an outbuilding (with a slab floor) was built over the electrical, cable and sewer lines buried beneath. Backhoe will move it tho, no problem. And if you neighbors connection runs under your building, sucks to be you.

Needless to say, there are no guarantees when dealing with property and if someone says they do, read the fine print. You will find out what Corzined means if you have not experienced.

boomer sooner
Mar 6, 2015 - 1:31am

Water Wells

Personally, I love most water wells. Its mine and I can pump as much as I want, till it runs out. Bonus is a property that has a muni connection available and a well. Do not try and connect the two at the same time. I hear "I'm on a septic tank, so what's the big deal". Municipal's do not like your untreated water to run or siphon back into their lines in a municipal line break situation. I saw one where the muni shut off the main and the hole kept filling. Turned out a neighbor had his well hooked up to the municipal line right in the front yard, no isolation valve on either. Backhoe fixed that issue in a hurry.

Now the question is; how good is the well. Good means a lot of things. Overall well depth, water depth in the well, gallons per minute (depends on whether from a spigot or directly off the well head), pressure, duration of water flow, quality.

Overall well depth. If someone says they "think" the well is xxx feet. Find out yourself. Big difference in 100' and 300'. I can hand pull easily up to 180'. Back up the truck, tie the rope off to the hitch and haul away. 200'+ no way, call someone with a puller. To find out how deep is the well, I carry a fishing pole with a decent weight on the end (only one eyelet, short pole). Drop on down till it stops. Now walk it out, do not reel. Careful not to snag the pump or any lines. Once out, measure or walk off. Typical step is ~3' so get some exercise.

Water depth is very critical for duration of water available. To find water depth in the well (casing), stand over top with fishing pole and drop down till you hear PLOOP. Once that is found, bounce the weight and you can feel the top of the water. Mark that spot at the top of the casing, good tape or tie a loop. Now drop to bottom of well. Mark that spot. Walk the line back out of the well and measure the distance between the marks. Around here, wells are typically 140'-250'. Good water depth is 60' to 90'. The casing acts as a holding tank and does not rely as much on the water flowing in. The more water in the casing, usually the less "grit" in the water.

Gallons per minute. Checking gpm is tricky because a lot depends on size of pump, size of pipe, how far away you are from the well, pressure. I always check as close to the well as possible, sometimes even taking the top off at the well and let'er pump. Find out in a hurry that way. Oh, bring a couple of 5 gallon buckets. If you can find a hydrant on the line from the well, use that. Take 2 5 gallon buckets and a short 3/4" hose (2') and turn on full blast. Fill one bucket and switch to other once filled, kick over the full one and be ready to come back as soon and the second is full. Do this as many times as the size of the pressure tank + 25%. You want to get the pressure tank running on the edge of empty, otherwise you are getting water that is in holding and not being pumped. Most pressure tanks are 16"x48" and with proper air set will have a draw down of 10-15 gallons, depending on the pressure switch setting. Now with the tank empty and the water flowing, check your watch and fill one bucket then the other and back as necessary. Add it up in a minute and you are pretty close.

Duration. When you get to a location, hook up a short hose and set where you can glimpse to see if still running as you inspect the property. It is good to do this while checking the water flow in the house so you can see if there is enough water to use on the garden and take a shower at the same time. Hopefully, yes, and an hour later when you leave the water is still flowing a good stream.

Pressure. Stop by the hardware store and pick up a gauge that screws on a hose fitting. Make sure it is a hose fitting, a NPT female will not screw on with out messing up the threads and leaking. Do not trust the gauge at the pressure tank/switch. Usually they are full of junk and do not read accurately. After you have purchased the property, buy a new gauge and install. Now hook up the gauge on a hydrant/spigot and turn on. This will tell you the current pressure. To check and see if the pressure switch is working properly, leave the gauge and spigot on and go turn on another spigot or bathtub faucet. Go back and watch the gauge and it will go down to a certain point and then back up and so on. Normal gauge purchased is factory set at 20/40 (very low pressure in my experience). Next factory set is 30/50 (average pressure, but can hang on the low side). Next is 40/60 (best one to install). The 40/60 can be adjusted down to 30 psi and up to ~80 psi on the high side. Now there are 2 posts inside the pressure switch for adjustment (no, the tall one is not the high side of pressure and the short the low), to mess with either, call a professional or tag me and I will explain. BTW, always use BRASS pipe and fittings when dealing with the switch, check valve, gauge. Steel or iron will rust and the threads become worn and will not work in 5 years. Galvanized will do the same, but takes a little longer. Steel, iron, galvanized will corrode on the inside and will sluff off particles that will fill the small orifices of the switch/gauge and will lock open the check valve. Plastic is good, schedule 40 or 80, no thinwall. Brass is best ($$$). If DIY, spend the fiat, or you will later.

Quality. Could go one for hours here. I have seen water that could plug a dam hole to seeing water literally eat copper piping. I have a customer that installed 24k Gold plated faucets in the bathroom (from Greece no less!!). 2 lavatory and the roman tub. In less than a year, the water "ate" the finish off the lavatory faucets. The customer sent back thinking the plating was bad, but turned out the water was the issue. Municipal water at that. Small community well system. No testing was done because the water was a Municipal system. Turns out that the customer built an entire room for the treatment equipment to counter the municipal water "treatment". So just because its deemed "safe", check it anyway. Most county health dept. do basic tests; bacteria, nitrates, silt density, hardness (either grains or ppm), but do not get into the nitty gritty (nitrites, natural sodium, bicarbonate, ect). A good water test is a must on a well that you know nothing about. Most professional testing facilities are $100-300, but peace of mind is priceless. Deal with the quality after you know what the issues are. Buying big box products and installing is like taking scripts and not going to the doc.

If more is wanted, let me know. Now off to listen to Thursday podcast. Up or down? my vote - both. Just hope up is the latter. Stackin either way.

Patriot Family
Mar 16, 2015 - 5:16pm

One more piece of advice...

Be very careful to research easements on any property you buy. We have one road going through our property that allows others to reach their homesteads. We are fine with that as long as they are respectful, don't tear up the road during mud season, and help pay the costs of maintenance. It is an official easement. Be extremely careful about prescriptive easements. There is a guy who built his unimproved access road/driveway across our property lines up at the top of the hill behind us, and nobody challenged him. The prior owner of our property was an elderly lady who never went up that way. So now he has a provable prescriptive easement. I'd like to know what happened to that timber when he built it, as it was old growth and how property flags got mysteriously "moved". We are offering to move the driveway so our property lines run right down the middle of it. Except I get to keep the timber that is removed in the process this time. We have another ATV trail that runs through our property based on an old undocumented timber road. This is getting blocked off. There are no recorded easements, and it does not meet the definition of a prescriptive easement. If the ATV riders ignore the no trespassing signs and somehow get though the barriers we are installing, they'll find me right in the middle of the trail with a gun on my hip (open carry is legal here) and a cell phone ready to dial the county sheriff. These guys represent a real fire hazard in the middle summer heat and I don't want the sound of ATVs that close to my home. I have a neighbor who has a deuce and a half who went up there without permission just to "make the road looks used to make subdividing our property easier in the future" and that has to stop, too. As you look at properties, you must carefully research recorded easements, and look for prescriptive easements where people are trying to lay some sort of claim through your property. Happens ALL the time and you need to catch it when it happens in order to stop it. Seems to happen up here when owners aren't present or selling their property. It's difficult to prove a neighbor didn't do something 3 months ago vs. 5 years ago unless you have access to DNR or county aerial surveys. Also, it's a really good idea to survey your property and pay the contractor to place recorded markers. We are replacing our markers with concrete posts that would be extremely difficult to move without heavy equipment. One of our neighbors will raise hell when he sees this (we've heard he believes he owns our property on the other side of the easement road, and he wants the buyers of his property to think the same thing). At issue is an Artesian spring we'd like to cap and provide a second source of water to our home and gardens which is a huge advantage in the mountains. If you don't survey, you are in for an expensive legal battle. Hope this helps!

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