Whether you want more privacy, want to live a more eco-conscious life, or simply enjoy the challenge of providing for yourself, there are lots of great reasons to consider living off the grid.
Regardless of your reason, choosing to live off grid is not a project you should take on casually.
There will be lots of work involved, and the location you choose for your homestead can make your life much harder, or much easier.
The 10 Best States for Off Grid Homesteading are
- North Carolina
In the rest of this article I will give you the information you need to help you avoid some of the major location pitfalls experienced by new homesteaders! We will go through many of the advantages and disadvantages of each of these most homesteading friendly states.
With more and more Americans gaining interest in living off the grid, the community of like-minded people is growing, but the prime real estate to do so is shrinking. And in general, the cost of land rises every year–so the sooner you’ve done your research on homesteading, the better!
Factors to consider when choosing an off the grid location
For many, the first thing they consider when deciding where to live off the grid is the weather. If you’re not connected to the municipal electrical grid, that means you need to make your own electricity.
Aside from operating your own tiny coal mine (not feasible), most people will turn to renewable energy sources like wind or solar. Choosing wind or solar energy naturally means you need a location with enough sunny or windy days.
There are maps of the United States online which show which areas of the country are best suited to these types of alternative energy and in fact many off gridders use both.
But there are many, many other factors to think about besides the weather.
Cost of Land
The more land you can afford to buy the more space you have for crops or additional buildings like barns. The type of land you purchase will affect the price. For example, in 2019 the average cost per acre of “farmland” (excluding cropland and pastures) was $3,160, while the average cost for an acre of cropland was $4,100. The cost of pasture was quite a bit cheaper, at about $1,400 per acre in 2019.
The cost of land is constantly fluctuating and varies dramatically by state. For example, and acre of farmland in California is about $10,000, whereas in New Mexico the average is $570.
Land without buildings on it will be cheaper than those with buildings. On average the cost of land rises by a small amount every year.
Some municipalities may charge fees if you disconnect from the sewer and electrical grid. There may be building codes or even laws stating which building materials you can use.
Keep in mind that these laws, especially the latter ones, are put in place to keep people safe, so even if you aren’t required to obey the laws, it may be beneficial to know what they are. That said, rural areas typically have fewer restrictions on building than urban ones.
A property tax is—as the name suggests—a tax on your property. It is calculated based on the cost of your land, or in some areas, on the value of your home. Unfortunately, you need to pay property taxes every year, and these will affect whether the land is affordable to live on long term.
The average property tax in the United States in 2020 was 1.11%. This comes out to an average of $2,471 per household.
Most people who want to live off the grid don’t want close neighbors, but to each his own.
Quality of the Land
If you want to grow things on your land, make sure the soil is suited for it. Access to water is another critical asset you’ll want to assess as you consider a parcel for purchase. Keep in mind local laws regarding water can be very strict. Just because your property is near a lake, doesn’t mean you have the right to use the water.
Likewise, collecting rainwater—or rainwater harvesting as it’s called—is illegal in some states. That’s right. Just because the rain falls over your house doesn’t necessarily give you a right to use it by law. This, however, is not a law everywhere, and there are many states where rainwater harvesting is legal.
No one wants to have to deal with natural disasters, but especially if you’re a city unto yourself. Natural disasters alone are the reasons I left California, Florida, and Oklahoma off this list. Similarly, owning property with a river running through it might seem like an obviously good choice, until you do some research on how often the river floods.
Cost of Living
No homesteader can fully rely on him/herself immediately. You’ll want to consider the general cost of living as well for all the items you can’t provide for yourself.
Sense of Community
Living off the grid may seem extreme to city people, or even some rural folks too. Having a community of people nearby who appreciate your lifestyle will make it easier to make friends and find help for especially big home projects.
In fact, there are established communities of off grid homesteaders all over the United States. If you don’t want living off grid to mean “total isolation,” one of these communities might be a good fit for you.
I have a random thought. I know you will probably think once I tell you this “where did that come from?” But when you live out in the country, there are often many mosquitoes. (See I told you you would probably not think of that!) Anyway people reading this article I wrote might be interested in our article entitled “DIY Mosquito Traps That Are Cheap to Make“. Shameless plug, I know! But there are really some great ideas in that article.
10 Best States For Off Grid Homesteading
Tennessee is one of the states with laws that protect homesteaders, as they see homesteading as part of their heritage. Tennessee has a decently long growing season and a mild climate. Generally, the land in Tennessee is fertile for growing crops and access to water usually isn’t an issue.
Tennessee has the one of the lowest property taxes on this list at 0.73% (and there are several states with rates lower than this not on the list). The average annual property tax is $1,490. Building code laws are also quite permissive in many places.
Tennessee also has very lax raw milk herd-sharing laws. Again, remember that those laws are generally in place for the protection of people’s health so as always, do your research.
Tennessee may be prone to the occasional tornado, but this varies by area.
There will be no shortage of fellow off gridders to become friends with if you choose to live in Maine. Maine’s population tends to be very eco-friendly and has lots of laws that permit off grid living. In many areas there are no laws requiring you to connect to the electrical grid and you often only need permits for your septic system.
In rural areas of the state the land is relatively cheap, however the property tax is above average; 1.36%. The average yearly property tax for Mainers is $2,515.
Maine is one of the most forested states in the country, so raw materials like timber and water are often easy to come by. Rainwater harvesting is legal in Maine. The growing season is short, although this can be remedied with a greenhouse.
Texas has a long growing season, and the land may be affordable in many locations. It also has a homestead exemption tax law, but the property taxes are ”Texas-sized” in Texas; 1.81% on average. Texas doesn’t have an income tax, so I guess they need to get their money from somewhere. The average annual property tax in Texas works out to $2,922.
If you live east of Dallas timber will likely be available, but most land west of Dallas is desert.
Two locations that are becoming known for their off grid community are East Texas Piney Woods, which is situated outside Houston (think hot and humid for average climate), and Canyon, Texas which is in the northern panhandle of the state (dry and hot).
Montana has affordable land, a small population and laws that are helpful to off gridders. The property tax on average is 0.84% and due to the affordable land, usually only costs Montanans about $1,835 per year. Cost of living, as you might guess by the cheap land, is also relatively low.
The growing season is shorter, but a greenhouse can help fix that problem. The windiness of the state may make it ideal for a wind turbine as an alternate energy source.
Again, depending on where in the state you choose, you may have either excellent grassland for growing things, or the availability of timber.
It is legal to live off grid in Alaska and you’ll find no shortage of building materials if you can deal with the weather. The short growing season will be a drawback, but again, a greenhouse might help to remedy that. Farming and gardening laws in Alaska are quite lax but you are required to provide warm housing for any animals you intend to keep. The abundance of hunting and fishing opportunities might also help make up for the difference as well.
Taxes tend to be very low in Alaska but remember property tax will be based on the price of the land. So the property tax of 1.18% in Alaska ends up costing the average Alaskan $3,136 per year; more than the average Texan pays at 1.81%. This is because the cost of land in Alaska is generally higher than in Texas.
However, not all municipalities charge property tax, and by and large Alaska doesn’t have an estate tax, income, sales, or inheritance tax.
Alaska is a huge state, and just like everywhere else, rural property will likely be cheaper than those closer to cities.
Keep in mind that how you access your property will be another issue in Alaska. Roads are not a given here and it is not uncommon for property owners to access their land by small plane.
Arizona, depending on where you go, can be scorching hot or mostly mild for the majority of the year. Land can be affordable depending on where you look, and property taxes are low; just 0.69%.
Of course, Arizona has lots of desert and water may be an issue. Remember, however, that there are areas of higher elevation with forests that receive almost 30’’ of rain per year. Helpfully, rainwater harvesting is legal in Arizona. For some quick math: the state averages about 13’’ of rain per year (That isn’t a lot). If you have 100 square feet of roof space, you could collect about 800 gallons of water per year.
There are not laws that specifically outlaw homesteading in Arizona but there will be long list of local building codes, so be sure to do your research.
Solar energy would be a great energy source in Arizona as it is one of the sunniest states in the Lower 48.
Like Maine, Vermont is another state where homesteading is a valued practice. You can even find Facebook groups dedicated to living off grid in Vermont. Unlike Arizona, in Vermont water will be one of the easier things to come by. Zoning laws in most counties in Vermont are open to homesteading, and access to building materials are likely plentiful.
There is lots of land in Vermont, and the rural areas tend to be affordable.
Property tax in Vermont is on average 1.88%, so quite a bit higher than average, and the annual cost based on property prices is $4,206.
Missouri is particularly friendly to living off the grid. It is most definitely legal to live off grid in Missouri; they offer a property tax exemption for homesteaders and there are also rebates for solar and wind systems. In Missouri it is legal to collect rainwater, however there may be strict septic system laws.
The climate in Missouri is mild and is known to be quite humid. The average summer and winter temperatures are 80 degrees and 29 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Average rainfall in Missouri is 40’’ of rain per year, but in the southern part of the state it can be closer to 45’’-55’’.
The cost of living in Missouri is low—about 15% lower than the national average—as is the cost of land, which is about 30% lower than the national average. The average property tax in Missouri is 0.97%, but due to the lower cost of land, this usually works out to about $1,987 a year for Missourians.
Missouri is rich in natural resources including water and timber and the quality of land is generally good as well. Some crops that grow particularly well in Missouri are wheat, apples, grapes, peaches, and watermelons.
The population of Missouri is low, particularly in southern Missouri.
Oregon, and especially the area around the Cascade Mountains, can be a great place to live off the grid.
Oregon has a lot of variability in terms of its climate. The mountain range that runs in the center of the state prevents moisture from the Pacific Ocean from reaching the eastern part of the state. For this reason, the eastern part of the state is significantly drier. Overall, however, Oregon is cold and fairly mild, with lots of rainfall. The average rainfall is 37’’ a year.
Average summer to winter temperatures in Oregon range from 75 degrees to 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are several established off grid communities in Oregon including the Three Rivers Recreation Area.
Property taxes in Oregon are just below the national average at 1.01%, but the cost of land can be a bit higher here, which leaves the average annual tax cost at $2,890.
10. North Carolina
As long as you’re away from the coast, the land will be affordable and pretty good quality. There is an established community of homesteaders in North Carolina.
Living off grid in North Carolina is legal, but in general the laws here on only moderately amenable to off gridders. North Carolina does have building codes that require an “approved” wastewater system, and these specifically do not include composting toilets, which suggests it may be difficult to disconnect from the municipal sewage system.
Rainwater collection, however, is totally legal.
Property tax in North Carolina is 0.85%, and the average annual tax comes out to $1,410.
Living off grid can be a challenging but rewarding endeavor. The best place for you to homestead will depend on a wide variety of factors particular to you. Your reason for living off grid, your income level, and your willingness to try new things are just a few.
I hope this guide provided a good base of information for you to continue your path to an off the grid lifestyle!