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HOT TOPIC Buy land and build Off-Grid home in California - Is it Possible on a Budget?

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PizzaOnTheRoof

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Unless there has been technological changes, ac's won't work with solar. I grew up in San Diego and never had air conditioning in the 41 years I was there. But the farther you get away from the coast, the hotter it gets.

100k seems light. I have a lot in Utah that I want to develop. For starters, looking at 100k to get driveway, well, electricity and septic. I realize you don't need electricity but solar definitely has a cost.

It'll be tight. Is it possible to up the budget and make a nicer place?
Depends on the AC and size of the house, battery bank, and panel output.

My dad built a small cabin running off of 6 panels and can run the AC unit all day with only 2 batteries.

Fortunately the hottest days are usually the sunniest too.

He also has a 220 gal water tank with a 12v pump for water pressure. Runs off of it’s own deep cycle battery and panel. Fills the tank up once a week.
 
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MJ DeMarco

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Umm we need to talk haha. I have been looking at houses in Sedona so I can gauge the market to see if it comes down where I would make an offer. While looking though the same idea came up about buying some land and building 2-5 smaller houses on it. I would turn them into vacation rentals with the ability to make one come available whenever I want to stay there a month.

I own 11 elevated acres in Sedona in an unincorporated "low touristy" area with no HOA. It is wide open space and mostly farms.

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The land I own would be "perfect" for your vacation idea concept one issue: If you attempted to do this there, you'd get run out of the neighborhood and the county would prevent it.

In fact, we already had one developer attempt to put up a "glamping" operation -- myself and the neighbors fought the development for nearly a year, scaring the developer away.


Any type of vacation operation here in Sedona, either from an individual or a corporation, will not be easy to deploy in the wide open spaces ... that is better suited for a condo or a house in a neighborhood, provided the CC&R's allow it. If so, prepared for a fight from all types of entities: Neighbors, county zoning, HOA regs, etc.

My intent with this land is not a tent or a small house, it is a log cabin that will probably cost upward of $2M... so it is in my interest, as well as other homeowners, not to have tourists coming and going in tents, shipping containers, or homes on trailers. I know, sounds a bit snooty, but there's a reason why people live out here in the sticks, miles away from the main road. Any area not already "infected" by tourists is a place that would be defended.
 

AceVentures

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Here is an option. Upfront cost might be higher depending on how you want it built, with energy savings on the backend. Needs to be tailored for the area being built. The guy they credit built his first outside of Taos NM.
View: https://youtu.be/oTU2KlwOnQw

Went off on an earthship binge on YouTube - I absolutely love the concept. I doubt California would approve permits for a build like this - such a shame as it seems regulatory is whats holding back this idea from growing bigger.

But elsewhere, seems like people are building really unique structures in all kinds of climates. Thanks for sharing man, I like this concepy infinitely more than container home designs.
 

GIlman

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In Yuma, I actually bought 52 acres. My house is only going to take up 5 acres. The remainder of the land is in the process of being parceled up and sold. Not including the house itself, I paid about 250K for 50 acres. The parcels should gross me about 1.1M. Cost to put in a road, pay for engineering, and all the other misc should cost me about 100K. Don't know how long it will take me to sell all 6 of the parcels. One should be sold this week though.

So the idea of splitting lots to make money is a valid idea. Not for the faint of heart though.

The reason the cost is so high in Utah is that I want the house well off of the road. It is already at the end of a road but seclusion is desired. The driveway and electricity will be a challenge. The property is almost all giant boulders which will add costs. So, you might be able to get away with less depending on the circumstances. That is part of your due diligence though. Tie the property up with a contract and then determine the costs. You can always let it go at no cost to you as long as you are within the inspection period in the contract.

If you want to keep it without power (full solar with generator backup), you can use a swamp cooler. That depends on what you will be comfortable with.

I personally feel that less expensive improvements on a lot may diminish your overall return. I do understand your goal here is to live cheap.

@SteveO what part of Utah?
 

G-Man

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A lot of it depends on what you want. This dude built his for 30k.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0oFJ2jbkDI


Earth bermed keeps AC need low. There is nothing scenic or luxurious about it. It's two containers buried in the dirt. Late in the video the interviewer asks him about code, and his response is along the lines of "The code inspector came, and said "we don't really have codes for this", so they just left us alone." Basically, if you live in a rural area you might win the code inspector lottery like this guy, but I wouldn't plan around it.

@standrews00 owns part of a company that does some non-traditional construction, and might be able to add.
 

Bigguns50

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I own 11 elevated acres in Sedona in an unincorporated "low touristy" area with no HOA. It is wide open space and mostly farms.
If this is where I think it is....I've eyed this area for a while. Too far out for tourists or business. Nice and private and the prices are decent for the area. Bordering the National Forest is a bonus if you can.

Land in Williams,AZ (Coconino County) is really cheap...of course, you have to have water delivered or collect and store it yourself. Not for me, but you could probably put a Tiny Home / Container, etc. there.
 

PizzaOnTheRoof

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A lot of it depends on what you want. This dude built his for 30k.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0oFJ2jbkDI


Earth bermed keeps AC need low. There is nothing scenic or luxurious about it. It's two containers buried in the dirt. Late in the video the interviewer asks him about code, and his response is along the lines of "The code inspector came, and said "we don't really have codes for this", so they just left us alone." Basically, if you live in a rural area you might win the code inspector lottery like this guy, but I wouldn't plan around it.

@standrews00 owns part of a company that does some non-traditional construction, and might be able to add.
I wonder how common that is? I mean they really might not have any codes for a buried shipping container.

What do they even do in this type of situation?

Disclaimer: I know nothing about building codes.
 

G-Man

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I wonder how common that is? I mean they really might not have any codes for a buried shipping container.

What do they even do in this type of situation?

Disclaimer: I know nothing about building codes.
It's probably relatively common in rural areas. Don't ask don't tell sort of thing. But it's a big risk if you get the wrong guy, or catch an inspector when he's having a bad day. We've had that experience a lot with Fire Marshals and city commercial code inspectors. There's a lot of variances between different counties and municipalities, and even between the inspectors themselves.

I've had everything from "You really can't have a bunch of pallets in the parking lot. Maybe we say I didn't actually come by here till next Tuesday morning, and maybe I don't see the pallets then, and I only drive this neighborhood about once a month" to "I'm coming back this afternoon, and if that stuff isn't out, I'm fining you and I have the authority to blah blah blah blah".

Perhaps instead of lottery I should have said "Russian roulette".
 

ChrisV

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This guy built an off-the-grid solar cabin for ~$2000


It only costs ~$200/yr in propane.

He has a .pdf on his site and a YouTube Channel.

So yes, I'd certainly say it's possible to do for 100k.
 

Sethamus

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Went off on an earthship binge on YouTube - I absolutely love the concept. I doubt California would approve permits for a build like this - such a shame as it seems regulatory is whats holding back this idea from growing bigger.

But elsewhere, seems like people are building really unique structures in all kinds of climates. Thanks for sharing man, I like this concepy infinitely more than container home designs.
If you are looking at northern Cal, maybe just find some land right across state lines and still close to everything you want.


I own 11 elevated acres in Sedona in an unincorporated "low touristy" area with no HOA. It is wide open space and mostly farms.

View attachment 32694

View attachment 32695View attachment 32696

View attachment 32697

The land I own would be "perfect" for your vacation idea concept one issue: If you attempted to do this there, you'd get run out of the neighborhood and the county would prevent it.

In fact, we already had one developer attempt to put up a "glamping" operation -- myself and the neighbors fought the development for nearly a year, scaring the developer away.


Any type of vacation operation here in Sedona, either from an individual or a corporation, will not be easy to deploy in the wide open spaces ... that is better suited for a condo or a house in a neighborhood, provided the CC&R's allow it. If so, prepared for a fight from all types of entities: Neighbors, county zoning, HOA regs, etc.

My intent with this land is not a tent or a small house, it is a log cabin that will probably cost upward of $2M... so it is in my interest, as well as other homeowners, not to have tourists coming and going in tents, shipping containers, or homes on trailers. I know, sounds a bit snooty, but there's a reason why people live out here in the sticks, miles away from the main road. Any area not already "infected" by tourists is a place that would be defended.

That would be perfect, thanks for offering to sell an acre to me:playful:

I looked at some land (listed) and nothing catching my eye except the ones way outside of my price range. Looks like I’ll be going the single family house route at least in that area if prices come down. Trying to watch a couple different areas that I’m interested in and haven’t narrowed it down yet.
 

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I own 11 elevated acres in Sedona in an unincorporated "low touristy" area with no HOA. It is wide open space and mostly farms.

View attachment 32694

View attachment 32695View attachment 32696

View attachment 32697

The land I own would be "perfect" for your vacation idea concept one issue: If you attempted to do this there, you'd get run out of the neighborhood and the county would prevent it.

In fact, we already had one developer attempt to put up a "glamping" operation -- myself and the neighbors fought the development for nearly a year, scaring the developer away.


Any type of vacation operation here in Sedona, either from an individual or a corporation, will not be easy to deploy in the wide open spaces ... that is better suited for a condo or a house in a neighborhood, provided the CC&R's allow it. If so, prepared for a fight from all types of entities: Neighbors, county zoning, HOA regs, etc.

My intent with this land is not a tent or a small house, it is a log cabin that will probably cost upward of $2M... so it is in my interest, as well as other homeowners, not to have tourists coming and going in tents, shipping containers, or homes on trailers. I know, sounds a bit snooty, but there's a reason why people live out here in the sticks, miles away from the main road. Any area not already "infected" by tourists is a place that would be defended.

Looks awesome. I'm getting the 5 acres next to you to put up my container home, right on the property line!
 

MJ DeMarco

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Looks awesome. I'm getting the 5 acres next to you to put up my container home, right on the property line!

Sorry, I border the National Forest, you are out of luck. :rofl:
 

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Totally *possible* - check out near Fortuna, for example. But.... socially. Socially, Northern California is a very different kettle of fish. If you're used to city life, the culture shock is a really big deal (I moved from Boston to rural Oregon...).

Also, many places where land is cheap are places where resources like food and gas are expensive, because you're miles from anywhere.
 

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Done correctly, it would be possible to pay for this with a youtube channel. There are a lot of channels out there, and if done well, some have pretty high view counts. Same for "van life" type channels.

There's a lot of grabby headlines like "couple quit job to live off grid", that is a combination of genuine DIY interest and escapism.

Not sure what the formula for a successful channel is. Having an attractive wife or gf that will work a chainsaw in a tubetop, and using the still for the video tile, seems to drive views. Ask me how i know :rofl:
 

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Sethamus

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Still looking into this?
In my vacation rental research I came across Quonset house plans. Some rental equipment and a few guys and you can diy. I also had looked into pre fab A frames that ship from both US and Northern EU and come with full furnishingsfor a decent price depending on size.
 

Kal-El1998

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Not gonna lie, didn't read all the replies. But it'd be dope if you could. I know I have a similar goal someday, but probably either here in the midwest, kentucky, or the plains.
 

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