This article has been contributed by Joel Skousen and the Strategic Relocation For Sale By Owner web site. Joel is one of the world’s foremost experts on survival retreats, relocation and home security. He is the author of the widely popular Strategic Relocation guide and The Secure Home.
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This week I’ll take a break from discussing individual strategic locations and talk about two common frustrations that confront would-be retreat seekers that often goes unfulfilled—the desire to find 1) an already established Prepper community of like-minded people, and 2) a complete and functioning retreat in the area of their interest.
With over 40 years experience consulting in this area I usually have to tell clients that the first is nigh unto impossible and the second, though possible, is very rare. And, when finished retreats do come on the market, the location, cost, or style often doesn’t match the client’s personal criteria. Let me break down these two difficult issues one by one.
Like Minded Communities: The main reason this idea constitutes “the impossible dream” is that the desire to be prepared is about the only thing preppers have in common—everything else is all over the map. Preppers are generally an independent, opinionated lot, and it doesn’t take much to cause divisions. It’s the inherent disadvantage I’ve long observed behind conservatives vs liberals—it only take one thing in common to unite liberals and one major difference to divide conservatives. Most preppers are conservative and inherently more strict in their principles and preferences—which leads to this predilection for separation from those we differ with.
I can also generalize in saying that most people who are aware of the nation’s problems with socialism and globalist control have traditionally been conservatives but also below average in wealth. Only in the past few years have people of strong financial resources decided that the establishment is headed for disaster and joined the movement. But this growing disparity in financial resources makes it even more difficult for groups to work well together. The lesser endowed sometimes feel that those in the group with more money have an obligation to bail out the community when funds run short. This too leads to the break up of communities that start out with common goals.
The first of the big like-minded Prepper communities to form and fail was the movement surrounding Col. Bo Gritz who established a survival community in Kamiah, Idaho, called Almost Heaven. Gritz was a former Green Beret officer and presidential candidate who championed many conservative causes, some credible and some not. He was high profile, head strong and very controversial, which is not good for maintaining a low profile as a Prepper leader. Eventually financial and personal schisms developed within the hundreds of families who had moved to Idaho to be part of this like-minded community. Many eventually sold out and moved away. Some remain, but they now operate as individuals with informal relationships with others they trust and get along with—which, in my opinion, is the only thing that really works anyway.
Instead of finding a “like minded community” find a basic rural, conservative community with good values and then find those few families who you really click with, and develop informal relationships of mutual support. This is done by attending churches, or local political organizations to find those you connect with. And, it’s actually better NOT to buy land contiguous to each other to avoid be labeled as a “compound.”
Be aware too that locals in any area have their “good ‘ol boys” network that control local politics. They always resent newcomers moving in who have uniform political views—or any group ideological agenda. When the Rajneesh sect moved into Antelope Oregon in the 80s and started to threaten the local county control system with their increasing numbers, hostilities arose and they were eventually forced out.
I run across modern day development attempts all the time where a small group of preppers try to establish a Prepper housing development of like-minded people. They almost always fail and there are several good reasons:
- They pick a name like the “Citadel” or “Fortress” which gives the locals the idea that they are militaristic in orientation—with walled cities. Not good for public relations.
- The promoters have to advertize the security features of the development in order to sell the idea to other preppers, which then compromises that same security because everyone knows about them. Guess where the locals are going to come in a crisis?
- Because these developments cater to a very narrow market (preppers) they almost never can get the financing up front to develop all the roads, sewers, electricity and other infrastructure. Instead, they draw up fancy plans promoting the finished product and ask people to buy lots based upon future infrastructure. Often these developers burn up the advance money taken in with administrative expenses and never fulfill their promises, leaving advance purchasers high and dry.
- The locals resent any powerful minority moving into the area, and rumors start flying which builds hostility. You can keep a low profile as an individual but not if you’re part of a large group that is somewhat vocal about their preparedness intentions.
Finding a Ready-Made Retreat: The difficulties are numerous with this approach. First, the number of finished retreats that are properly implemented are few in number to start with. Second, when they do come available the location rarely matches the prospective buyer’s idea of where he wants to be. And, third, most places advertized as ready- made retreats haven’t really implemented the full range of facilities necessary to do the job. Let’s review some of these criteria:
- The home and land has to be in a fairly highly rated area, but even more important is the specific siting of the home on the property. It should be rural, and generally concealed from view by trees and/or terrain, and thus, not directly visible from any primary or secondary roads. This is especially important if you intend to grow food in a long-term famine where it security of the garden area from theft is essential.
- Most retreats lack the most important element on the list—a concealed safe room or shelter. I never use the word “bunker” and you shouldn’t either. Most things like alternate energy sources can be added to a house, but if the house hasn’t been designed with a shelter accessible from inside the house, it’s often difficult and costly to add it later on. This almost always requires below ground construction, so I almost always reject properties that don’t have basement potential. I’m also not a big fan of prefab buried shelters because the entrance and vent pipes are exposed and vulnerable to a variety of security threats—the worst of which is trying to access the shelter in a crisis by crossing open ground. Concealment of a safe room or shelter is important to not only safeguard your stockpiles from theft (and possible government confiscation, labeled as “hoarding”) but to give you the option to hide yourself or others from security threats you choose not to confront with armed defense. Shelters also need a secondary escape exit.
- Alternative sources of water. I like to see two sources such as a well or gravity fed spring plus some significant water storage either in tanks or in a cistern. Wells need to have backup power or a manual pumping option to make sure they operate in a crisis.
- Alternative energy. The retreat needs a generator and fuel supply coupled with a battery/inverter back system as a minimum. Solar is great, but you can also simply keep a battery bank charged with utility power or a generator. The battery/inverter pack keeps you from having to run the generator all day long.
- Alternative sources of space and water heating. I like to see 3 types: gas (or LPG), electricity, and wood. A wood stove is the best all-around backup heating option where wood sources exist, and with an added heating coil you can have hot water in the winter too. Solar hot water heating systems are viable in most places.
- Security features: The more isolated a retreat or cabin (where break-ins are likely and go undiscovered for months), the more you have to provide security on walls, windows and doors, to ensure the retreat and its contents are going to be there when you need them. Exterior 14 gauge steel doors in steel jambs are important, and window shuttering systems (or Shatterguard vinyl lining) where possible if really isolated. While window security is too expensive for most people, at least having your valuables and stores in a concealed saferoom ensures that even if broken into, your essentials will still be there waiting for you. Modern day security systems such as ELK provide the ability to monitor your home and cameras via the internet.
There are others I could mention, but you get the idea. Another problem in finding a ready- made retreat is finding one that has not been compromised by unwise advertizing. If the property has special security features, especially a built-in shelter, it’s important not to publish the actual location, but only reveal it to the few qualified buyers who are willing to travel to see the property in order to have that location revealed. Otherwise, the poor buyer is buying a retreat that hundreds of people have seen advertized, including its address. This eagerness to sell comes at the expense of the buyer’s privacy.
You also have to consider resale value. I know everyone says the retreat home they build is going to never be sold, but circumstances sometimes dictate a sale. The tendency of people with lots of money is to build a retreat home as an underground home or dome home, thinking they are more secure or energy efficient. But this is rarely true. Despite initial claims underground and dome homes turn out to be very expensive and have security liabilities in that their vent pipes are accessible at ground level. And, they have severe resale problems. The number of buyers willing to consider an underground or dome home is reduced to less than 5%. I remember a Colorado underground high security home costing millions that was on the market for years before selling, and the owner lost over half his investment. Dome or underground homes are also too high profile. For this reason, I prefer conventional looking homes that have all the high security and self-sufficiency features implemented in ways that aren’t obvious.
Finally, as to costs for ready- made retreat homes, let me give you some general guidelines. First, you are going to have to pay a premium for the hidden features of the home. Don’t expect to buy for the same price as a comparable conventional home—that’s not fair to the person who has done it right and taken great pains to conceal the valuable features of the high security home. Although the sky’s the limit on expensive equipment you can put into a high security home, as a general rule, it costs about 25-33% more. For a moderate sized home it costs about $100K -150k more for a shelter/safe room under a garage, a medium sized solar and generating system, underground fuel tanks, and alternate heating equipment. Appraisers don’t even know how to evaluate these things–and if the seller is smart, he won’t reveal them to appraisers.
How can you locate existing retreat properties? Fortunately, these folks now specialize in the American Redoubt and can also refer you to approved Prepper Realtors anywhere in the United Sates and Costa Rica contact United Country-Strategic Relocation Realty. Happy hunting. Joel.
Survival Retreat Consulting: Commenting on retreat purchases with other friends, families or trying to start a group to purchase a parcel of land; Beware. Not having one single person in charge of both the search, selection and purchasing the property through an LLC with the entire legal framework in place is a waste of time. It’ll never happen and most likely end up in a court battle and lost friendships. Choose one lead dog and let that person get it done on behalf of the group. -Todd Savage
This article has been contributed by Joel Skousen and the Strategic Relocation For Sale By Owner web site.