Living off the grid in Michigan - So you’re searching for more information about living off the grid in Michigan? How do you do it? What are the best practices? Is it legal? Is it not? Are there building codes and local regulations? All your questions answered, RIGHT HERE.
This blog is a direct transcript from the video below. This comes in 3 versions: You are able to watch the video, read the blog for your convenience or listen to the audio experience (which is linked under the video below).
Like I mentioned, In this video we are going to talk about living off the grid in Michigan. I have been getting countless emails, texts and comments ever since I put out my video about Buying Land in Michigan a couple years ago, asking about off the grid living in Michigan. You asked, and now you will receive.
With buying land, what other considerations are there when looking into living off the grid? Well, before I touch on the specifics, I’m going to hype Michigan up a little bit, not with bias, but some cold hard facts. Michigan is a cool place to live off the grid, there’s not an extensive amount of laws that keep you from doing it, as long as you respect local laws and building codes, but on top of that, Michigan has a lower cost of living than a lot of other states, and if you want to know more about Michigan’s cost of living, i’ll link a few videos below I created touching on just that.
Before you even start drawing up a cool off the grid structure you want to bring to life, bring these considerations to the markerboard before you get too far along the process, just to make sure it’s ACTUALLY something you want to do: Local regulations and laws (How strict are they? Are there heavier fees associated with disconnecting from the local grid? Is the local government trying to discourage you from off the grid living and making the process a living H-E-double hockey sticks) These are all things you want to figure out before you even consider submitting an offer on a piece of property.
Buying land and land prices. With Michigan’s cost of living being lower, real estate prices are lower and so are land prices, so you can chalk that up as a pro for doing this adventure in Michigan, but realize that with land, you truly get what you pay for. I might wear cool suits and have product in my hair, but I have had several clients where I laced up the ole Timberlands and walked acres and acres to layout their dreams and ambitions, and if there’s one thing I can say for certain, if it seems too good to be true, it definitely IS. Google Earth and pictures might make the parcel look drop dead gorgeous, but a lot of them are uninhabitable, meaning you can’t even build a structure on them. Essentially they are just pieces of hunting property. Another MUST when searching for land is keeping in mind the natural resources.
What does the land offer? Can you build on it? Is it in a solar permitting zone? Are the property taxes out of this world expensive? Does it perc? Can you put in a septic? Can you dig a well? And just like my buying land video, how deep do you have to dig? It’s important to get Realtors, septic and well companies along with the local municipality on speed dial with your questions, because if you buy a piece of land and realize it needs an engineered septic or you’re on a hill and have to dig 2-3x as far down, it adds up FAST if you go that route.
Another thing to heavily consider about living off the grid in Michigan is the weather and climate. Summers are hot and winters are very cold. So if you haven’t spent time in this state at all, before you dive into a project, stay at an Airbnb or hotel near your location of interest (if there are any) in the dead of winter to get a visual about how it truly is. This little weekend or week trip could save you from investing your hard earned money into an area you’re not particularly fond of.
The average rainfall annually in Michigan is roughly 32-37 inches and the snowfall ranges depending on where you are. In the southeast or thumb region, you could see 45-65 inches, the middle and west side of the state will see 65-90 inches, and northern Michigan going into the upper peninsula will range from 75 inches to about 170 depending on how north you go. I’ve heard a lot of people in Michigan who live off the grid harvest their own rainwater and have it stored in water tanks. That’s fairly common and something to keep in mind.
I touched on the water source, so now it makes sense to chat about the food source. If you’ve researched a little bit about how it works, you’d find out quickly that crops play a vital role in living off the grid. Makes sense, you don’t just go to the grocery store numerous times a week, because at that point is it really off the grid? In Michigan, we have great produce such as: cherries, apples, blueberries, corn, soybeans and wheat. Since the seasons in Michigan are all over the place, creating a nice greenhouse setup is a must. There are so many videos and articles out there that touch on creating your own greenhouses, adding power to them, and making raised beds, So i won’t go into the fine details of creating.
Another pro to Michigan is the diverse wildlife, but be sure to visit Michigan.gov to make sure you have the correct licenses and permits to do your hunting and fishing. Michigan is full of freshwater like I’ve mentioned numerous times, so that means an excessive amount of fish. There’s salmon, trout, perch, crappie, bass, just to name a few. On land, there’s deer, moose, birds, turkey, bears, and even cougars.
Hoping back to the considerations, another one to touch back on is property taxes. The last thing you’d want to do is move way off the grid just to pay an excessive amount in taxes. One way to get yourself a tax break is to take advantage of agricultural exemptions by submitting a request with Form 2599 (I will link in the description for you to take a look).
Okay so buying land, local regulations, Weather and climate, food and water, property taxes and now with all that in mind how in the world are supposed to power the thing?
There are a couple ways to do it, wind power or solar power. Wind power is simply generating power with wind turbines. As you drive through Michigan you’ll notice these are pretty common, and that’s because the state of Michigan is fairly windy and there are rebate options, incentives and even a federal tax credit you could look into as well depending on how deep you want to get into living off the grid.
Solar power obviously utilizes panels that are powered by the sun to generate electricity. There are also tax credits federally and a credit for simply investing in solar. Wind power tends to be the better option as solar doesn’t seem to be as efficient off the grid in Michigan summers from what I’ve heard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some time to look into both options (it’s actually heavily encouraged).
So what kind of off the grid home could you build in Michigan? Well, the options are endless from sheds, cabins, tiny homes, containers to Earthships, yurts, tents and even steel buildings. It’s just a matter of which option suits your wants and needs the best.
After saying all that, is living off the grid actually legal in Michigan? I’ve seen this question a lot and I think a lot of people who create information about living off the grid used it as a way to get attention, because you can definitely live off the grid in Michigan, it’s just a matter of following local laws and regulations. The story that tends to come from this question was about a couple who quit their full time jobs, sold their house and put a tiny cabin in the woods with no electricity or running water, and the issue was they didn’t have running water or a way to dispose of sewage, and that's a typical building code requirement. On top of that, they had a 200 square foot home which was considered to be too small in the township they were in. A lot of townships will enact an ordinance like that to eliminate the possibility of putting a single wide mobile home in their township. All of this could’ve been avoided if they would’ve just spoke to the county, but in their perspective, it makes sense because then it always feels like they have tabs on you and making sure you’re not doing anything wrong, so they took action themselves. Some cities and counties are more strict than others but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. The people who get in trouble for living off the grid are people who didn’t take the time to learn about the building codes. That’s why it’s very important to talk with the county and township to not only figure out what you can do, but what you can’t so you never have to face that ugly fate in the future.
With that in mind, what are the best places to live off the grid in Michigan? And before I answer this question, don’t get hung up on it so much, just get on board with the county, choose an area with a lower population and less snowfall in reference to the inches I mentioned earlier. Some areas to look into are the tip of the thumb, the northern tip of the upper peninsula, southwest side of the state near Paw Paw and Hartford, Jackson county and even areas along the southern border of Michigan and Ohio. As you can put together from the areas I’ve mentioned, it’s all over the state and there are people all over the state living off the grid, you just don’t always hear about it, because well, they are off the grid.
If you have any more questions about living off the grid in Michigan or just simply buying land, please don’t hesitate to reach out, I'm always happy to be your go-to Michigan resource. If you have any other video ideas you want me to touch on about Michigan, feel free to comment your ideas in the comments below.
Andrew McManamon is a Michigan REALTOR® with Signature Sotheby’s International Realty and provides real estate services to Buyers, Sellers and Investors throughout SE Michigan including Livingston County, Oakland County, Washtenaw County, Genesee County & beyond. Andrew has become one of the rising stars of Michigan real estate agents. Prior to his real estate career Andrew was responsible for managing a senior living facility in Brighton, Michigan as a dining supervisor and an activities assistant. Andrew’s passion to help people is unlike any other, and he continues to strive to be best resource he can be. Andrew graduated from Cleary University in Howell, Michigan with a double major and currently resides in White Lake, Michigan.