This page was last updated on Sunday, 13 April, 2014.

Migration to Haven Part 2


By Sue Moore
12 April, 2014
Part 2 of 2 Parts

At last we reach the exciting part. We were through with the buyers home inspections, lived through all the nail biting, had started to pack up our belongings in boxes and knew that the sale of our home was going to happen as scheduled. Everything was on track and the closing date was drawing closer. We felt a huge weight lift from our shoulders. My sweetheart was about to turn in his resignation letter at work what a feeling!

NOW we could allow ourselves to begin to focus our attention toward WHERE we would move and WHAT we were looking to buy. During our research on what we wanted out of the new chapter of our lives we realized that we did not want to live one place, and develop a retreat in another. We wanted most of our eggs in one basket so to speak. The one thing we both agreed on immediately was that we were going to live full time at what we call a bug out location. We felt this was the most viable option for us as we also want it to be our last home. Meaning that we plan to hunker down in the new home and ride out everything but maybe a forest fire or Russian invasion. Do not get me started talking about the rumors on that one.

Here are the steps we took after securing the sale of our home. I knew intuitively in this economy not to enter into a sales contract with my new home, before I was certain of the sale of my current one. It used to be commonplace to do that before the bubble crashed, but NOT anymore. I had heard too many recent horror stories. Although its a buyers market, there could be many a slip between the ring and the finger, so to speak, when YOUR buyers are trying to qualify for home loans nowadays. In other words, the market may be like a ripe plum for buyers but getting qualified for a mortgage is very hard. So let me put this part behind us now. The sale is going through and ratified by the realtors as all the paperwork for both sides and the bank were settled.

NOW I could pull out the mental drawer which held my hopes for creating a new chapter in our lives. I began to think about shopping for property. Where to begin? Fortunately, there is a lot already written about that right now. I knew from research that there is a lot to consider when deciding on what criteria I will use to narrow down properties that interest me.

I was starting to wake up. I no longer thought of geographic locations like a travel brochure. Slowly it dawned on me that crime was a real issue down in Florida, and that I really dont like the steamy hot summers that kept them inside as prisoners to their air conditioners like those trapped in the Northern snow in the winter. Remember when I talked about this being our original destination in part one of this article? No offense to Floridians of course, but I was beginning to change my mind after study later. But at this tentative point it fully dawned on me that we could be free, and as it sunk in I began to have new feelings that ran sort of wild.

We were in the enviable position of having the freedom to relocate anywhere we wished. ANYWHERE! I went a little overboard thinking about European and exotic locations. I began studying ex-pat communities in South America and the Caribbean. Spain even came to mind, also Chile, Belize, and Ecuador! I poured over exotic home listings which seemed affordable and requested more information online and via mail. I poured through pictures of listings and crunched numbers well into the night. I scoured the internet for stories about moving to each area I researched searching for both the positive and negative sides of the process. I mentally moved into a few of those listings and imagined what my life would be there. I figured financially it was doable if you dont count stamp taxes, and other prohibitive fees one learns about later when you actually start to contact their real estate agencies. Fortunately, I didnt have to get that far before I realized it wasnt for us. My sweetheart was also expressing negative concerns about this option and neither of us spoke a second language. Even though we desired to escape the impending woes of a crumbling society here in America and enjoy a lower cost of living, the cultural differences began to nag any positive thoughts about it.

Then the kicker came when I ordered Joel Skousens book Strategic Relocation. This was precisely the information I needed. I cannot say enough good things about this book. It is so amazingly comprehensive and useful. Very detailed regarding practical issues that become major stumbling blocks when you live in any particular area of this country or the world. It is a very TIMELY resource and one which I highly recommend. Make sure you buy the most up to date version and keep it as a reference later.

My sweetheart and I poured over the information regarding every aspect of living in areas we had only dreamed of visiting. We quickly determined that our suspicions about leaving the country and living abroad were not as rosy as some of the gleefully squealing expats describe. There is a lot of corruption and crime we would be unused to dealing with, particularly in the South American countries. The language barrier and cultural differences would single us out as foreign to the natives and native authorities immediately. There is so much danger in that I was only starting to comprehend.

We determined after reviewing all of the information that we probably could not enjoy better security heading into our retirement years than to remain in the United States even with the stressed economy and developing concerns about the rise of the police state and fall of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Our options were better to remain here. Phase one of the research was paying off. No longer did we drool over the economic relief offered by third world countries. Instead, we patted ourselves on the back for avoiding the possibilities of unchecked crime, kidnappings, and corrupt foreign governments. I am not saying that would be the experience most places, but you need only dig a bit deeper here and there for the horror stories. Try googling the recent John McAfee experience in Belize. Do not judge solely by the main stream medias interpretation but investigate his story from his own lips on alternative media. Also even the main stream media is rife with sad tales about kidnappings and worse. If we were younger, stronger and more adventurous maybe this information would not be as daunting as it is for us now.

Using the book we talked between ourselves about concerns both economic and strategic. As the questions formed in our minds we were delighted to find them easily answered in the hefty content of this tome. I also discovered that Alex Jones did an extensive interview with Joel Skousen about the book and we brought that up on You Tube to watch. Watching the video helped congeal our resolve and parsed the chapters quickly in our minds. My sweetheart and I gave each other furtive glances when new topics of unknown concern at the time were labeled and covered at length by Joel. After reviewing the entire film, we felt blitzed by all the new information, but also came away with the new realization that there is much more to consider than we previously thought.

I think we took a week to digest what we learned before we approached the trough for more. During our little mental hiatus the brain is always working. Mine was frantically sorting all the new topics and details. We held true to our feeling that living in the bug out location was number one. My sweetheart and I separately set to paper our needs and wishes for the future.

The first thing we knew we had to decide was WHERE. Where were we going to move. You may think thats simple but its not! Earlier we had decided on Florida. Now after reviewing Joels book, we had definitely changed our minds. The book had taken a pin to our bubble-headed notion of simply choosing a grass hut on a beach somewhere. Not that theres anything wrong with that as a vacation, mind you. Of course Im kidding about the grass hut, what we wanted was comfort and maybe a pool! But if we were going to think strategically we would have to agree that too many weather-related disasters happen at beaches and since we NEED to be more self-sustainable in regard to food and safety there are other choices to consider.

We wanted land for privacy and we both loved nature. Did we want a real farm? I had not considered it. A farm seems like a lot of work. Do you have to do a full-blown farm to be sustainable? This is a question I would continue to ask myself until we decided where and what we would buy. What I needed to decide is what I wanted to build, grow and tend. I think many of us have to get down and dirty with that decision. I needed to cross this Rubicon before I could go any further regarding looking for a place to live. So we pondered pros and cons together over dinner.

My sweetheart was more enthusiastic about farming than I thought he was going to be. That was encouraging. But what about the bottom line with me? I had owned a small horse ranch in a previous marriage and was familiar with the routine of how that worked. I applied that knowledge to the needs, wants and expectations list we were formulating while chewing each forkful 10 times before swallowing. We did a lot of fork waving at each other in an effort to speed up the mastication process because we had so much to say to each other about the subject it was like a dam spilling forth.

I know I really am not interested in owning more horses right now, I told my sweetheart. He agreed. That wasnt something he was interested in pursuing either. Good. So whats next? So we have decided to buy something with acreage then. Yes. I think we have. How much acreage? I took another forkful and thought. Well it would be nice to have woods for privacy, but Id like some acreage in fenced pasture so I can have options. Okay. We agreed on that. We liked that decision.

Seguing off the pasture idea I quickly added a barn to the list. Ok, I can see a barn he said. We knew we wanted to supplement our retirement with homegrown food from our garden, so it was a natural step forward that we think about chickens, rabbits, goats and cows. Do we want that kind of livestock we mulled? Yes, we think we will want to try to dip our toe into the pros and cons of raising each at some point in the near future. So we settled on woods, acreage and a barn.

Now lets talk about the house sweetheart. You know my home and decorating fun is a sacred cow to me. We often used this sort of silly banter between us, borrowing foreign phrases that seemed to keep the mood cheerful and light. Like any couple we interspersed our conversation throughout the day with little pet phrases and intimate nods which are the mumblings of people who are in agreement and lockstep. So my sweetheart responds in a predictable disciplined way, Yes dear, whatever you would like dear.

My feelings have been validated by his practiced response and I send the ball back into his court with a question about his preferences regarding the master bathroom and workshop, etc. He grabs the ball and runs with it for a measured pace and then returns volley before I get bored and Im sorry that I asked. I came away with the understanding that he is very particular about his master bathroom and a steam shower with all the bells and whistles and a large magazine rack for the throne. I just wanted a tub.

One thing is for sure I quickly added, is that we need to consider our needs later, when maybe one of us has diminished mobility. Yes, he agreed thats a given. For instance, we need to view a potential purchase with the possibility of remodeling it to accommodate a wheelchair later, and what about the subject of stairs? Do we want to consider a multi-story home or stick with a ranch-style home? We both agreed quickly without conversation on the ranch-style home, as we have discussed the subject before. Good. So now we agree on a ranch-style home on acreage with woods, a fenced pasture and a barn. We were getting some place. I was looking forward to having my washer and dryer on the living level too. After a long recuperation from my car accident, mobility was something I cherished and didnt want to aggravate the pain in my leg and hip by negotiating stairs all the time. We also wanted to avoid entry and egress stairs if possible, a few risers maybe, but no more than a handful of steps. That set up could be easily modified later if we require a ramp to the home. You may think were putting too many restrictions on our purchase already, but let me tell you the years go by fast and life marches on. You never know what is going to happen and we knew we definitely did not ever want to move again!

So lets talk about utilities and money. My sweetheart reliably brings his paycheck home to mama and he quickly says without missing a beat, do we have to? To which my patterned response as the check writer is always, OH yeah. I did not want to move somewhere with high taxes. So to me that eliminates any resort areas and premium properties. Not that we could afford to pay cash for a premium property, because paying cash is also what we were resolved to do. I did not want a mortgage, I want to live debt free as soon as possible. However, we dont want to be in a sketchy or depressed area either. So homework will have to be done in that regard wherever we decide. Okay, we will put this on the back burner, but keep it in mind.

We realized it was time to start digging more into Joels book. Joel has a star rating for each state. He gave Florida the lowest for his reasons explained, and his highest goes to Tennessee on the eastern side of the United States. Not that we were limited ourselves to the East.

Hmm, I mused. I had never considered moving to Tennessee, ever. I imagined rednecks in the Beverly Hillbillies car. So this rating made me curious. I began to examine the second state I turned to in the book. It was interesting. Quickly I flipped the pages over to the state where we were and had lived for years, Virginia. I began to compare all of the information. Then I flipped to Florida. You see Florida and Tennessee have no State income tax. Theres a point for Tennessee. It was a fact I really liked about Florida. Tennessee also has no personal property tax, nor does it require inspections for cars. The latter could be good and bad I imagined. One thing to consider is that Tennessee has a rather high sales tax, but with a little creativity that can be overlooked.

I gave cursory study to the rest of the other states that had crossed my radar since we started thinking about where to move. There were pluses and minuses for almost every state I note. Now heres something that really caught my eye. Joel shows where all the nuclear plants are and primary and tertiary targets of the enemy if we are attacked. Now thats food for thought. Nuclear plants are of concern especially after the event at Fukushima and sadly this is a subject that needs considering. I decided to rule out the areas near nuclear plants and primary military targets. Screaming and running just isnt what I have in mind. Its a little more difficult to avoid all the tertiary ones too, and frankly I dont think they will ever target them all. So Mr. Skousen has me thinking about those things along with sea level, rainfall, taxes, demographics, and state and local government.

After reading Joels book as well as websites and books for reference, we decided on the great state of Tennessee. By the way it is not just full of rednecks in Beverly Hillbilly trucks on the road, I have seen a lot of expensive foreign cars zipping up and down the highways around Nashville. Also the highways in this state are excellent! Tennessee is very green and enjoys a much better than average rainfall. There are a lot of nurseries here. I love gardening and want to enjoy a mild climate with good moisture. We also did not want to be too far away from family on the east coast, and my sweetheart has a brother already residing in the state. We were making progress. It is time to narrow down what area of the state we want to live.

The following is a roadmap for our thought processes while we compiled what would be our working criteria for relocation. We wanted a rural area close enough to commute to a larger city or cities where work is in abundance, but far enough away to be safer from riots, and civil unrest if anything happens. We are aware that getting back home on a workday if this happens could be a real issue though and is the subject of another topic, but work and money coming in to feed the kitty is a requirement.

We want to be over the Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountains from the East Coast and the possible refugees which could flow out from there is also a strong consideration. This issue is called the Golden Horde and is probably a viable concern with an EMP, real nuclear bomb or invasion scenario. Facts derived from studying World War II indicate that walkers forage and pillage in a corridor approximately 5 miles around major highways so being away from a highway could be an important consideration too.

Obvious areas where preppers and survivalists are known to be relocating in groups was out of the question in my mind. I know Im going to get criticized for this. This is just a personal preference because I wanted to live in a community of like-minded people yes, but we want to avoid being the nail that sticks up because it can get hammered. And I feel those enclaves are nails sticking up waiting to get hammered. Our government also has strongholds in those areas, and as such are not only domestic and foreign targets, but joining any known anti-government groups could be very dangerous and are frequently infiltrated by undercover agents. Thinking farther down the line, any regrouping after some catastrophic event for the government would mean those safe havens would be under the governments thumb, so to speak. That could be good and bad. So this is a real concern when you want peace and safety in your declining years unless you want to be where the hot spots are. We do not.

Here are some basic things we put on our list so we could relax:
  • not on a major freeway or interstate.
  • at least several hundred feet above sea level.
  • surrounded by farm land, dairy cows, and other typical farm livestock such as horses, pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens but not next to large GMO crop farms
  • no restrictions on land use
  • history of good average rainfall (not too much rain or too little rain).
  • reasonable supply of trees and forest timber land for alternative fuel and beauty
  • nearby manufacturing facilities of any size because this is very helpful in the worst case scenario recovery
  • residents still have the right to own firearms to protect themselves
  • residents still have religious freedom and the area is not dominated by one
  • should have short mild winters
  • good nearby shopping
  • must be within commutable distance to major city in order to WORK
  • must have several different water sources
  • low maintenance home if possible
  • not on a busy road (my pets are safer)
  • not in a depressed area
  • low real estate taxes
  • fair supply of small resale farms with level acreage on the market

You may think this list is nearly impossible and you may be right. However, it did narrow our prospects down to exactly what we want. Now lets be realistic and say that if I find a property with at least 80-90 percent on the list it would still be a viable candidate. That is especially true if what is lacking can be changed over time; for instance, making the home low maintenance. Actually I think that is the only thing on my list that could be immediately changed but you get the idea.

So I began to study what the different areas in the state had to offer and we settled on the central area of the state between Nashville and the Alabama line. We now could start house hunting and my sweetheart could start focusing on his job search in the cities of Nashville and Huntsville. It is a balancing act, to be sure and he was greatly relieved when we reached this stage. Sending a resume out sometimes takes several weeks to get a response. Fortunately for us, he did get some good response in a short period. It was time to get on the road and tow the RV to Tennessee and try to establish employment. I highly recommend this method. If its economically possible for you to use an RV you can be more flexible than if you rent an apartment or stay in an extended stay hotel. You will also save money. Once we secured our RV spot, interviews were easier when we could operate out of our own little trailer. We detached our vehicle and were free to roam and explore.

Once he secured a job and began working he drove me back to Virginia so that I could manage the final stages of the house sale and return with my own car. Two weeks before closing, he returned over a weekend so that we could move all of our belongings to storage. That was tough. However, once that was done and everything swept clean in the home, there was nothing to keep me in Virginia as closings can be conducted via email easily as a seller. So I returned with him to Tennessee to begin the house hunt in earnest, but we drove separately so we could both have a vehicle. This is very stressful.

He designated me as the point man for house hunting as he doesnt like to get invested in the options until the short list, its too emotional for him. Thats fine by me as it allowed me to work fast. Resale farms are the best bargain for people who are looking for a more sustainable lifestyle and the realtor I contacted was experienced with the area and had no problem helping me look in another area if I found better pickings in the surrounding areas of the region. She sent me a hot list of about 15-20 little resale farms that most closely match my criteria in the target area and I voraciously poured over the listing details with pictures and googled them on the map. Some I immediately crossed off because the lay of the land or the house itself just didnt please me, but I came up with a handful of real contenders. Keep in mind that building our home instead of buying an established one was not off the table, but was our plan B because of the time investment, land development and work involved. For those reasons it was my last resort. Hands down the better bargain is simply a resale home.

Remember the real estate tips I mentioned in the first half of the article? That knowledge was particularly handy when I found the house. I located a 5.5 acre brick ranch-style home with a fenced established pasture, 2 barns, with drive-under basement built in 1976 in a great neighborhood of mini farms. It was a few miles outside of a small to almost medium sized town with good shopping and services. At the height of the towns growth in 2009-2010 it blossomed to about 30,000 people I believe. The only place I feel we compromised is the proximity to the town and the towns size. Ideally I would have chosen to live farther out and have a little bit smaller town, but the difference is acceptable. The house had great bones, but it needed some serious remodeling on the inside and the seller was ready to deal. I arranged for my sweetheart to be shown the property after I vetted it and we decided to put in an offer.

Personally I didnt relish all the remodeling needed on this house although we could visualize it as perfect with interior cosmetic changes, so we made them a lower offer and they countered back. We did arrive at agreement on the sales price; however once we did the home inspection I realized how much more money I would need to put into the place and I was able to use that knowledge to negotiate an even lower final price to offset the cost of fixing what was wrong. It wasnt personal, just business. We were not being greedy, I was letting the seller know what I would be willing to pay to make the sale worthwhile in my mind and the seller agreed to my lower cash price. Frankly, at that point it was difficult for the seller not to agree, the reason being he would have to disclose all of the things we found wrong from the home inspection if he rejected my offer. It does put a seller a little over a barrel to finish the sale. But remember, its OUR money. I simply let him know what price I would pay to buy the home with the blemishes uncovered. It is not wrong to do this in a judicious manner.

Of course the property didnt meet all of our criteria, but were working on that. There is a wet weather creek on the back of the property, but there is an all-weather one it joins at the main road two farms over. Were on septic with city water. We plan to do a well in the future as a backup, and in the meantime develop a rain run-off collection system.

Never wanting to be completely off the grid, we did want to make contingency plans. Were dabbling with solar power and plan to convert a small chest freezer, and possibly think about a solar bedroom air conditioner in emergency for the summer. Wind power is something were considering too, as we enjoy a wonderful summer breeze here. Security here lies mainly in the propertys size, and since the home is fully brick we just harden the doors and windows and that is not daunting. If things get really ugly we can make some special shutters. We are considering a metal roof and gating off the driveways at the front columns. The drive under basement has a secondary heat source for the home, and gives us plenty of other options as well. Remodeling will be an ongoing project with a little visualization I know it will be every bit as charming as any home weve lived in. A huge bonus is the park-like setting of the home with wide-winged brick columns at the front of the main and farm driveways.

We should be able to withstand a little unrest in the country, barring a war zone situation which I dont want to even consider. That would involve a full retreat and regroup for most of us if it ever gets that crazy. Are you thinking about these things? Hopefully thats when our RV could come into play. In the back of our mind is buying some undeveloped wooded property and creating a camp zone. Some have done that here by a lake an hour north as a second home. Theyve erected metal carports tall enough to drive their RVs under and established locked storage buildings and developed their sites. If things drag on we may consider this idea after a couple more years go by. I know some would consider that an ideal bug out location. All of this is contingent on being able to move your RV on the highways after the SHTF of course. Some have doubts about that.

Essentially buying a resale farm saved us time and money on establishing the farms function and greased the skids for setting up the lifestyle which we hope to live. To me remodeling a home never stops anyway. Seems I am always changing something in the house or updating another to be more stylish. So I feel all in all we made the best possible purchase for us and I will be paying less than HALF of the real estate taxes on this 5.5 acre farm than I did on a half of an acre property in Virginia, which is unheard of in my former stomping ground. We figure even if the worst happens in this country we can find a way to pay $1,528 in real estate tax per year, much better than the $3,600+ tax we were paying in Virginia. Everyone has to keep up with their property taxes, whether you own your home outright or have a mortgage. We certainly turned over every rock in locating the right home for our needs and securing our future plans and our idea of sustainability will certainly supplement our now nonexistent retirement fund. If we had to survive with no income, I think we could do it here.

My new area in middle Tennessee is a cute classic smaller town with a picturesque town hall right in the middle of a walkable market square. It is a like stepping back in time, and my little farm is several miles outside of the town nestled in a farming community of properties between 1 and 20 acres apiece. We could subdivide as long as it is one acre or more, and any home built on the parcel must be 1200 sq. ft. or more, stick built (so no manufactured homes are allowed) and this could be useful in the future as we age because we could sell off an acre or two for some income. Lots are in demand in the neighborhood. There are no restrictions on my livestock or anything else. We can also farm it any way we prefer and there is no homeowners association. Old Glory still flies in this town and fills the hearts and minds of the people. This particular town experienced rapid growth when a major car factory thrived. But when the factory closed, the towns slid a little and idled for a little while after the changes in 2009 but did not become what I would call depressed. This is probably because its only an hour away from a bigger work pool that is available in Nashville, and a little over an hour to more in Huntsville, AL. No place is going to be perfect. I am satisfied we have a good location and it tics off all the boxes for me.

We have lived here for almost a year as of the writing of this article and I really love it. Adjusting has been easy like a breath of fresh air, literally! The town is just the right size to be somewhat active and lively yet still connected to the larger world. My neighbors are wonderful, and were mostly like-minded people. I have met three neighbors through pursuing my sustainable interests I would call good friends, one of which is currently constructing her own house nearby. I enjoy the fact that neighbors are close enough to me to know if something is wrong and check on us, yet far enough away to maintain our privacy. It is like having one house per suburban block for comparison. We feel that at our age having a like-minded community within arms reach around us is more valuable for sustainability than having a hundred acre home in total isolation. The fact is that were human and we need people, at least we do. I feel in a crisis, this area would pull together. And that is a very good feeling in an era of uncertainty.

First thing we planted was an 18-tree orchard, an area for soft fruit, and established a large vegetable garden last fall. We set in some cross fencing to protect that. I plan to have chickens, cows, rabbits, alpacas and keep bees in my two-year plan for our hobby farm. I want a few Alpacas because I love yarn and handwork and plan to put my loom and spinning wheel to good use. In fact, one of my nearest neighbors has them. The chicks are in the brooder now and Im eagerly anticipating fresh healthy free-range eggs. I absolutely adore living here! I guess this qualifies as enjoying a more sustainable retirement with options. Anyway, its OUR brand of sustainability.

I highly suggest if anyone is considering a similar lifestyle with livestock, that you find a home that is already set up and developed for the purpose you intend to use it. That is probably the best advice I can give you. You will save a TON of money this way no question about it. The farm should be fully fenced (cross-fenced is ideal but can be done with electric fence) and have established pasture/paddocks and a barn so you can hit the ground running.

We sport sun-kissed faces and smile a lot in the sweet smelling air here. We can relax knowing our home is paid for and were working at knocking down the rest of our debt. It is going to be possible to get ahead here and even put something by. Its constant of manual work, but that is great exercise and my muscles are feeling tighter. Once the full infrastructure of my plan is put in place, the work should be lighter. Were still setting a fence post or two, and building things.

I smile and laugh easily now. At least twice a week since we moved here my sweetheart will lean over close and whisper, Im so glad we moved here. Now if that isnt worth all the trouble, I dont know what is.℠ (Right-side navigation page SSI insertion)