Ideas for Off-Grid STR

7 Replies

Hi All - I've been kicking around this possible concept in my head for a while now and can't come up with an answer...maybe some outside-the-box thinker can figure something out. Or maybe there is no answer...?

We moved from CA to AZ last year and have got 2 STRs in AZ going very well. We kept a piece of property in SoCal, way out in the desert, middle of nowhere. It's completely off-the-grid home, very funky in a nice way... everyone that's been there loves it and I think it would appeal to outdoorsy/environmentalist/nature lover kinda folks. If you know what Wonder Valley is, this is similar but even more remote and funkier....

I don't think it's an AirBnB or VRNBO kinda thing, but maybe there's another way. Main problem is that I wouldn't be able to get out there after every visit to clean and check up. There are no property mangers or other people available locally, nearest town of any size is 1 hr away. My son lives 2 hrs away and could check it once in a while but I don't want to put it on him.

Are there any sites/groups that have people that would bring their own sheets and towels, clean up afterwards etc...? I'm thinking Sierra Club, or similar. It would be worth it for the experience to the right persons. It truly is a one of a kind experience due to the location.

Or maybe it's just not doable? Too much risk? Don't need the $$, thinking more of getting visitors who would appreciate the uniqueness.

Thanks in advance for ideas....

I think it would be too risky without someone checking on it in between guests.  And I would be afraid you'd get someone squatting there, who wouldn't leave, and you wouldn't know it until it's too late. Or someone who'd leave it so dirty that the next guests are disgusted.  You are asking people to clean the toilet, shower, kitchen, dust, vacuum, sweep, before they leave, which will take a long time.  They aren't likely to do that well.  Are you sure there is no one within 10-20 miles who would like to make money cleaning it and checking on it?  I bet there is if you ask around.   

@Bruce Woodruff I’m in a group of friends who book an annual trip to just this type of property. We’ve booked yurts in Colorado (hike in only at high altitude, bring all your own stuff), remote cabins in Northern MN, etc. We routinely pay $100-$150/night, because the solitude and unique experiences are completely worth it. We (and others who appreciate these properties) tend to be very respectful of each property and always leave it better than we found it (think “leave no trace” principles). We bring all our own food, linens, etc, and typically don’t even have running water at these locations. I love the idea, and would likely become a guest as well. Like the way you’re thinking outside the box!

Keith - Thanks! I figured there must be people like me out there.....Our place has solar, well, propane, that I've brought in so it is very comfortable. Yet remote at the same time if ya know what I mean...

Question - where do you find these type of properties? Is there a website? Or just word of mouth!

@Bruce Woodruff

You may be best served by advertising it as a direct listing and explaining the unique charms. Possibly set up a single website and consider driving early business there from VRBO or AirBNB to get some initial views. Because the property is so unique pricing likely needs to be as well, maybe consider that based on the property needs/maintenance and location you may not want it consistently turned over so maybe you open 28 day slots and allow use with a 1 time per month turn over.

Either way someone will have to check on it at some interval even if no one is using it right?

Hi - I'd also suggest looking at Hipcamp. That would probably be a good market for something like this. Sometimes people list on Airbnb but I think you're getting people who are expecting a typical vacation rental. In Vermont we have some associations like Vermont Huts that we rented ourselves over the winter - bring all your own everything and clean after yourself (no water or electricity). I don't know if you'd find those people on Airbnb or VRBO from my experience - depends on area. It's a big upgrade from say camping in a lean to on hiking trails.

Side question for me personally - do you have a mortgage on this property? I'm currently under contract for a piece of land with an off-grid cabin - doing as a land loan. Wondering if without typical utilities I could fix up and get an investment loan (adding a well, grey water system, composting toilet, solar for electricity, wood stove). Curious if anyone has done that since land loans aren't great terms. Thanks!

Originally posted by @Brooke Spaulding :

Hi - I'd also suggest looking at Hipcamp. That would probably be a good market for something like this. Sometimes people list on Airbnb but I think you're getting people who are expecting a typical vacation rental. In Vermont we have some associations like Vermont Huts that we rented ourselves over the winter - bring all your own everything and clean after yourself (no water or electricity). I don't know if you'd find those people on Airbnb or VRBO from my experience - depends on area. It's a big upgrade from say camping in a lean to on hiking trails.

Side question for me personally - do you have a mortgage on this property? I'm currently under contract for a piece of land with an off-grid cabin - doing as a land loan. Wondering if without typical utilities I could fix up and get an investment loan (adding a well, grey water system, composting toilet, solar for electricity, wood stove). Curious if anyone has done that since land loans aren't great terms. Thanks!

Thanks for HipCamp!

No loan, I paid cash for the 5 acres and built a pole house myself. 

A land loan for 'raw' land will require a 50% down payment and high APR as you know. Plus you will then possibly be forced to comply with local building codes. I would wait and look for land that you can pay cash for. In the middle of nowhere.

And instead of a composting toilet, think about digging a hole (deep) and putting a couple of 55 gallon drums (with leach line if needed). Easy to do, very efficient. Videos on YT about this.