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House hunting for preppers adds a level of consideration above the typical “must haves” in a home. Anyone who has moved from one home to another knows it’s both stressful and exciting.
My family just moved from Northern Alabama to Central Florida in August. We had our list of “must haves” to give to our realtor: open floor plan with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a fenced in yard and an easy commute to work for my husband.
However, since we are preppers, we also prepared a separate list of questions to ask about each property that related directly to preparedness. These are questions you should ponder when moving into a new home and, especially, when you’re house hunting as preppers.
Examine the House Itself
1. How much and what kind of storage does it have?
Where will we put our stuff? One of the most important prepping considerations to make when searching for a new house is storage space. Our stock of food, water, and supplies takes up a lot of room. Where will we put it?
Food storage needs to be inside to regulate temperature – and not inside an uninsulated garage or storage shed, either. Is there an extra closet big enough to accommodate all our #10 cans of dehydrated foods?
2. What are its power sources and backup options?
How does the home receive its power? Gas? Electric? Solar? A combination? Gas for heat, hot water, and stove is preferable because these will run even when the power is out. Solar will also work without power and would potentially allow you to run a refrigerator, cooling fans and heaters, and recharge batteries. What backup would you need to consider?
3. Does the home have protections for the biggest hazards in that area?
Does the home have protections (shutters, reinforced glass, roof and foundation straps) against hurricanes? This question is specific for us living close to a coast in Florida, but you should think about natural disasters that occur in your location. Earthquakes? Tornadoes? Flood? Wild Fire? Arctic cold? Does the house have the preventive or protective components needed to keep your family and property as safe as possible?
Is there a “safe place” in my home? Where would I take cover from a tornado? Is there a basement, shelter, or interior space that would make a good spot to protect myself and my family? What about a “hidden” spot to hide from intruders or to hide firearms and supplies?
One home we looked at had an odd crawl space storage with the only entry on the inside of a bedroom closet. It was big enough for the whole family to sit inside along with room for some storage and could be easily hidden with hanging clothes.
Location, Location, Location!
Realtors will tell you location is everything and they are right! Of course they are speaking more about property values than preparedness, but location is critical for preppers.
4. What water resources are available?
Is there an alternative water source on or near the property? This might be a lake, pond, well, river, or stream? What if your city or county water supply is shut off for an extended period of time? Having a water source that can provide drinkable water (after you treat it properly to make it safe) will reduce the amount of water you have to store in case of an emergency.
Storing drinking water but being able to use water from a pond to flush your toilets would be a great benefit. Having a source of drinking water once your stock runs out will provide some peace of mind. Keep in mind that a gallon of water weighs eight pounds, so if your water source is too far away, it will be hard work to collect and carry water back to your home.
Learn the depth of the water table in a desired area or neighborhood. Digging a well on your property might be an option.
5. Where is there a flood zone?
Is the home in a flood zone? A nearby water source is great, but too much water too close may not be. Rising water with every heavy rain storm can cause undue stress. It will also increase your home owners or renter’s’ insurance rates. You can find out if a home is in a flood plain here.
Many people still choose to live in flood zone areas. If you do, be sure to take it into consideration when storing your preparedness items and making your emergency plan.
6. What type of trees are on it?
Are there nut or fruit trees in the area? Is their room to plant fruit bearing trees, berry bushes, or a vegetable garden?
7. How many people live in the region?
What’s the population density of the area you are moving into? High populations could present a problem in a grid down situation, but being miles from neighbors could result in not getting help quickly enough if needed.
8. Where is the home relative to evacuation routes?
If you are in a hurricane area, where are you on the evacuation route? If you’re close to the coast, you’ll potentially be “last in line” to move to safer ground. Further inland will result in fewer miles to drive with the evacuating hoards of people. Millions of people live in hurricane zones. If you choose to move into a home in a hurricane zone, make a plan for evacuation well in advance, practice driving the recommended evacuation route, and know some alternate routes you can take.
Evacuation routes aren’t just for escaping hurricanes. Look at a map and determine routes you might take to leave your area. Are there bridges you must cross? Shortcuts out of or around metropolitan areas?
9. How close are higher-risk targets?
What “targets” are nearby? Terrorism is a concern in our world. Living right next to military bases, bridges, tourist attractions, malls or universities, downstream from a dam, or near a chemical plant might increase your risk. It doesn’t necessarily preclude living in a home near these locations, but it might alter the way you prep.
10. What are the hazardous materials risk in the area?
Are there hazmat risks near your home? Trains transport hazardous materials near or through neighborhoods every day. Check to see how far away train tracks are from your potential home. Think about the refineries, nuclear power plants, chemical plants, and other factories discussed earlier. Accidents can happen at these locations as well and could result in evacuation or sheltering in place.
11. How is the cellular service?
Be sure to check your cell phone service at every house you visit. If your cell is your only phone, this is more critical, but think about when the power is out and your cell is the only option. You don’t want your house to be in a dead zone.
Neighbors and Neighborhood
Hopefully, you’re already considering these questions, but if not, here they are:
12. Is the home subject to a Home Owner’s Association?
Do you want to live in a Home Owner’s Association (HOA) controlled community? There are many good reasons to live in an HOA neighborhood. Property values tend to be more protected, the neighborhoods often have a neater appearance, background checks may keep out some criminal elements, and they could be gated communities that offer more security.
As a prepper, there are other things to consider. Will the HOA allow you to have rain barrels on your property? How about chickens? Or a garden? Or solar panels? If living a more self-reliant lifestyle is important to you, consider staying away from HOA restrictions that are not accepting of your lifestyle.
13. What do you notice about the neighborhood and those who live there?
When considering a particular house, drive around the neighborhood and recon the neighbors. You can learn a lot about a neighborhood just by observing the other people and properties. When driving to look at one home, we saw a state trooper vehicle parked in a driveway a couple houses down. Turns out it wasn’t a drug bust, just a cop’s home. I saw that as a potential deterrent for bad guys in the neighborhood.
Learn more about what to look for while walking through a neighborhood by reading this article: “Walking Your Dog Can Help You Prep.” If possible, drive around the neighborhood at different times of the day, both weekdays and weekends. The personality of some neighborhoods can change remarkably on the weekend.
14. What is the prevalence of crime in the area?
Check out the crime statistics for the area you’re considering, including the locations of registered sex offenders. For houses you’re serious about, consider joining the NextDoor app for the area and scroll through posting to get a feel for the types of concerns being shared by those who already live there.
15. What improvements could be made at a later date?
One final question to ask: If this location doesn’t have everything I want or need in a home, do I have the ability to add it on later? There are many things you cannot change about a home to make it work for you, but there might be some things you can do. Adding protection from the elements, solar panels, and finishing a basement or attic are just a few things that you could change to make your home “prepper friendly.”
Final Thoughts on House hunting for Preppers
Here’s the bottom line. The chances of finding the perfect prepper house and location are slim to none. If it already exists or can be built, it’s likely out of the price range for many people, or out of the question because we can’t move away from our source of income.
Think about all the issues presented here and answer them honestly about each house considered. You’ll have to determine what you’re willing to compromise or risk, and then take steps to mitigate and reduce the risk as much as possible. Happy house hunting!
What questions would you add to a house hunting for preppers list?
Originally published September 23, 2014; updated and revised by Team Survival Mom.
Amy is an Air Force Brat and an Army Wife. She learned early on that being prepared was essential since natural disasters follow her.