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Beginning to look for land in West Virginia

 
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I am in the process of planning my Homestead and looking for a piece of land so that I can begin this wonderful Journey. I currently live in South Western PA which is really beautiful but it seems that I can get two to three times the amount of land in West Virginia just a short distance South. I have been back and forth through West Virginia three or four times in my life and the last time which was just last July me and my mother drove through south-to-north taking all back highways. It's a stunningly beautiful state and both of us were saying how we like the slower pace there and that it was somewhere that we could live. This state is also the first place that I ever saw open carry. I moved my mother back to her  childhood home and 7 months later she was to leave this plane. I am now in a state where I don't really know anyone and I'm finding it to be a rather unfriendly place and I am seriously considering making West Virginia my home. If anyone has any advice concerning this stage in my journey and especially if you are or have lived off grid in West Virginia. I guess of particular interest would be pros and cons going off grid there. Receptiveness to Outsiders. I am also very interested in learning where like-minded people are in West Virginia or South Western PA. I also love Outdoor Adventure type activities so would be interested also in areas where there are things like creaks, rivers, lakes , caves, springs or escarpments. Also if anybody has any pointers on finding reasonably cheap property or if you are aware of any resources . I am originally from East Tennessee so the Appalachians have a special place in my heart. Not only that after having spent a year in the North I gotta say, I am longing for the other side of that Mason-Dixon line! Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Cheers!
 
pollinator
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I know nothing about the area, so hopefully someone else will chime in.  But what are the local politics like?  That might be a good indicator of 'friendliness'.  Generally speaking, the more stoutly conservative an area, the more xenophobic and shut off everyone will be unless you're just like them...  There are exceptions to the rule, but that's the trend I've come to find.  I'm sure some folks have had differing experiences in life.

Does the open carry thing bother you?  I grew up around open carry so it's normal to me.  But the culture around it can still result in a much higher chance of people pulling guns on you and threatening you with them.  Especially if you're 'different' and they feel 'threatened' as a result... Or they're just dumb and you're out for a walk and bullets hit the dirt next to you, but this has become so normal that you just turn around and swear out the idiot shooting in your direction...   Speaking from experience >_>    Don't worry though, I'm talking about Idaho, not West Virginia xD
 
Terry Waller
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Hi Jen thanks for your reply. Just to cover a couple topics that you brought up, my religion is known to be conservative and my politics are known to be not. I also grew up around all types of firearms and I am a u.s. army veteran  and I served as a combat engineer (can anyone say explosives?!?!) During peacetime. I also enjoy my right to keep and bear arms. Open carry does not bother me in fact when I saw that I felt a lot closer to the freedoms that I am hoping to realize. However I don't think it would be my choice for carry except for on my property. If the situation should occur I would rather be the surprise you weren't expecting. I probably need to leave these items at that because I don't want to kick off any kind of political discussion or debate here. It was just one of the things that attracted me about West Virginia of which I have seen in Pennsylvania also now and at this point in the interest of keeping the topic about the topic and not politics needs no further input. The meat of what I want to know is in regards to pros and cons of homesteading in West Virginia ie: land,  laws that might affect me, if there is a particular view towards Outsiders , whether there is an off-grid community  or not and about the geographical wonders of the state. By the way Idaho is a place that briefly entered my mind but it's so damn far away. I frequently watch a YouTube channel out of Idaho. It is one of the few that I have found that is very helpful as far as understanding some of the issues  regarding homesteading.  Not only that it is an absolutely beautiful state from what I can tell. I hitchhiked around the South a lot and then across to Cali and around a lot of the West in the late 80s but there's an area that I missed from Idaho through to Wisconsin accepting Wyoming. I also missed the bulk of New England but have seen the rest of the continental US and have lived from Sunny conservative as Hell Tennessee to sunny liberal as hell California (and I love them both!)and many points in between. I have also had the good fortune of living in England for three years and  have traveled to 15 different countries some of them multiple times and some for extended periods of time from the two-week minimum that I like to keep as a rule if I'm going to another culture or country to 3 months which I like to shoot for. No I am not rich I am pretty close to broke but I have tried to enjoy my life now instead of banking for some hoped for American Dream after I reach 67 (and don't forget the half!) years of age and that's if there is even Social Security available at that point. I guess what I'm getting at is I have seen a lot in this country and mainly Europe, Central America and the Caribbean and I'm not sure that there is that perfect place (Ireland is pretty damn close!) but there are some happy mediums. I am hoping to find one of those and turn it into MY perfect place. I guess a lot of us nomadic types eventually get tired and want something of our own that we can build upon from our knowledge of things that we have experienced . I hope that I'm not done visiting other places in the world but I feel if I can find the right place I will never have to wander again. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
 
pollinator
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Having looked at different states here is my thoughts on West Virginia.

Health Care Ranking: # 48 (important to me moreso because i have 4 kids)
Education System Ranking: #44 (again, important to me because of my kids)
Major Industry:  Mineral Production (coal/lumber ect).  Not great for me as i'm a tech guy and if i needed income to supplement homesteading it would be harder to find a job)

Those things being said, your average rainfall is great and they have low property taxes.  Some rural areas do have some zoning laws to watch out for but you should be able to find all that out before you buy in a specific area.

To your questions about community it looks like the Pennsboro area might be full of like minded individuals.

Doing some googling around and personal searches (though a bit dated) if you're looking for high paying city jobs look somewhere else but if you're like us here on permies you should do just fine.  Just make sure to check local laws before you buy something.
 
Terry Waller
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Hello Jonathan and thank you for your reply. This is all very valuable information. I have to say that 48 for healthcare is a little scary but hopefully it is something that I will not be needing outside of a good primary care physician . I don't even want to know what the next two are but after having lived in Florida for a long time I would wager on that being one of them . If I may ask what is it that makes you say the Pennsboro area? If you know of any resources or any articles Etc regarding this it would be helpful. I am not interested in a high-paying job unless that should happen to be part of what I find and I'm not trying to be broke but I am only interested in working part time from here on out if I can help it. I have worked very hard for most of my life mostly in the trades or commercial facilities maintenance world. I have also worked with people with life controlling issues such as drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution and homelessness and also worked for 3 or 4 years with developmentally disabled adults. Actually the hardest job I have ever had! Full of heartbreak and wonder! Also not my first choice in work at this point but it is one of those jobs that I think we all should experience at some level whether it be volunteer or paid. I am hoping to find work as a life coach in the addiction world. My understanding is that West Virginia has been hit particularly hard like Pennsylvania and Ohio with the opiate crisis. I actually live in the tri-state region in Southwest PA and myself am no stranger to addiction and want to help people find their way out of that hell. A very good friend of mine in Pennsylvania does this for work and says at least in PA there is tons of work so much so that you can pretty much pick your place and name your schedule from half a day to 5 days a week. Either that or I could fall back upon my experience in commercial facilities maintenance management. Definitely not my first choice. I would rather reserve the skin on my knees and knuckles for my property. I am pretty much a techno tarde and sometimes have a bit of a time navigating the computer realm. Everything good that I  find including this website is generally by accident. I have a few folks that I watch Faithfully on YouTube and this forum as resources so if there are any other things that might be helpful for me at this stage that could be recommended I would be very grateful. This is the first time that I have been on a forum and it is very much unlike me but it seems to be the only place that I can immediately access people that have some of the same values as myself. Thank you all for accepting me here as part of this family. I am a definite greenhorn as far as homesteading but I have tons of experience in lots of things that would be helpful in that process.  I appreciate that there is so much wisdom and experience represented here and the willingness to share. Thank you for your input. Cheers!
 
                                  
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Terry,
I purchased land in Jackson County WVa back in 2006 and have been building/improving it since.  We have a SIPS cabin that is entirely off grid.  I have found the people to be extremely friendly with a live and let live mindset.  The most difficult thing was getting approval for our gray water system.  The health inspector was fine with our use of a composting toilet and the use of a rooftop water collection/cistern for fresh water, but required a septic tank and drain field for the gray water.  Getting a good perc test was hard.  Taxes are low.  We live in Florida and use the cabin in the summer.  Let me know if you have any questions about construction, off grid power, water or composting toilet set up.  Good Luck!

P.S.  We found our property on Landandfarm.com  
 
pollinator
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Hey Jimmy, I work in Ripley.

Terry,  West Virginia has been changing at a quick rate because of the renewed oil & gas industry activity.  You'll notice it most down along the Ohio River starting in the Wheeling Area and down to Ravenswood, as well as the Clarksburg area.  

Surface landowners don't own the mineral rights; and the leases are all written in favor of the company.  So surface intrusions and siting of roads, wells and facilities can randomly destroy the rural peace.  Not to mention destruction of water table quality.  The roads are full of trucks hauling fracking water.

The State Legislature is owned by the industry.

There are some great little communities.  

But do be asking all sorts of probing questions before you buy.

I do know of a farm business for sale in Richwood ~ https://www.rampfarm.com/

Good luck!

 
Terry Waller
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When I saw Jimmy Mountaineer in my inbox I knew it a West Virginian on the other end! Thank you for your replies thus far this is all good information. I have to look into this renewed petroleum industry that's going on. It breaks my heart that this type of thing goes on and that it would have to affect people that are wanting to live a natural life and in such a beautiful state. Is there fracking in Pennsylvania also? I have not personally seen evidence of fracking but when I went to South Africa the city of Johannesburg is surrounded by yellowish mountains of dirt that were dug out of the mines when this city was started. When I say mountains of dirt I mean mountains of dirt several hundred feet tall . Johannesburg is actually named Egoli meaning the place of gold. The number and size of these Mounds that are visible from the city was a little overwhelming when I realized the process and the size of the areas of waste that can never be used again for anything. I imagine this is the same in West Virginia where they are raping the land. It is good to hear that the people are generally friendly and accepting. I gathered that much watching a few documentaries about the state. Thank you and keep these replies coming! This is so very exciting but as many of you know this is also a little scary following through on my commitment to a complete change of lifestyle. Part of me thinks this might have been better started when I was a younger man but you know, in my 52 years I have gained a lot of valuable experience and hopefully some kind of wisdom along the way and the way that things are lining up seem to indicate that this is the perfect time for me. It may or may not be in West Virginia but I was captivated by your beauty! I guess when you think about it it may be a good place for people that are environmentally conscious to live which may someday evoke change. Did I just hear a bunch of West Virginians laughing? I am very new to this forum and am spending some time today trying to figure out how to do some things like the Purple Mooseage. That came up as purple moose sausage on the talk-to-text! That might not be bad either. Cheers!
 
Terry Waller
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It's good to know they have ramps in West Virginia! When I was growing up in Tennessee we used to go and pick ramps and would even go to a festival called the ramp Tramp , I think it was in North Carolina. When I watched Anthony Bourdain's take on West Virginia I remember seeing a feast of I believe all native West Virginian foods and I thank they were picked from out of the forest. Maybe someone can clarify this if you are familiar with that episode of Parts Unknown. If you have not seen this mr. Bourdain was well impressed with West Virginia more so than most states that I saw him cover which was a little surprising to me. One thing that I do remember vividly was that the show seemed to emphasize the resiliency of the hard-working people of West Virginia and the fact regardless of the economic situation or whatever else might be going on there or anywhere else for that matter that they would rather be nowhere else except West "By-God "Virginia! Man! That is the place that I'm hoping to find. I'll have to try to catch that again someday if I get around a TV or maybe I can find it on YouTube on my phone. Thanks all!
 
                                  
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Ruth,
You are right, many (most), landowners sold off their mineral rights years ago.  That was the case for a lot of the land we looked at.  At first, the thought of "free gas" seemed attractive since we wanted to be off grid but, after seeing how the gas companies disrespected the land and made such a mess we decided against that arrangement if at all possible.  We found a beautiful, mostly forested piece of land that still retained it's mineral rights.  
 
Ruth Meyers
pollinator
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Jimmy Mountaineer wrote:Ruth,
 We found a beautiful, mostly forested piece of land that still retained it's mineral rights.  



You are truly blessed then.
 
Posts: 544
Location: Richwood, West Virginia
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I sometimes see unbelievable realestate deals in the Ol' Mountain Trader serving Raleigh, Fayette, Wyoming, Summers, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Monroe and Boone counties
http://www.olmountaintrader.com/
Take this one for example:
"50+ acres of land in the Jumping Branch area, good hunting, nice building site, $65,000 firm. CALL 304-575-5911"
 
Jonathan Ward
pollinator
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Sorry for the delayed reply.  Burried under work lately.  https://www.offthegridnews.com/current-events/top-headlines/the-best-places-to-go-off-grid-pennsboro-west-virginia/  was what tipped me to Pennsboro.  There are other articles as well out there but you can have google get them. Based on what everyone else is saying i'd really be watching mineral rights and any water you have on property.  Good luck  I wish you the best in this.
 
Terry Waller
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Thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies. I'm still thinking about West Virginia! I spoke to the real estate agent that is selling my house and she says she can put me on to a good real estate agent in West Virginia once I nailed down a region. This information is all very good in particular as concerns water and minerals. Thank you and any further discussion on this is welcome. Cheers!
 
                                  
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We had used www.landandfarm.com, but lately the listings there look pretty sparse.  I found this site (https://www.landwatch.com/West_Virginia_land_for_sale) and it seems to have a good variety in the counties around my neck of the woods.  Happy hunting!
 
Terry Waller
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Thank you Jimmy for that info.I have been watching a couple of websites that one included and the times that I have called about property it has turned out to be an inaccurate description of the property or acreage or something that funny enough just sold with the next best thing being $10,000 more.I don't have a ton of money and the little bit that I have approximately $15,000 I need to make work. I am still in the beginning phase of trying to find property so I might have to dip down into West Virginia being as it's right here to get a feel for what's going on. Cheers!
 
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We just launched The Permaculture Properties Project which lists reasonably priced properties of interest to permies. (I am not a real estate agent. This is a not-for-profit project).
It covers the US at this point. We will link an additional page w/raw land offerings soon.
See link here: https://padlet.com/jmwallacephd/ppp
Anyone can post properties of interest. Just double click and add (moderator will approve).
If you visit a property, you can share comment or notes about the site.
 
Burl Smith
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Terry Waller wrote: approximately $15,000



Property4you.com has some fixer uppers. Here's 1.3 acres on a river south of Charleston for $11,900

The 2 acres I'm on came with 10" minnows euphemistically called trout. The living room ceiling was on the floor when we moved in but a woodstove and metal roof made everything comfy.
 
Terry Waller
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Cheers!
 
Terry Waller
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Burl, Thanks for that property foryou link. There is actually a few good things there...I think! Thanks!
 
Burl Smith
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Did you find it??

Here's 12 acres 10 miles north of Princeton WV that the broker bought for $850 worth of back taxes.



I looked at it and the mobile home has a shingle roofover without leaks, and the agent says "Make offer."

I-77 south to exit 14 to 19 south then right on 10 and left on 71 then up Gyro (marked) to first right on Milky Way (marked)-overgrown driveway to mobilehome.

Asking $11,900 at present

https://www.property4u.com/property/5823-164-MILKY-WAY-Matoaka-WV-24736.d.htm
 
gardener
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This is a great thread!  Burl, thanks for reviving it.

I have a long post, but some relevant points, so bear with me.

Regarding the conditions in WV, I live in Southern Illinois (locally we alway capitalize the “S” in Southern—we kinda think of ourselves as being a different state from the rest of Illinois) and many of the attractions and challenges of WV apply to Southern Illinois as well.  Far from being the flat plains of central and northern Illinois, and very far from Chicago, I like to think of Southern Illinois as being the extreme western end of Appalachia.  We have rugged hills, a National Forest occupying much of the region (“State”?).  The land is beautiful and the people friendly.  We also have our problems, notably poverty and drug use/abuse.  

Further the region is mineral rich (coal, natural gas) and basically none of the surface owners own their own mineral rights.  This is actually the reason for my response.  A section of my property is directly across the country road from an old open pit coal mine.  The mine closed decades ago and the area has had a major reclamation project on site.  Today you wouldn’t even know the land was once a strip mine, it just looks like a very long valley.  

My property is probably safe from future mining, as if there was any coal worth digging up, it likely would have been done decades ago.  My neighbor still digs substantial quantities of shale from his ground, but it is very low grade and not worth the effort of mining—his property was basically mined out.  So while I only own the surface rights, I am confident no-one wants the mineral rights.

More concerning is the fracking.  There are substantial natural gas reserves in Southern Illinois, and fracking makes them easier to access.  There are restrictions—can’t put in a fracking pad within a certain distance of a house, but there are some local landowners that had to put up with a noisy, stinky fracking pad within earshot of their house.  Yuck!  Fortunately there are some increasing legal obstacles protecting local landowners.

All this brings me back to the OP.  First, does anyone know about the legalities of fracking in WV?  Can a natural gas company build a pad right next to your house or is there at least some radius of protection?  What exactly are the surface rights?  Can the same company build a road, and if they do must they do any reclamation after they are done?  Now in Southern Illinois I believe there are some noise abatement restrictions for drilling pads and laws are starting to give at least some protection to surface & homeowners.

I can see a lot of potential in WV.  It has beautiful country and a low cost of living.  A person with a little money and some marketable skills could make a good living from the land.  It is really worth considering if there is ANY protection from mining—either legal (seems not) or practical (area already mined).  There are definitely some challenges, but I have been through WV before and was struck by its awesome natural beauty.  If you can make it work, WV could be a real gem.

Great thread!  I would love to hear others thoughts!

Eric
 
pollinator
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Having lived my entire life in rural WV, I have to say it is indeed a beautiful place to live.  

Unfortunately few own the mineral rights to the property they reside on and you are bound to right-of-way agreements made with the former owners of your property.  For example my former father-in-law sold a natural gas line right-of-way through our property for a little bit of nothing.  He could have acquired the use of the "free" gas at the time as part of that agreement but didn't know that.  We tried to acquire access about twenty years ago and was told we'd have to connect to the commercial line 1/4 mile down the road.  Make sure you fully research any property thoroughly before purchasing to avoid any surprises in the end. I'm honestly not sure of rights when it comes to fracking.

As for healthcare, I'm finding that it's probably the best it's ever been, but I could be biased because I have a good doctor and few health problems.  My husband and daughter both had open heart surgery at WVU Ruby and Children's Hospital and couldn't have asked for better care.  

The education system needs work. Because my daughter has some learning disabilities we opted to send her to pre-K this past year.  While the teacher, principal and school were excellent, I've had to constantly keep on the board of education to follow through with the therapies I was promised she would get.  Class size here is relatively small which is great because the kids get more individualized attention.

The main problem I've seen concerning "outsiders" has usually occurred when the new person treats the locals as ignorant.  From memory, I know of an instance where the outsider called the law because a car was parked with one tire six-inches on the pavement of a road that dead-ended.  If the offending party had been asked, they would have gladly moved the car even though there was plenty of room to get around it.  Another man went home and found a fence and no trespassing sign across his driveway, in which he had a right-of-way.  Of course it goes the other way too.  Sometimes the locals refuse to respect the new property owner.  For instance, they've been hunting or riding ATVs on that land for years and think that they should retain the right.  

Basically it pays to talk with the neighbors and see how receptive they are to strangers.  In some areas you'll always be "the new people," but in others you will be welcomed and considered a neighbor.  Honestly the key is usually respecting one another.  At one time I managed about twenty people who were required to make home visits.  One thing I stressed was to give the homeowner a compliment.  For instance if there's an old classic car in the driveway, start a conversation about it.  If there's a flower or shrub in the yard, compliment it.  Even if there's a pile of junk in the yard, find something to compliment.  Usually if you show a common interest and are polite, people will be more welcoming.

Water can be an issue.  When I was a kid, we had excellent well water, while neighbors a mile away had iron water so bad I never could drink it.  My parents built a new house on top of the hill above our old house and the new well had sulfur water.  Some properties have spring-fed cisterns, which is great when it comes to water quality but can be a nightmare when something goes wrong.  Other properties will have a municipal water supply, which is more dependable than a well when the electricity is out, but the quality is questionable.

As for jobs, it really depends on the area.  Oil and gas jobs have declined and I see many college graduates working at Walmart.  Depending on which town we worked in, we had a 40-60 mile round trip commute everyday.  I gave up on my degree when I realized I'd have to commute 1-2 hours or move to work in a field where I could have made good money but been completely miserable.  We currently are self-employed and I'm planning to venture into market gardening next year.  Taxes have increased greatly since I fist moved here but are minute compared to what family in other states are paying.

Meth has become a big problem in rural areas too.  No, not everyone is a meth head, but it's more prevalent than it was in the past.  Theft related to drugs is common.  

For me, the benefits of the state far outweigh the disadvantages.  I could easily prowl around naked on my property, though I never will. I can hear the sounds of frogs and whippoorwills during the night and be lulled to sleep by crickets in the summer.  I can hang my laundry on the line if I wish.  There are plenty of state parks to visit if I feel the need to get away and woods to explore.  I can drive thirty minutes and get a home-cooked meal, fast food or an elegant dining experience.  








 
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Rocket Mass Heater Plans - now free for a while
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