Can I Live In A Van On My Own Land: Setting up Home-base


The people who want to downsize their life and explore what the world offers is what made vanhomes another avenue to achieve the life-on-the-road dream. However, some would like to settle down somewhere after they’ve fed their wanderlust. It is kind of like establishing a homebase where they can relax for the time being and take off again when the itch to travel strikes back, which brings me to a topic that many vandwellers are asking about. The topic of living in a van in your own land. 

Can I live in a van on my own land? The answer here is both yes and no. Yes, on off-grid areas, on vandweller friendly states, and if you follow restriction codes, no on the majority, if not all major cities and states. 

It is normal to feel that you want to settle down later in your life; after all, you are not getting young, and you need a place where you can just grow old and be happy. The problem arises during the transition from being a vandweller into someone who is ready to hang their road-tripping days on the rack. This article will talk about the things you need to legally live on your own land while still being a vandweller.

Full-Time Van Living On Your Own Land

After reading countless testimonies and watching hours and hours of van living videos, I’ve concluded that you can do this full-time vandwelling business in two ways. You either do it according to the books, which is hard or buy land outside the city and go off-grid, which is a lot harder. The choice is yours, go the hard way and follow the rules to the letter or go the harder way and live your vanlife on your own terms.

Go Off-Grid And Homestead

I actually love the idea of going off-grid and homesteading, but I am still too much of a wuss to try it out. Don’t be confused about the homesteading bit because we are talking about going off-grid here, so you are looking at a life where you have to become self-sustainable when parking your van in your homebase for an extended period of time.

You need to consider a lot of things if you want this way of life while living in your van. Water source, power source, food source, sewer setup, and internet connection are among the main things. A 100% off-grid living means you are not tapped into your local municipality’s utility provisions, but instead, you are sustaining your own needs through an alternative means. It also means that you are totally disconnected, and this is what’s wussing me out. I don’t really know how I will cope without an internet connection.

Power

For power, you can use solar power systems that are connected to batteries. The solar panels will convert the sun’s rays into electricity, and the batteries will store the electricity so that you have power even when the sun is not up.

It is an excellent idea to have a backup generator just in case your battery runs low, and you have no sun to charge it up. Most RV owners and vandwellers recommend having one for emergency purposes too. You might also want to check how much power you are consuming on a day to day basis so that you can upgrade your solar power set up to store more energy if you need it.

Water

Your water sources can be from a rain-catching system, a well, or a natural source of water (river, stream, lake, etc…). These water sources are great for everything except for consumption. Potable water is a different story; you will need a filtration and decontamination system to have drinkable water. 

Some homesteaders would boil their water instead of using chemicals to decontaminate it. You can also do this but you have to make sure that you are storing your fresh water properly for it to stay safe to drink.

Sewer

There are two options for sewer: if your land is an acre or more, you can have a septic tank installed, or you can connect to the local sewer system in your municipality. The other option is if you have less than an acre of land, you are required to connect to the municipal sewer system.

Food

Food source is a bit more tedious because you have to cultivate your land to grow crops, and you have to house some farm animals like chicken, duck, cattle, and hogs for your meat. You might think that this would prevent you from leaving your property when the travel bug bites you again. 

There is a way around this. If you’ve already established a homebase and you have built a sort of house where you can settle, all you have to do is cull your animals and stock up your freezer. You can then sell the excess meat to the market or your friends and relatives. Leave the plants to fend for themselves as you feed your wanderlust.

Internet Service

There are two options for internet service you can use while you are vandwelling. These two can work on any mobile home setup because it is basically connecting you to the internet wherever you may be.

The first is the cellular connection; this includes your phone and your hotspots. Those two connect to a mobile signal to keep you connected to the internet. The next is the satellite base connection. It works by sending your data to a satellite orbiting the space, and then you receive data pretty much the same way. But for the most part, vandwellers are more inclined to go with the cellular connection because it is way cheaper than the satellite setup, and it is easier to work with. Any phone made in the last five years can connect to the internet, and you can tap into that for your surfing needs.

One thing that you might want to consider getting if you will be using the cellular connection is a signal booster. It will be handy, especially in rural areas where getting a signal can be next to impossible.

Look For Vandweller Friendly Places

I’d still advise you to consult with the local regulations to know what you can and cannot do while you are homesteading. Sometimes, it only takes one nosy neighbor to get you reported, and your happy vanlife turns into a stressful life. There are a few places considered vandweller friendly like Austin, TX and Boulder, CO. Look for similar sites if you prefer to be somewhat still tethered to the city humdrum. Major cities, on the other hand, are a big NO. Buying land in one of the major cities can get really really expensive, and living in them can really burn a hole through your pocket.

Why Homestead and Vandwell At The Same Time

If you mull over homesteading while vandwelling, you’ll realize that there are many benefits to it. Number one is that you’ll have a permanent address, it gives you the chance to remove excess stuff in your van and put it into a storage area in your homebase. In addition to that, when things get rough, you have a place to stay and weather down the storm. Think of it as your cabin in the woods where you spend time every hunting season, but since you are a wanderer by heart, this homebase is where you stay when you feel weary and tired of the road. 

Go Bureaucratic And Follow Codes

Here is where things get a little bit too technical. You will have to deal with all the permits, zoning issues, and other bureaucratic stuff before you can legally park your van on your land and live there.

There are plenty of vandwellers who are already looking for land to buy so that they can have a place to call their homebase. Most will be looking for remote properties that are cheaper with less restricting zoning or building regulations. Frankly, I can see why. These lands offer more privacy, have more natural resources, and are easier to buy, and they are simply better than residential lots in the city in the long run. But just in case you already own land situated close enough to a major city, restrictions and zonings are in place but far enough that you have some semblance of privacy. This is how you can make being a vandweller work for you.

Zoning Issues

First, you need to look at the zoning and building restrictions your land has. Talk to your local planning department and ask for what kind of permits you need to settle on your property. You’ll probably get some raised eyebrows when they realize that you are living in a van, but since you are planning to develop the land, you have some liberty to stay on it for a limited time. And if luck is not on your side, you might have to rezone your land to utilize it the way you want to.

If rezoning is needed, the best option is to rezone your land into agricultural land, if possible. This will allow you to raise animals, plant crops, and do some homesteading in the future.

Planning Stage

You’ll need to draw up some plans that follow your local residential building codes and regulations. Try to figure out if you are tied to minimum square footage or if a tiny manufactured home can permanently dwell on your land. Even though they are built to be lived in all year round, recreational vehicles cannot be considered a permanent structure, and so is your van. The only way you can park your van smack in the middle of your property is if you have proposed a development plan for your land. And this move is still not a 100% guaranteed solution.

You have to keep in mind that the law sees motorhomes as “designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy,” so technically speaking tiny houses, RVs, home on wheels and yes, even your van are only temporary dwelling places in the eyes of the law. So, you need a home with foundations that conform to the regulation and building codes of your local municipality to be considered legal. You can ask your planning department for help with drawing up your plans.

Some of the most common building codes include the following, but are not limited to:

  • Number of egress depending on the size of the building
  • Fire safety grading of the property
  • The sewer system of the property
  • Foundation, wall and roof construction
  • Materials used in construction
  • Building height
  • Access to the main road, including year-round access
  • Building setbacks

The Permits

After that, you are then required to secure permits for construction and your stay in your land. This is not a 100% long-term solution since most states would give you a time frame for your stay. There are just states that are very lax in enforcing their regulations, and so, some can stay longer than allowed. Other permits you may need to secure would be :

  • Fire Safety Permit
  • Sanitary Permit
  • Zoning Permit

The Stuff You Need To Consider Before Buying Your Land

For the sake of those who are not landowners yet but are thinking of buying a land to plop their van or RV on in the future, here are the most important things you need to consider.

Regulations

Each state has its own set of regulations when it comes to “motorhome” dwelling. It does not stop there; your local city government will also have a set of rules. Make sure that you consult those before you buy your property. You wouldn’t want to own land and not use it because regulations prevent you from living on it. And don’t forget to check if the area you’re buying is under an HOA authority. Usually, HOAs have a set of restrictions you need to adhere to also.

Some regulations will tie you to your home’s square footage, and therefore, your van might not fit the bill, and some laws require your residence to have at least two egresses. It really depends on where you plan to settle down, and the classification of zoning your land belongs to. The zoning of a property will literally tell you what you can and cannot do on your land.

It is good to look at how these regulations are being enforced and if the land you are buying can be cultivated, developed, or turned into a sort of homebase for you. Try to find a state that is very friendly when it comes to vandwellers. I believe that there are plenty of those. Do stay out of major cities because regulations there are pretty much a problem for any motorhome dwellers.

Zoning Ordinances

If you plan to hunker down somewhere but still want the freedom to live in your van, you might want to look for places out of the city. Look for land that is appropriately zoned, so you don’t have to worry about zoning in the future. A properly zoned land will usually have access to electricity, water, sewer, and other utilities you might want when you stay on your property. 

Most of the time, you’ll encounter agriculturally zoned lands outside of the city, and this is the most sought after estate because owners can go off-grid on agricultural lands. Other classifications of zoning you might encounter would be residential, industrial, and commercial, and each has its own restrictions. The most common you’ll see are height restrictions, floor-to-area ratio, setbacks, minimum area per land classification, minimum area per housing unit, and other stuff that will affect your land development plans.

Accessibility

This is a significant factor to consider, I mean if you really think about it. You are dreaming of living on your own land in your van, so you better have some road access to this land you are buying. Unless you want to go completely off-grid and live as a secluded hermit, you will need to have some form of access to get in and out of your property. 

The law requires it for so many valid reasons, but the number one I can think of is “emergency situations.” Health issues that need you to travel to and fro a hospital now and then should be reason enough for you to find a land with proper access and, of course, “supply runs.” It is also essential to ensure that your access is passable all year round, especially in areas where winter can get bad—no point in owning land that can only be accessed a few months in a year. 

Conclusion

So as you can see, living in your van while on your land is tougher than you would have thought. Regulations, zoning, and nosy neighbors are just some of the problems you may or may not encounter if you really plan to do this. Take special notice of the location of the land you are eyeing if you are planning to buy a property. I’d suggest buying in vandweller friendly states and purchasing land secluded for privacy but is accessible enough to make sure that you can be reached when you settle in. 

Ash

Hi! this is a filling profile to remind me to make a better one AND figure out how to get my pic on gravatar ;)

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