When it comes to turning your dream into a reality and moving off the grid, it’s natural to be cautious about whether the people helping you have your best interests at heart.
When you’re starting your new alternative lifestyle, the last thing you want is to realise someone has taken advantage of you and that you’re not getting what you expected, paid or signed up for.
Trying to sort out whatever mess you find yourself in could quickly turn your dream into a nightmare. Read on for some tips to help make sure it doesn’t happen to you!
This was a topic I first tackled during a live broadcast on Facebook - if you prefer to watch it, here’s the full video:
We’ve all heard about these things happening, a couple moving to what they are told is a “magnificent ancient castle” in France. Once they arrive, it turns out their “castle” is actually just a barn with no roof. But it’s too late. They’ve signed the contract, they’ve sold their house, and now they’re stuck.
You think it could never happen to you. But when you’re moving to a new location, especially if you don’t know anyone there or can’t speak the language, it’s very easy for others to exploit your newcomer status for their own good.
Let’s have a look at some things you can do to make sure that you are in-the-know, on top of things, and prepared to move off the grid without anyone taking advantage of you.
Take your time
When moving off the grid, the number one mistake that can lead to being taken advantage of is being in too much of a hurry.
You buy a property online because you don’t think you can make the time to see it in real life. You hire the first contractor you speak to because you don’t want to spend several more days talking to others who might be a better match. And the list goes on.
We make huge, life-changing decisions based on the illusion that we can’t spare a few extra days or weeks to do it properly.
Being in such a rush can end up costing you a lot of money, hassle, and a huge amount of time... the thing you thought you didn’t have in the first place.
Research the area and your plans
Before making your first move and flying halfway across the continent, find out as much as you can about where you are going to live.
Facebook groups are a great way to do this. Check out our “Living Off-Grid in Spain” FB group if you’re thinking of moving to off-grid Spain!
Look up the area you are planning on moving to, check out available properties or pieces of land, and get in contact with people who have already made the move and live there now.
Do some research into real estate agents, and have a look at any builders or other companies you might want to work with. If you’re planning to start a business or build a house in a specific area, talk to those who have already done it.
Even if you don’t have a property yet, or you just have a vague idea of where you’d like to move to, it’s best to get things somewhat in order for when you visit. That way, you’ll be able to spend more time meeting with people you want to hire, and making friends with any potential neighbours.
It can sometimes be even more helpful to talk to people who tried what you’re thinking of doing and ended up doing something else instead. Listen to the reasons why their original plans fell through; that kind of information (learning about the challenges that stopped others) is the most valuable information you’ll find to make sure you succeed.
Ask people for their recommendations. You could put out a general question in a Facebook group, but make sure to also contact people privately. People are often less willing to give out information publicly, as all kinds of other elements can come into play there. Sending a private message (or even better, getting on the phone with people) can get you a whole host of insider knowledge on the good, the bad and the ugly side of working with certain people or companies.
Learn the language - or at least the basics
If you don’t already speak the native language of the area you’re planning to move to, learning the basics will be a huge help.
You don’t have to be completely fluent; just being able to have a simple conversation makes all the difference. It could be enough to save you from an uncomfortable situation, and makes it less likely that you’ll fall into any potential traps.
However, even if you do know enough of the language to get by, but are not a native speaker, it’s best to hire a translator or interpreter when it comes to discussing your new property or signing important documents.
A good translator can spot any nuances or finer details in a contract that only a native speaker would notice. That way, you’ll avoid signing on the dotted line for something you didn’t agree to or never wanted in the first place.
Check things out in real life
Once you’ve done your research on the internet, don’t stop there. It’s important to talk to people face-to-face, and have a look at your new property and the surrounding areas in real life before committing to anything. As most of us will know, pictures can be deceiving.
The same goes for companies you’re considering working with. It’s one thing to see your estate agent or building contractor on the internet and read their reviews, but it’s completely different asking the locals about them. After all, anyone can leave good reviews, especially if the reviewer is a close friend or if it was written in exchange for a favour.
You’ll definitely want to make sure that whoever you’re going to be working with is trustworthy, reliable and good at their job before making a big commitment, like hiring them to build your future home. And you definitely don’t want to base your decisions on online reviews.
Make sure you have someone who is completely on your side
When moving to a new place where you don’t know anyone, it’s essential to have a contact there that has your best interests at heart. You need someone who’ll help you, and won’t side with other locals because it’s easier or more profitable.
A common mistake people make is believing that their real estate agent is on their side when in actual fact, this is seldom the case. Of course, a good agent will do their best to facilitate your search and give you all the information you need, but at the end of the day, they have their own agenda. After all, they need to make money from your transaction.
Watch out for what seems like the ideal real estate agent, who happens to know all the right people - an architect, a builder, etc. Although this may seem like a nice, easy way to find trustworthy workers who will get everything done for you, staying in this little circle of workers who know each other won’t necessarily guarantee that anyone will be on your side.
In theory, the best way to make sure you don’t fall into this trap would be to hire a lawyer who can act as your local “go-between”. Someone who knows the laws of the land, the area and the people living there. They’ll know who to talk to about specific hurdles, and they’ll notice if there’s something not quite right with a contract or purchase.
To find a good lawyer, ask the locals or people who live near the area you want to move to for a recommendation.
There will always be people to help you out
Even if you are moving completely off-grid, there will always be locals and people in surrounding villages that will be happy to lend a hand or give you information.
Many villagers and off-grid dwellers are more than willing to help and welcome newcomers in any way that they can. There is always a choice of people to work with, so keep your eyes and options open, and don’t believe people who insist they are the only worker for the job.
Don’t settle for someone you’re not 200% comfortable with, just because they tell you they’re the only ones who speak English or the only ones who will do it within your budget. Take a few extra days or even weeks to look around before you make hugely important decisions like these.
Your turn now...
If you’re living off the grid and have gone through the process of relocating, I’d love to know your story!
What are some of the things you wish you knew before moving to your new property? What made your experience a positive or negative one? Is there any other piece of advice that you think I missed out in this article?
If you’re planning on moving to the countryside and starting your alternative lifestyle, is there anything you are still unsure or worried about?
Let me know your story, questions or tips in the comments below!