Wilderness area lands in the United States can be breathtaking: fresh air, clean water, quiet days and nights, animals and plants you’ll never see in the city.
But these areas also differ in terms of amenities, access to wildlife and property restrictions.
If you’re buying a wilderness property for fun and as an investment, consider how the pros and cons will impact your ability to rent or sell in the future.
In some areas, local and national laws restrict amenities. Investigate which facilities are available in any area you are planning to invest in. Never buy a property you haven’t personally visited.
Pros: Wilderness areas often offer hiking, fishing, cycling, snowmobiling and other recreational activities. Some wilderness areas will have ski facilities as well as boating and guided tours. Perks like these will make your property attractive to potential buyers and renters.
Cons: Some homes come without amenities you may consider basics: sewage pipes, fresh water, electricity, heating systems and Internet access. Hospitals, stores, schools or equipment rental could be miles away. If your property is far from police and fire service access, that could impact your insurance policy costs.
In wilderness areas, you’ll feel the effects of the weather more acutely than in the city. Consider how easy or difficult it may be to keep a wilderness home in good condition.
Pros: The sense of being at one with nature. Many potential renters will be attracted to the idea of vacationing in the wild.
Cons: How will heavy snows affect the condition of your property—and your access? Will you need to invest in a snowmobile? How about strong winds and heavy rains? Could the property flood? How often do forest fires rage? Do any seasons render the property uninhabitable? How will your insurance be affected by all this?
Proximity to wildlife remains a key selling point of a wilderness area property. But you may not welcome all creatures.
Pros: Hunters, fishers and bird watchers alike will want to stay in a property so close to nature.
Cons: What happens if birds or rodents invade, especially if the property will lay empty for weeks (or months) at a time? Damage caused by rodents and birds can prove costly. Not to mention the challenge of evicting a raccoon, for example, from a kitchen cabinet. Will you need to spend a lot of money preventing infestations? And what about larger animals? Are there bears? Have there been any recent wildlife attacks on people in the area?
The Wilderness Act of 1964 severely restricts the use of motorized transport, building and other activities.
Pros: Wildlife is protected, and the area remains beautiful.
Cons: While not all wilderness areas fall under the 1964 laws, there may be other local regulations that restrict activity. Before you buy a property in the wilderness, investigate any laws or prohibitions that may affect you. Say you buy a cabin and plan to rent it out over the summer: Are you allowed to refurbish the building? Can you install electricity, boilers or widen access paths? Are you even permitted to rent out your own land?
Wildlife area communities can be very close-knit.
Pros: Schools run smaller, and teachers may have closer relationships with parents. Crime is often lower. If there’s one store in town, it doesn’t take long to become friends with the proprietor. In an area otherwise isolated, neighbors often look out for each other.
Cons: It can be difficult at first to break the ice in a small, close-knit community. The lack of diversity in health care and shopping can be a disadvantage.
Other wilderness factors
Consider a few other issues that may fall into pro or con, depending on your vantage point.
Price: Some wilderness area properties can be extremely cheap—but there may be a reason, like the distance from services or lack of amenities listed above. But if you’re just looking for an easy getaway, or a slice of nature without having to haul a tent around, that could work for you.
Traffic: Compared to a city, there is hardly any traffic in wilderness areas unless your property is next to a resort. Then it will be busy over the holidays or other peak seasons.
Employment: If you plan to live there year-round, will you work from home? Or in a nearby town? Some towns have hotels and restaurants that will need extra staff at peak times or tourism that calls for guides—but what about the rest of the year? How will weather affect your ability to work?
Like so many real estate options, buying a wilderness property could turn into a dream home—if you do the right homework for your lifestyle.