How To Avoid Scams When Looking For A Bug Out Site

Some people wonder why it is necessary to buy property for a bug out site. 

These people figure that when disaster strikes, they and others will simply squat on any land that happens to be available. This is a recipe for disaster because any surviving government forces will look to round up anyone that doesn’t have a place to live, while those who own land and can protect it will take action to keep strangers off the land. Have a look at the refugee crisis gripping Syria and other places in the world to see what happens when people do not own land they can go to in a time of need.

If you are able to afford some land for a bug out location, it is important to be wary of problems that can come up during the purchasing process. Here are the main problems that you may encounter as well as how to uncover them. Depending on the severity of the problem, the money you have available, and your interest in the property, it may or may not be better to simply look elsewhere.

Step 1: Always Have a Master Plan

Think of the master plan for your bug out location as being something like a recipe. Unless you know what the ingredients are, it will be very hard to gather the correct items, let alone assemble them into good tasting food.

When it comes to purchasing land for a bug out location, it is very important to have answers to the following questions so that you have the best possible chance of finding the best property for your needs. Without answers to these questions, you could wind up with property that is almost useless to you because you got sold on a sales pitch.

  • What kind of emergencies do you want to be able to survive through at the bug out location?
  • What kind of shelters will you need for yourself, family, livestock, and stockpiles?
  • How will you manage security, and will it be possible given the zoning codes for the property and surrounding areas?
  • Will the property be easy to get to during an emergency? Remember, locating far off the grid may sound nice until you have to go several miles or more without a vehicle under difficult circumstances. Getting to your bug out location should be a major consideration when evaluating property.
  • What kind of equipment and training will you need in order to survive at the location without any help from others?
  • Are there zoning regulations that prevent you from doing all you need in this capacity? If so, can you investigate and initiate a successful recall of politicians that will not get rid of those laws? How well do you feel you can interact with others in the area to achieve these goals?
  • What are the weather and geological patterns in the area? Carefully review earthquake maps as well as weather trends so that you do not wind up in an area where all your hard work will be ruined by a natural disaster.

Step 2: Searching for Property

Once you know where you want to go, the next step will be to choose a Realtor. Some people reading this may immediately say “what about Ebay, or FSOB (For Sale By Owner) on one or more web forums. Unless you have a lot of experience and time on your hands, what looks like a good deal on the surface may leave you with endless problems.

Here are just a few things that can happen when you don’t have a trustworthy Realtor (always check potential Realtors via the BBB to see both their rating and current complaints) to help you find good property:

  • You may end up with property that has hidden back taxes, liens, or other financial encumbrances attached to it. Usually, a Realtor will evaluate all of these things before putting property on the market.
  • There may be inaccurate or disputed boundaries for the property. When you do speak to a Realtor, ask for a survey that is no more than 5 years old. The last thing you will want is a situation where older survey methods generated inaccurate results, and then have to fight the matter out with your new neighbors. Remember, your bug out location is supposed to be a place of safety, not a place where your neighbors become your enemies over a property line issue.
  • You may miss out on vital information about the surrounding area. A Realtor usually has a lot of good information about zoning laws that may make the land unsuitable for home power generation or other things that are important to your long term plans.
  • The Realtor should also know the location of any landfills, dumps, medical waste processing plants, power generating plants, factories, and anything else that may pollute the water, soil, and air that you will be relying on during a crisis. Do not forget to verify what the Realtor tells you by doing your own research and also driving through the area.
  • Do not forget to ask the Realtor about past and recent flood patterns, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and any other natural disaster that may affect the land. Depending on where and how you build structures on the land, some weather problems may or may not be a deal breaker. Just be aware that all areas have one problem or more in this category.
  • Unsavory sellers may ask you to pay for the land in cash or other hard-to-trace methods. No matter how tempted you may be, never pay for land in cash. This is one time when you will want to be able to trace the payment so that you can prove the amount and who it went to.
  • It is also best to avoid paying through mobile apps or other online platforms that claim you will have a higher degree of privacy. To take ownership of the property, the deed must be registered in your name and filed with the local clerk. There is absolutely not point to trying to hide the transaction. Always choose a bank with a physical address that is FDIC insured. A cashier’s check is usually the best way to pay for land if you are buying outright. If you are getting a mortgage, have a lawyer look at any private contract you may make with the buyer. When going through a bank, make sure you are dealing with a creditable institution.
  • A good Realtor will be more than willing to wait for a full title search before closing on the property. Remember, the land owner can still use the land as collateral for loans or accrue liens while the property is on the market. Without an immediate title search, you won’t know for sure.

Here are some other important things to consider:

  • Never be in a hurry to buy land. The more a Realtor or other person tries to push you to make a decision, the faster you should walk away.
  • Never make any payments on the land such as a deposit fee to hold the land. Always check out the land seller’s background and his/her claims about the land.
  • Before buying any land, get it inspected by a neutral third party. Never do your land inspection alone. Bring a well trusted land inspector with you that knows what to look for.
  • To avoid land fraud, request to see an official plot map, the county/ state title information, property tax, and parcel information. When checking this information be sure the name on the title is the same as the seller’s, and that the survey matches the listing. If the seller’s documentation is incomplete or inaccurate, walk away because it might be a scam.
  • Look for duplicate listings with multiple Realtors, on FSOB sites, or other locations. Without a question, if you see different names tied to the same property, it could be a scam.
  • Be wary of sellers and real estate agents that are difficult to get a hold of or do not return calls within 1 business day. Don’t even waste your time calling a Realtor back if they don’t respond to an initial inquiry on the same day.
  • Be choosy about sellers and Realtors that only want to do business by email. Even though these documents are written materials, a phone call is a better place to pick up on dodgy answers or vague information.
  • You may also encounter a property that seems incredibly cheap compared to what you are getting. Look deeper, and keep looking until you find the problem. When surrounding land is going for much higher prices, there has to be a reason why the land you are looking at is cheaper than expected.

Land is a timeless asset that is heavily regulated and watched over. Nevertheless, the market for suitable bug out property is filled with frauds and scammers. Making use of a Realtor and lawyer can help you avoid a number of problems, however you will still need to do a good bit more work to get the best property for your needs.

Written by

Fred Tyrrell is an Eagle Scout and retired police officer that loves to hunt, fish, hike, and camp with good friends and family. He is also a champion marksman (rifle, pistol, shotgun) and has direct experience with all of the major gun brands and their clones. Fred refers to himself as a "Southern gentleman" - the last of a dying way. He believes a man's word is his bond, and looks forward to teaching others what he has learned over the years. You can send Fred a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • Also, watch for location of nuclear power facilities as well as dams. These could be compromised in a severe SHTF emergency. Watch for these not only near the actual location of your property, but also along the route you plan to use to get there.

  • Io’ve dealt with realtors on home purchases. I found out one home was in a flood zone from the surveyor, not the realtor. A second location had been damaged in a fire: I heard it from a neighbor but never from the realtor.

    Talk to the neighbors and don’t buy anything where you are forbidden or discouraged to do that. Get a USGS map of the area, it will give you elevations. Get a five year report on police calls to the property. Check the Sexual Offenders registry if you plan to shelter children. Check the address on websites which monitor areas for safety. Know who the neighbors are and ask around to see if they belong to high-crime or political racketeer families. Get soil testing done so you can be assured that the property is not a dumping ground for meth chemical wastes or other pollutants.

    Remember, realtors are hired by the seller and not the buyer. If they do you any favors, you are lucky.

    • You are right when you say the realtor is hired by the homeowner. However, the realtor should go through an extensive checklist regarding the house and property. If anything is held back intentionally, regarding an issue with the house or property, and it comes out later that there was an issue, the homeowner and real,estate agent can and will be held accountable and could be sued. Real Estate agents are very well aware of this and they do everything possible to find out if anything would be considered an issue. I wouldn’t worry about them telling me if there was or wasn’t an issue. There livelihood is on the line with every client they talk to and it’s not worth the repercussion they will face if they are not honorable and forthright. This is just my knowledge and understanding of how the process works.

  • What we’re trying to do is buy a “country property”. Basically a cottage or something along those lines. And I’ve heard horror stories about people buying their first country property. There’s so much more involved in buying a country property as opposed to buying a property in the city. Some neighbours can be real dicks. Of course the property in the city is closer to work so we need that first. The best thing we can do to “search” our potential purchase is to get a lawyer involved who lives in our target area and who is familiar with all the ins and outs of purchasing property in that area. Most of the preppers on this site are already aware of what they want and need in terms of a property so make sure you get a good lawyer involved so you don’t have any surprises down the road. Before the SHTF. After SHTF it’ll be a whole other ball game. A LOT of things will go out the window. And I know I’m preaching to the choir but obviously the most important thing we need, other than a secure shelter, is a secure source of fresh water. We can do without a lot of things but not water. Not for long. Make sure you have water and access rights. Entrenched.

  • I agree with Armin about the water. Our body can go a week without food, but only three days without water. If your potential country property has a well, check the gallons per minute(GPM), if it has ever run dry and take a sample of the water to a lab for analysis Check the power source for the well, you may need a generator, solar or some other source of power when SHTF. .

  • I saw several properties in northern AZ on a survival real estate site. From my work on the state rural water commission, I knew the area had no groundwater. All properties require water hauling and rooftop collection. You cannot live on roof top collection only. None of that was in the listing. AZ is a ‘caveat emptor’ state when it comes to water. If it is not in the sales contract that the property has an assured supply, it doesn’t. Always a good question, get the answer in writing in the closing documents.

  • One of the best articles that I have read on buying rural property for any use, and particularly as a prepper holding. The comments were also excellent.

    I will add another, hopefully, meaningful one.

    When doing the property analysis check for existing waste disposal installations, if any. The type; location; age; reliability; capacity; and any past, present, or potential future problems. This applies to not only human waste black water septic systems, but any gray water and recycling systems as well. If at all possible, and it should be, have a perculation test done in several areas around the property, not just where you ‘want’ the septic system to be. Other places as well, for a variety of reasons.

    This would also be a good time to take extensive samples for analysis for contamination, as well as for how fertile the soil is in various spots around the property. Also find out from reliable sources, maps, structures and other examples of excavations on the property the type of soils that make up the surface of the property, down to ten feet at least, and preferably twenty feet. You may want to build a completely or partially underground home, garage, shop, shelter, barn, root cellar or other structures.

    And do not forget about other waste disposal systems that a prepper homeowner will need during and after major disasters. Currently, there are options such as trash and waste pick-up and local landfills. That will not be the case in many situations in the future. And no matter how into recycling, reuse, and repurpose a person is, there will be garbage, trash, refuse, and other types of solid wastes that will need to be dealt with. And if the prepper does any type of activity that generates liquid wastes that cannot go into a standard septic system, there must be a way to store or dispose of these, as well.

    With these thoughts in mind, consider the property in terms of how you would handle those needs. Some possibilities include creating your own (safe and non-polluting) landfill, using a well-made incinerator (check for normal burn restrictions) to reduce the amount of trash and ‘treat’ some of the items to reduce biological dangers, kitchen trash compactor, can crusher, larger outdoor DIY trash compactor, and a much more complete recycling program that could include melting various metals for use later or barter/trade such as aluminum and lead for sure, but also steel, truly scrap copper (much copper will still be in usable forms such as pipe, tubing, fittings, wire, sheet, etc.), brass, bronze, iron, tin, pewter, and other pretty common and easy to melt with decent equipment metals. Platinum from catalytic converters, nickel in various items, mercury (be very careful), and many of the other metals that are in daily use in homes, vehicles, and many other objects.

    Do not forget about storage space, either. Not the home pantry, stock animal needs, and other common prepper storage needs. You might need to store for various periods of time some fairly cumbersome and/or large items. Sheet goods such as sheet metal, plywood and other wood sheet goods, lumber of many sizes and lengths, stock fencing panels and gates, concrete and masonry products, posts, and so many other things the list would be pages long in terms of possibilities. Some would need protected storage. It is not just the amount of room, it is also the where, safety, exposure, difficulting in both constructing and accessing. You do not want to have to drag 4′ x 8′ sheets of plywood uphill through dense forest growth with heavy underbrush simply because there is a good pole building site ‘down there’ when the house and shop are ‘up here’.

    There are other aspects that will vary with each individual prospective buyer. (For instance, I forgot the requirements for horses, and did not mention ponds nor flowing water.)

    Just my opinion.

  • I always recommend people consider buying a small farm or ranch. a large percentage of farms have fish stocked ponds and wooded areas. Farmers also make great neighbors, they are natural preppers who know most basic survival skills. Avoid being near big cities, consider a place near a small town that has medical services and other amenities.