During times of civil unrest, food shortages, natural disasters or other SHTF scenarios, it is better to live somewhere with land, than in an apartment or condo.
Land can be used to grow food. Arable land is any land that is suitable for growing crops; it is fertile soil. How much land do you need? If you are a prudent prepper, you will have food from three sources: food that you buy, food that you have stored, and food that you grow. In that case, you won’t need to grow everything that you need to eat; that would be a full-time job. So a limited amount of land is needed. You don’t need a small farm, but only an extra-large garden. The food that you grow will supplement your other sources of food. Even a house on a quarter or half acre of land should have enough land for a large backyard garden. However, more land is better, and a larger garden is better.
If you have a choice between living in an apartment, with no land, or a house with at least some space for a large garden, I suggest that the house is the better location. If municipal services, such as water, sewage, and electricity fail, you are generally better off in a house with land, than in an apartment. When the SHTF, people will need to have a greater degree of self-sufficiency as society degrades into chaos and disorder. And land has always been very useful, if not essential, to greater self-sufficiency in human history.
City, Suburbs, or Rural?
In my opinion, it will usually be better to live away from major cities during any disaster scenario. Cities are problematic for several reasons. You don’t have enough land to grow food in the city. The higher concentration of people means more miscreants per square mile. You are entirely dependent on city services for power, water, and sewer. If there is no food, you cannot hunt or fish. If there is no water, you can’t find water in nature and purify it.
So overall, you are better off in a rural setting, than a city. A suburb location would be not as good as rural for many scenarios, but much better than a city location. If you live in a city or suburb, you probably would be wise to arrange for a rural bug-out location: a second home, the home of a family member or close friend, or the like.
The main issue with a rural location is that you need to be able to defend your home and land yourself. The local police may be overwhelmed by calls if there is civil disorder or some severe disaster. Small police departments have fewer officers and resources. So individual citizens have perhaps a greater need for self-defense, in some situations.
Defending Your Land and Home
Laws permitting the use of force in self-defense vary from one locality to another. Learn your local laws and obey them. This post does not offer legal advice on when you may or may not legally use force.
There are perhaps two main concerns pertaining to the defense of your land. First, if you are growing food during a time of food shortages, attempts may be made to steal food from the land. Second, the land around your house is the first line of defense against forced entry of your home.
When people are hungry and afraid, they have much poorer judgment. If thefts of food become successful, they will become widespread, and grave harm will be done to many lives and to society. Allowing a particular theft of food at your property has negative repercussions beyond your yard. And if you need to grow food to survive, defending your land and garden becomes more important.
On the second point, defending the land around your house protects the house itself. If you have neighbors close-by, you would perhaps be wise to meet with them and make an agreement for mutual defense. An assault on one house is an assault on every house in the neighborhood.
Fences are of some use. Even though a fence can be breeched with limited effort, it is a clear demarcation. No one can claim to have accidentally wandered onto your property if they have climbed over or broken through a fence. This shows intent on their part to commit a crime, at least of trespassing. The best type of fence is tall and allows you to see through it, such as a chain metal fence. Solid wood fences permit an attacker to hide out of your view. Tall hedges have the same problem. You might want to clear brush or hedges from your property if they obscure your line of sight. They might be of more benefit to a person of ill will than to the defense of your property.
Exterior lighting is useful for the defense of your land. It prevents a trespasser from using the cover of darkness to do harm. Some exterior lights will turn on automatically, in response to a motion detector. This feature can function like an early warning system, altering you to a possible danger. It might also scare away persons of ill will. At the very least, the exterior lighting allows you to see the nature of the threat, so as to respond out of knowledge.
If some persons are trespassing on your property, ordinarily you might decide to call the police. At certain times during the severe events, police services might be overwhelmed and unable to respond, especially to a non-emergency call about trespassing. Unfortunately, this increases the danger to you and your family. What you can do is alert other persons in your household and your next-door neighbors if there is a suspicious person trespassing on your land. When police services are limited or unavailable, your next best defense is perhaps to work with you neighbors for mutual defense and assistance.
If someone is trespassing on your land, do not allow fear to cause you to act rashly and either immorally or illegally. Laws, their interpretation and application vary from place to place and time to time, but generally the threat must be grave and immediate. Do not over-react to a situation without a clear grave threat to your life or the lives of your family.
The Lay of the Land
I realize that most persons do not have complete freedom in choosing exactly where they might live for prepping purposes. But a consideration of the benefits and detriments to various possible locations may be of some benefit, in case at any time you need to move or you otherwise have some influence over where you live. Is it better to live at a higher elevation or a lower elevation? Closer to water, or further from it? Near major transportation, or away from it? Near a wooded area or open land?
Wooded areas have some general disadvantages. You cannot plant crops in a wooded area. Trespassers can attack you and your family and home from the cover of woods. Wildfires can spread particularly quickly in a wooded area, threatening your land and home. So I suggest that an area with less woods and more open land is preferable.
You want the land to be fertile, so that you can grow food. It’s also useful for defense of your home if you have a clear line of sight in every direction around your house. A large number of bushes and obstacles would allow attackers to get close to your home without being seen, and gives them cover or concealment for an attack.
Is it an advantage or disadvantage to be near a major center of transportation, such as a major airport, major port, train systems, or an interstate highway? If there is a mass evacuation of an area, due to some grave situation, so many people will be fleeing that highways will become parking lots. When people were fleeing New Orleans in advance of hurricane Katrina, the highways moved like molasses in winter. The same is true of airports and trains. When very many people are fleeing using the same means of transportation, the system slows to a crawl. If you have to evacuate an area, back roads might actually be quicker than highways.
However, in other situations, or if you are prudent and are among the first to flee to safety, being near a major transportation center is a significant advantage. Major highways are almost everywhere in the U.S. You can live in a fairly rural location and still be not too far from an interstate highway. But most transportation centers are also near major cities. Considering the previously mentioned many disadvantages to living in a city, you might be better off an hour or more of driving distance from an airport, if that will still leave you in a fairly rural area. Hopefully, fleeing the area will be a rare event, but the advantages of rural living are daily. So on balance, rural areas, not too far from an airport or port or train station or major highway, is a better location.
Types of Homes
A single family house, with at least a half-acre of land around it, is preferable. The land gives you a buffer around your home, making the approach of danger more evident. Your house is more defensible because you are more free to add security measures in a house that you own, than in a rented apartment. A house has more storage space for food and supplies. The basement of a house is usually cooler, and therefore good for storing food. (But be sure to take care to keep food dry, since basements are usually also damp.)
Which style of house is best? A two-story house has advantages over a one-story house. From the second floor, you can see further, and you are less vulnerable to an attack on your home. Even if the attackers make it into the house, they still must climb the stairs if you are on the second floor. The top of a narrow stairway is, to some extent, a defensible position. A one-story house (of the same square footage as a two-story house) has more exterior first story walls and windows, allowing more potential access points for anyone attempting to break and enter.
Also, a two-story house is easier to heat than a one-story house with the same square footage. The two-story house has less exterior surface area per interior volume, allowing for less heat loss. A two-story house can be heated more efficiently. But for the same reasons, any house that you choose should also be very well-insulated.
Should you live in a fortress or a home? I don’t suggesting trading quality of life for extremes of security. You can never be 100% safe, no matter where you live. You can make some better choices to make your life somewhat safer during dangerous times. But don’t take this to an extreme. Don’t spend money that you don’t have, trying to turn your home into a fortress. Live in a home, not a fortress. Use your own good judgment about where to live and which steps to take to increase your safety. Don’t go to extremes. Consider the quality of your life to have value alongside the safety of your life.
Should your house have a basement? I’ve lived in both types of houses, with and without a basement. My opinion is that a basement offers substantial cool storage space for storing food and supplies, and perhaps makes the house easier to heat. It is better to have a cool basement under your living space than cold ground. An attic is also useful for storage. In the present time, many people buy what they need, when they need it. But after the SHTF, commerce in general, and the availability and distribution of goods needed for survival in particular, will be disrupted. People need to buy goods in advance of their need, and to store them securely.
Can you store some goods in a free-standing shed or other detached building? I don’t think that type of storage location is secure. If you store goods in your home, you or another family member will usually be present to defend those supplies. But if you have a separate building for storage only, it is vulnerable to break-ins and theft, especially at night.
A detached garage (or even to some extent an attached garage) is also more difficult to defend against break-ins than your home. So a garage is not a good location for storing food or essential supplies. If you must store food or supplies in the garage, make sure that these are in a locked container that cannot be lifted up and carried away by thieves.