If you want to build a cabin mostly yourself or with friends and don’t want to hire expensive contractors or be restricted in materials by complicated code compliance, you’ll probably want to looks for land in what is known as “pockets of freedom.”
Pockets of freedom is the name for counties in U.S. States where you can still come in, buy some land, and get started on your cabin build without needing a building permit from the government. I remember calling the county building department and telling them about my plans. At the end of the call I asked what forms I needed to fill out, and the reply was simply: “It’s your land, do with it what you want!”
The big advantages of building yourself are keeping the costs down, the freedom to choose materials, the challenge and adventure of building a house with your own hands.
So whithout getting into a discussion of the usefulness of building permits overall and the safety benefits vs. drawbacks of limiting creativity, it simply makes the process of building your first cabin a lot simpler, faster, and less expensive. Those are all good thing when you are just starting out.
So where are these pockets of freedom?
This map was put together a few years ago by the people advocating sustainable building practices at http://earthshipglobal.com
Some counties might have changed, however it gave me a good starting point. Generally the western U.S. is less restrictive and of course away from metropolitan areas. Once you decide on a general area, you can call the the county office directly or try to get more information from their website about the different building permit requirements.
Some building codes have exemptions for buildings under 400sq ft or those that can be classified as sheds. Great, because then you could be Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson. (Just a silly Monty Python reference).
Besides finding a pocket of freedom, there are many other things to consider when selecting your land. Do you want to go off grid or have access to city water and power? What kind of climate/ nature do you want near by? Civilization? Road access? And the list goes on.
For me I found a great spot close to the Appalachian trail on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. It has a lake, a winery, hiking, atv trails, local airport, 40 mins from a decent size city, and easy hookup to water/power. I’ll post pictures and update on the construction process in the next post.
Also for those interested in building a tiny home on wheels. There is a whole different sort of legal issues surrounding those type of builds. I’ll give my opinion on those and how to rent land or otherwise find places to park them in another post.