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Can I Live in an RV on My Property?

Updated on August 08, 2016
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who has traveled, lived, workcamped and volunteered nationwide for more than 50 years and am still going strong!

The land is yours. You want to live there in your RV, but can you, is doing so legal and/or is this really something you should even be considering?

The answers to these questions, in order, are possibly, maybe and maybe, and the reason is that taking this step will only work under the right circumstances and in appropriate locations.

Read the details here, and then decide for yourself whether this is a plan that can work for you.

Can I live on my own property in my RV?
Can I live on my own property in my RV? | Source

Placing an RV on Your Own Land Can Be Complicated

These days it is difficult to navigate your way through the housing market, and many people simply do not want to do so. For some, the way out is to buy a recreational vehicle and place it on some land they already own or may want to purchase.

It is important to take great care when taking this step because most cities do not allow full time motor home or travel trailer living on property located within city limits. In fact, many do not even allow people to park their vacant rigs beside their homes!

I know of one area in Nevada that does not allow people to live this way anywhere within its limits; no exceptions!

If you are bound and determined to fulfill this plan, you will most likely will have to consider moving to an area that is outside of town. Doing this requires quite a few sacrifices such as

  • having to clear the land and place utilities on it
  • doing without the best level of medical care and facilities
  • having to drive long distances to shop and handle business affairs
  • and worrying about security, especially when you must be away for any length of time.

Speaking as someone who followed this route, I can tell you that it has many caveats. In my case, the price was right and the spot was pristine, but the beautiful rustic mountain acreage my husband and I purchased resulted in the death of two of my dogs, damage to my travel trailer and the theft of major land clearing equipment.

To find what we wanted, we had to locate 20 miles from the nearest town, which left our property and belongings vulnerable. The local thieves had a field day, and their hard work caused us to sell our land and move back home. When one of our friends saw that we had returned, he actually cried because this move had been our retirement dream, and now it was ruined.

We had put a lot of hard work and money into the property, and it sickened us to have to walk away, but we really had no choice because staying would not have been safe.

Based on that experience I advise people to find a nice deeded lot in a campground and live there, instead so that they can avoid the risk. The Pros and Cons of Owning a Deeded RV Lot gives more information about this option.

However, if you are dead set on buying acreage and placing your coach on it, try to locate as close to neighbors and a town as you can so that you can lower your security risks and increase your level of convenience.

Vacant country land is usually zoned for RVs but has many caveats.
Vacant country land is usually zoned for RVs but has many caveats. | Source

Property Zoning and Development Potential Are Important

If you are starting from scratch with this idea, the first thing you must do is find a piece of property that is properly zoned for what you plan to do.

Usually it will be located in the country and is vacant, undeveloped and may even be off the main road or lack legal road access.

If this is the case, you want to make sure that you have good access to the land and that it can be developed.

Installing and Accessing Services

Even if the land is good for development, before you purchase it, you must make sure

  • the water is potable and on your land and that you have the rights to it
  • the entry roads are on your own property
  • electricity can be run across your land, or if necessary, you can get a neighbor's written permission to run some or all of it across his
  • your land will be suitable for putting a septic system in place
  • and you will be able to access telephone, cell and internet service.

Never assume that any of these things are "givens" because each depends greatly on location, zoning and the willingness of others to assist you. Furthermore, if you are too far away from the closest city, it may cost more than you are willing to pay to gain access to some of the items on this list.

The closer you locate to town, the easier it will be for you to make arrangements for different things.

If your land is within city limits, you will not have to dig a well or install a septic tank or worry about accessing electricity, phone or internet services. This will save you a great deal of time, effort and money, but if your original goal was to be able to be more self contained, using standard facilities will undo that dream because you still will have those monthly bills to contend with for your utilities and other services.

Land Clearing

Once you are certain you can access the services you need, you probably will have to clear at least some of your land. If you plan to do this yourself, you will need to purchase or rent equipment that can handle the job.

You should purchase the small items, like chain saws , that you will have need of in the future, but rent the large ones, like ditch witches, that you will only be use once.

Before you do any of this, make sure you have the skills that you will need to tackle this job so that you don't wind up in the hospital!

If you hire professionals to do some or all of the work, make sure they are licensed, insured, bonded and know what they are doing. Ask around town for references before you employ anybody. Doing this will keep you from having problems and will save you some money, too.

DIY land clearing is hard work.
DIY land clearing is hard work. | Source

Property Development Options

Once you have been assured that all systems on your property are a "go", you can make your purchase and have your utilities installed.

You may want to build a cement pad and patio for your RV because they make for cleaner living.

However, no matter how you set things up, you must make sure that the spot you choose for your living unit will be close to your utilities outlets. Also, you may want to install more than one sewer, water and electrical hookup so that friends with motor homes and campers can stay on your property with you when they come for visits.

This is an especially good idea if you will be living a good distance from the closest town or campground.

You Pay Less Living On Your Own Land, But You May Get Less

Once the utilities are in place, you can move your unit to your property and start enjoying it.

You will not have to pay taxes for your RV, but you still will have to pay them for the property.

You also will have to pay for electric, telephone and internet services, but there will be no water or sewer bills unless you were able to tie into the closest town's water and sewer systems.

If you are used to city living, you will find that moving a recreational vehicle onto your own property may not be what you originally thought it would be.

Living on your own land is not the same as being in a campground, and generally will not have the same level of safety and convenience.

So while the monthly bills will be less, and you will have more flexibility and freedom, you may find you also are getting less in many ways.

This is why you should really think things through prior to making this type of move.

Tread Carefully

One word of caution for those of you who are seriously considering this venture.

When you live in the country on your own land, you need to be very careful about protecting yourself and your belongings. As my story showed, you do not have the same safety levels that you may be used to if you lived in a city or town. Thus, you need to be more vigilant about what you do and how you do it.

Despite all of the issues mentioned in this article, many people are able to successfully live in their recreational vehicles on their own properties. However, these are the folks who are willing to do the work and make the sacrifices that are necessary to do so.

If you want to give it a try, remember what I've said here, and tread carefully.

Inexpensive Land Clearing

Do you think moving your RV to your own land to live there is a good idea?

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© 2013 TIMETRAVELER2

Comments

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  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 13 days ago

    trixietreasure: I'm betting the authorities will work it all out to your favor.

  • profile image

    trixietreasure 2 weeks ago

    I appreciate that. Yes, this is quite upsetting. I hope it will be easy to get it resolved. Thank you.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 2 weeks ago

    trixietreasure: It's obvious that you are pretty upset, but I suspect the authorities will take action on this providing that your zoning laws have not changed. I actually looked at my article again and noticed that I clearly stated the importance of checking into zoning laws before taking action. I know exactly how you feel and hope this works out for you. Good Luck!

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    trixietreasure 2 weeks ago

    Yes, I agree, anyone with common sense would check with the county on what the zoning laws are before doing anything, but we're talking about those who have COMMON SENSE. My new neighbor who just moved into my neighborhood does not have common sense. I won't go into that, except I'll just say that I and one other person has filed a complaint with the county just this week. Those of us who have lived out here for 40 plus years ( my parents lived here for 56 years before they passed away), and who have abided by county laws, refuse to allow someone come into our neighborhood and do just whatever they want.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 2 weeks ago

    trixietreasure: I believe I addressed this issue in my article, albeit not in as much detail as you put in your comment. It would seem to me that anybody with a lick of common sense would realize they need to check zoning laws before doing anything with property they own, but that's just me! Thanks for the great comment.

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    trixietreasure 2 weeks ago

    Before setting up an RV or mobile home in the country on your land, you need to check with the county first to see what the laws are. Where I live, it's illegal to set up an RV on your land, PLUS, it's also illegal for you to make money from that. Meaning, you can't allow someone to just move onto your property and charge them rent.

    We are zoned out here for strictly farm use, and the only way you can put another dwelling on your land is to file for a hardship case. That means that if you are elderly or disabled and can no longer keep up your home, you may file with the county a hardship case, saying you need someone there on the property to help you and to help take care of the land.

    So before moving your RV or mobile home onto your land, you have to do it legally and check what the laws are. Otherwise, you most likely will find yourself in a lot of hot water.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 3 weeks ago

    Cook Contra: Glad this helped. One thing people who want to do something like this need to remember is that when you are away from civilization, you are mostly alone and have little protection against theft and other crimes. It's there, so you do need to consider it when making your plans. Good luck.

  • Cook Contra profile image

    Shawn Stanley Cook Contra Contreras 4 weeks ago from California

    Thank you for this INFO. I have a dog and a cat, and was considering a place in the "Woods" so to speak. but now with your story, it has really opened my eyes. I'm following my dream of farming for myself and getting back to nature and the basics.

    I have to find a plot, I have been researching for a year now, so many temporary options for bathroom and shower stuff from camping sites and stores. I am willing to rough it for a few months until I have built my cabin. I found a plan for a 14ftx20 foot that costs around $6000 to build from scratch. but that's paying full price for everything, lumber, insulation, drywall, electrical, plumbing, etc. but I have found many Lowes stores with Culled lumber for 1/2 the price and even less and there is always the Clearance section too. I have my background in construction and landscaping. I have 1 cousin who can help with Central heating and AC.

    I just hope everything goes to plan.

    Thanks again. Helped me out a lot. I didn't even consider theft being so far out

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 2 months ago

    John Lee Bass: Glad this article helped you. If you click on my name at the top of the hub, it will take you to my profile page where you can find more than 100 articles about RV living and travel, some of which may apply to your situation. Although we didn't get to live full time on our own property, we did live full time for a good number of years in an RV park and continue to travel regularly in our motor home, even though we're now in our 70's. Thanks for reading and commenting and good luck with finding the right property.

  • John Lee Bass profile image

    John Lee Bass 2 months ago from SANTA BARBARA, CA

    TIMETRAVELER2: Craziness the (BAD) experiences you guys encountered, and a shame it's what forced you guys out of living your dream. Stumbled on your write-up as I am looking for property in southern Oregon & found your info VERY HELPFUL. Thanks!

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 6 months ago

    BeaverMarquis: Thanks so much for your enthusiasm and great comments. I'm getting a swelled head! I hope I do hear from you again and that maybe one day we can meet up on the road somewhere! You may want to check my profile for other articles about RV living and travel to see if there is other info there that will also help you. Just click on my pen name at the top of any of my articles to see what's available. Keep in touch and let me know how things go for you.

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    BeaverMarquis 6 months ago

    Yes Sir, Yes Sir and Yes Sir~!!!!

    Wow, I guess I need to really

    delve heavy into this, research

    and research and visit and ask, probe,

    interrogate, before I buy the property~!!

    Yes Sir~!!! Awesome Article, Awesome Website

    and Thank You again for your time and info...

    I will be in touch again, count on it~!!! lol~! : - )

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 7 months ago

    BeaverMarquis: To be honest, I wasn't civil. I actually took a box of matches and headed towards the dirt bag's home, ready to burn the whole thing down. What stopped me was the fact that I remembered there was an infant in that house...the one he had with his sister! I know, though, but for that, I would have burned them out, hopefully with him in it! Instead, we packed up and left...permanently. Sold the property, and that ended the adventure.

    However, I will add, that we were too young and naive to realize that we clearly picked the wrong spot. People who live far into those mountains are very primitive, but this is not true of all country people. So, in a way, this was our own fault (and it grieves me deeply to admit it). Do not give up your dream! Keep your coach, Research the area where you want to live CAREFULLLY! Learn if there is corruption in the police force or whether you can trust them. There are many places in the US where good, decent, civilized people live where you can park your RV and allow your dogs to enjoy the great outdoors. The one we chose simply was not one of them. Good luck!

    PS You can't hide anything from the people who live in small towns. Don't try it. You won't need to. Forget the barn, etc...just make sure you know where you will be and who lives there before you buy your land.

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    BeaverMarquis 7 months ago

    Oh My GoshTimeTraveller2, I have to Salute You, for remaining Civil about the matter, I'd of came unglued, blew multiple head gaskets, I'd of detonated, resonated, etc.....

    I am so sorry to hear of this. I was really worried when I read this article, they had indeed met with foul play.

    I'm also disheartened, reading this article, realizing the validity and correctness of it. You saved me many $$$ and Many Headaches and You both enlightened and learned me, in a serious way.

    I am concerned now, what to do.?? If I was to purchase a Giant Metal Barn and park my 40' footer RV inside of it, would I avoid some of the HOA rules and their B.S., surrounding this issue ? Hidden, out of sight, out of mind ??? My dogs would be locked inside of the Metal Barn, inside of the RV, in my absence. Within my property lines, I'd have Bazookas and 50 Cal. Machine Gun Motion Detecting Sentry's, Guarding my Animals and the Barn...lol !!!!

    Notice, I put my dogs, before the Barn and RV ? : -) 3 Shepherds, all rescued from situations, like you found with yours at the locals cabin... I'm devastated, to hear what happened to your dogs, I'd be in Prison or worse, had that of happened to me, this is what really really worries me~!!!! You are right, out there in beautiful God's Country, So too hides The Dirt Bags~!! Why must they hurt Innocent and Loving Animals, just to achieve their goal of theft and other worthless agenda's ?

    I'm now worried I can no longer be an Axle Addict, as my dogs take precedence, over everything else~!!! I live for them, not the other way around, as do so many people say their dogs live for them!!!! Their dogs are merely amusement to them, If and only when, they are bored and can spare 5 minutes for their dogs, who'd willingly, give their lives, for their owners...

    I guess I have to sell the 40', as I will not endanger them, my Dogs..

    Oh my Gosh, let me know if you think hiding the Bus in a Giant Metal Barn, behind a grove of trees and Bushes, might work...

    Once again, I Salute You, for remaining Civil, towards the Dirt Bags & Murderers!!!! You poor guy, that just rips at my very being!! I can now see that happening and I bet it does, allot more than we could know or ever want to hear about.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 7 months ago

    BeaverMarquis: It's a very sad story. We had three beautiful dogs with us on this journey. Our female German Shepherd always stayed close by, but our Blue Tick/Lab and Cocker Spaniel, both males, loved to explore. One day, they just did not come back home. We searched everywhere for them, but never did find the BlueTick/Lab. Eventually we found the Cocker Spaniel sitting in a cold rain tied to a post outside of a cabin that belonged to a local. We simply took him from them. However, someone had fed him glass. Eventually, it tore up his insides and killed him. At first we had no idea what had happened to him, but it didn't matter because nothing would have saved him. You have to remember that we were in Appalachia where the mountain people have their own codes and ways of doing things. We discovered that a young guy who lived behind us was growing Marijuana in the woods behind our place. Our dogs must have discovered it, and that's what caused the problem. When we told some of the locals what had happened, they got on their horses and trampled his marijuana patch to smitherines. It didn't bring our dogs back, but at least the dirtbag who killed them paid a price for doing so. We all knew who did it,but simply couldn't prove it. So, when I tell people in this article to be careful about where they buy their land, I mean it. I feel the same as you about my dogs, and if I had known I was endangering them, we never would have bought that land!

  • profile image

    BeaverMarquis 7 months ago

    How did the 2 dogs become deceased, from trying to live on the property ? No mention of it, that I saw...That'd of made me go Ballistic~!~!! Take my tractor and chainsaw, Touch my Dogs and well, lol~!!! Nuff' Said~!!!

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 23 months ago

    Bryan Fullerton: I'm sure that what you say here is true, but I do know that there are many areas of the country where people can still buy land and place an RV on it for living. Why shouldn't they be able to do this? Good question!

  • Bryan Fullerton profile image

    Bryan Fullerton 23 months ago

    The laws in some parts of this country are ludicrous. Most of the ones directly infringing on our rights were made by and for richer people for their convenience. Of course as long as you pay tax you don't own any property, you just rent it from the government. Our forefathers that founded this country would be shocked and appalled at the laws we have allowed to be passed. Goldendale is a small town in south central WA state. You can buy property there out in the sticks where nobody can see your "house". Its just a pile of rocks with scrub oak and pine. But you cannot park an RV on it and live there. Its against county rules. Of course clever people have come up with all kinds of workarounds. For instance you can build a cheap pole barn/shed big enough to park your RV in. Is it legal? Probably not but it's the only way to circumnavigate the local government. Many people retiring no longer have the income to support the ridiculous taxes being charged on houses in or near towns. If they can Rv on their own land they can avoid being homeless. If you study local laws and the homeless you can see what appears to be the system trying to create homelessness. And lawmakers wonder why people are getting paranoid and turning into conspiracy nuts.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 2 years ago

    Junior Smith: What a GREAT story! You are proof positive that people can and do have successful, happy lives when they choose this alternative lifestyle. Not everybody can do it, but if you are young, strong and have good skills, there is no question that this can be a better way of life. Hats off to you, along with my wishes for many years of RV living happiness! Thanks so much for posting this comment...I think you have helped a lot of people with it.

  • Junior Smith profile image

    Junior Smith 2 years ago

    My wife and I and three kids live in an RV full time. We have for well over a year. After 7 years of living in a house we slaved to pay for, we decided that we had had enough. Our kids were suffering spiritually because of public schools and corruption. We were both too tired and grumpy to be the role model parents. So after much research we decided to ditch the house and get a used travel trailer. We parked at my parents house next to their garage. Technically illegal. But we made it all look inconspicuous as if nobody lived there. And if anyone asked, we would just say we live in the house, not the camper.

    Anyway. It was a year of living and learning. But honestly, I am kind of a jack of all trades. I know how to build, fix, and maintain a lot of things. We were fortunate enough to have a freeze proof spigot close by to keep the water tank filled as needed. We ran an RV outlet on the backside of the garage from its breaker box and plugged right in. For a first timer, things have gone pretty darn smoothly. We live in the country, which helps of course. But we still have had to be careful and try to not be seen hanging around the camper too much or filling it with water. This experience has taught us to make every drop of water count unlike the traditional life of wasting everything. And the best part of all is we are more of a family. Yes. There has been struggle. Nothing is like a fairy tale. And it isn't a romance. It's reality.

    Recently we found some great undeveloped land in a different county where there is no zoning outside the city limits. And there is electric lines and a pole already on the property. We bought it to move our camper there amongst the trees and to work on building a homestead over time. Our families told us it could all never be done. They were wrong. As they always are. People usually live in fear. And that's what is wrong with the world. No courage. Just a bunch of cowards who like to play it safe. The laws are mostly created on behalf of political schemes to serve people who are already filthy rich. But you cannot legislate morality. And it is RIGHT for people to choose how they want to live. We live in an RV. And we have done it safely and successfully. This life is far more rewarding than paying a high stack of bills to live in a space that nobody really needs. A giant box all decorated in overpriced materials just to impress someone. I personally hate traditional life. It works against the true family unit. One where a parent always stays home and mentors the children to grow up and respect nature and to see through spiritual eyes instead of a pathetic material life.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 2 years ago

    RonElFran More than a million people travel in and live in RVs. I don't know what percentage live in them on their own property, but I do know that a growing trend is for RV owners to purchase deeded lots in RV communities and live there at least part of each year.

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    Ronald E. Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

    I'll probably never become an RV owner, but I found this interesting. I wonder how many people actually end up doing this. It certainly sounds like it would be something of an adventure!

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 2 years ago

    MariaMoonacre Most such properties are located outside of towns or in the country. A knowledgeable realtor can help you find what you are looking for. The less populated an area, the more likely you are to find the type of land you seek. Good luck.

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    MariaMoonacre 2 years ago

    I would be willing to move almost anywhere for property zoned like this so I could legally live in a "tiny house" on my own property, but I am having difficulty finding anywhere zoned like this. Is there a resource to find property like this?

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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    TIMETRAVELER2 3 years ago

    Hi Joe: For some reason you've started calling me Sue...senior moment? I'm Sandy!! And you are right, we are highly regulated, but the problem is that if there were not any rules, life could be pretty uncomfortable. Most cities, even smaller towns, have regs about RVs, and it's important to understand them before you make any plans.

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    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Sue, this is an important topic for RV-owners. Although I'm not there yet, I'm filing this away for future consideration. I understand it intellectually, but on an emotional and spiritual playing field, it seems unnatural somehow that the city or county can regulate people's lives as much as they do even those citizens are living on their own land. Perhaps there are states that are more lax about these things in comparison to sister states. In any event, thanks for sharing a very intriguing subject. Aloha, and have a wonderful week!

    ~Joe

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