Since we bought our property in Tennessee, we've been asked a lot of questions about how to live in an RV on your own land. Here are some answers as we show you from start to finish, how we developed and now use our own private RV retreat.
If you RV full-time or are a weekend and holiday camper, you probably have visited a lot of RV campgrounds and parks along your journey. RV parking almost always seems so easy. Usually waiting for you conveniently are electric hookups, available freshwater, and sometimes even internet services.
But once you're in charge of setting up your own private property, it's a whole other ballgame. Setting up permanent residence means dealing with local governments for permits, following local zoning laws and building codes.
You have to find and hire contractors for the various utilities you will need and likely will have to clear trees and do a lot of excavation work.
There's a lot to consider to efficiently and correctly develop your own property for RV living, even if boondocking. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to live in an RV on your own land.
In our most recent video, we take you on a 10-month journey that started with us finding the property we want, and then doing each phase of the development.
Here's that video that documents our 10-month odyssey:
If you want to see everything we have done on creating our own RV land, we have lots more,
We have a whole PLAYLIST on the ins and out of owning your own RV land that we've done over the past year — check it out here:
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The Appeal of an RV Site on Your Own Land
Maybe you're an RV enthusiast who wants a plot of land as a home base to return to after long trips. We get it. See our experience buying land in Tennessee and ALL the posts about this at the end of this article.
Perhaps you're so accustomed to the RV lifestyle you feel you don't need a permanent house. You're just fine living out of your mobile vehicle 24/7. But you'd like a place that you can call your own… because it IS your own. You're not alone in this feeling.
For us, it was raw land that we wanted and could develop how we wanted – for RV use with no major restrictions.
We found our land in Perry County in Middle Tennessee
The land we bought in November 2021 is in a development known as the Woodlands at Buffalo River. The company behind this project owns almost 5,000 acres of pristine wooded land near the town of Linden, TN (population 950), located about 90 miles west and a bit south of Nashville.
Although the area is called “Nashville's Big Back Yard” because of its popularity and the ease that you can drive to all the fun and entertainment of Music City USA, we chose our property because of the peace and quiet. We're surrounded by trees and wildlife, the Buffalo River is a stone's throw away with kayaking and great fishing, and town – being Linden – is just a 10 minute drive.
I've become a regular at the local hardware store.
Jen has a gym where she works out most mornings and on Friday nights, we usually hang out at the Commodore Hotel in Linden, a beautiful building restored to its 1939 elegance. There's music each weekend, great food and a lot of friendly folks that we feel very much at home with.
We have created our own private RV Retreat
As seen in the most recent video up above, we've carved out an area back from the road and created three separate RV pads, each with full hookups of water, electric and sewer. We also installed a fence and gates and live 24-hour video monitoring.
That phase is now done. But like all good projects, developing your own RV land is never done. We are now getting plans for Phase 2, which we hope to start yer this fall. We'll share the details on that when we have the finished plans drawn up.
What about the cost?
That is probably the most asked question we get. And people ask that because they want to know what it will cost them to develop a similar place.
But my costs will not be your costs.
For one thing, because we bought early in the development, we were able to choose property serviced by a road maintained by Perry County. The city of Linden has a water line running right past our land. Electricity runs right down the road, too. This month, the local Meriwether Lewis Electric Coop is installing fiber optic cable.
We were spared the cost of digging a well, something that can easily run well over $10,000. We just had to tap into the water out front.
Most of the parcels along our road sold out last year. New owners don't have the convenience of municipal utilities running right out front.
But then again, most owners aren't going to install a 600-foot U-shaped driveway as we did or install a large septic system that can handle a three-bedroom house (if someday we decide to build a cabin or bardominium). And most users won't make three full hookup spots like we did.
See why our costs will not be what your costs would be? And we're not done, as I said. Phase 2 is coming!
But here's my best explanation on what to figure it will cost you to develop your own RV land: Figure whatever you paid for the property alone and divide it in two. Half the land costs will be generally what it will cost to develop the land. Give or take.
I've asked many of my neighbors at the Woodlands who are in various stages of developing their own land and they agree with that ballpark estimate. Like us, they expect when they are done that they will have spent about 50% of the land costs to make it as they want.
Now I shouldn't have to say (but I will), that if you buy lots of acreage – say 50 acres and more – the land cost will be considerably more than for those who buy smaller parcels. Thus the development costs will be less than 50%.
Right now, the smallest property they are selling is 5 acres and it starts at $79,900. Property is priced based on the features of the land so all acres are not equal. Some have natural building sites, special views, etc, so some five-acre parcels sell for more than that.
All this is my long and convoluted explanation of why each parcel will be different in what it costs to develop.
But for us, our parcel cost $89,900 when we bought in November 2021. You can take 50% of that and be pretty much in the ballpark of what we have spent.
Why is RV Living Illegal in Some Residential Areas as a Primary Home?
Let's broaden the discussion a bit now.
In our area, there is no HOA and the only thing we can't put on the land is a single-wide trailer. We can park and live in our RVs as long as we want. We can rent out the spots. It's our land, our way.
But that is not true in many other parts of the country.
Local laws vary wildly regarding proper living structures on private land.
For example, some state laws require a permanent home to have multiple entrances in the event of a fire. Most RV's have 1 or 2 entrances, so that might not work. But, if you plan to live in a tiny house, for instance, it's not a good idea to only have one entrance in places with that regulation.
Others require basic safety regulations like a proper cooling and heating system. Rain should not be able to leak in, or it may cause dangerous mildew build-up and rodents and insects. Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms may also be required.
If you're interested in choosing a certain area, first contact its county building office. They can let you know all of what's required from permanent and temporary structures on a property. For example, they will tell you if there are requirements about how far away a structure can be placed from a main road or property line.
Most importantly, the office would notify you of what permits you need. It's usually not as simple as parking your RV in your friend’s backyard for a night. If the structure is meant to be permanent living, a properly approved building permit would keep the code enforcement officers off your back.
Other Things to Research About the Land
Owning your own RV land is NOT for everyone
Let me conclude all this by saying this may not be for you. It takes vision, money, time, and a lot of patience. We've changed our minds several times about how we wanted to develop our land.
We chose our land because of the quiet pace of life we found in rural Tennessee, the beauty of the forest, the stars at night, and the ability to always have a spot where we are sure we can stay and where we can stay as long as we want made this a dream come true for us.
Our son and his family also live in Nashville so that was another draw to the area for us.
While I can't speak in specifics about other parts of the country (we hope to also buy some land in Michigan, too), I can say that there are not many spots like the Woodlands where we built our RV retreat. That's what we consider our land there: A retreat
Just writing about it has us very anxious to get back down there again.
We hope our experience so far in how to live in an RV on your own land has been helpful
Let us know all about your experiences in how to live in an RV on your own land!
Check out all these previous posts on this topic:
- Pros and cons of owning RV Land
- Our private RV Land at the Woodlands at Buffalo River is done!
- Progress Report on our Private RV Land in Tennessee
- Why RVers are buying land
- We now own RV Land in Tennessee!