Off-Grid Living on the North Shore

One draw that continually brings people to the north shore is the desire to separate from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Folks make the drive up Highway 61 looking to disconnect and relax with family and friends. The level of disconnection varies from family to family. Some just like to get away to the Great North Woods yet still enjoy the comforts of home, while some want only the bare necessities. Luckily, Cook County provides for all different levels of connectedness with a far-reaching grid that provides reliable power to many areas. In this post, we’ll take a look at some properties that do things a little differently.

There are many reasons people choose to live off grid: self-sufficiency, independence from power companies/cooperatives, economic, environmental, necessity, and the desire to disconnect. There are also many ways to go off-grid: solar, wind, water, geothermal, propane appliances and generators, etc. Many users engage a combination of these methods to generate reliable power to suit their needs.

This property is off the grid on McFarland Lake up the Arrowhead Trail in Hovland. The owners use a combination of solar panels, a year-round generator and propane appliances to power the home. This allows the family to enjoy a fridge, stove, and lights, despite being off the grid on the Arrowhead Trail and a paddle away from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness!

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Another great example of full service systems is this property on Greenwood lake. On the inside, you’d hardly even notice the fact this property lies far off the grid. Kitchen appliances are plugged in and working, the television and satellite receiver sit next to the wood stove in the living room, and the home is equipped with power outlets in most rooms.

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The owners of properties like these are more concerned with isolation from the outside world, rather than fully disconnecting from it. They use generators stored in sheds with solar panels and battery storage systems to power their northwoods getaways. With the exception of maintenance and an adequate fuel supply, these property owners enjoy their powered homes much like on-grid families would.

On the other hand, take this peninsula property on Two Island Lake. This property, while being much closer to an established grid system and Grand Marais when compared with properties on Greenwood or McFarland Lakes, utilizes only the necessities from their off-grid system. This family has identified the most important needs and equipped a generator power system to provide for them. Kitchen appliances are powered via propane, as are the lights (which can also run on a separate regular electrical system for use with the generator as an alternative), and floor furnace so they can enjoy their cabin all year long.

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All of these properties are excellent examples of off-grid options. If you’d like more information about off-grid systems, check out this article from Home Power – it’s a good place to start and includes many other articles detailing the process of implementing alternative power.

Home Power – So You Want to Go Off-Grid

Whether you are looking to bring a full service system and power to your northern retreat, or just enough to let you light and heat your home, there are options available! If you’d like more information on any of these off-grid properties, give us a call! (218) 387-2131 – we are happy to tell you all about these properties as well as other off-grid homes currently on the market!

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Weather, bugs, gas prices – it all affects our market!

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I have been selling real estate in Cook County since 1989 and we have been through a LOT of fluctuations in the market and economy. When I was a kid, summer was busy and GM shut down during the winter and now our business is usually busy year round with July, August, Sept & Oct being the prime months.

One of the more interesting aspects of my job is try and figure out motivation with consumers and analyzing the patterns in regards sales – numbers don’t lie but they can be manipulated. There is nothing more satisfying than doing a comprehensive review of sales and it supports your market analysis!

Below is a comparison of last Jan-May sales and this years sales:

Jan 1 – May 31, 2013 – 33 Sales – AVG Sales Price $148,740 – 191 New Listings
Jan 1 – May 31, 2014 – 43 Sales – AVG Price Price $202,565 – 266 New Listings

TRANSLATION – 30% increase in volume of sales and there were more upper end sales, which increased the average price. There were some nice Lake Superior sales and they were good values. The increase in the number of listings reflects the sellers increased confidence in the market.

Historically it is always slow around the first two weeks of June because of graduations & it is very possible that the black flies might be a little thick! This year it felt really slow and it was not a good sign when I could walk up to the counters of both the Donut Shop and Java Moose on a Saturday morning – normally they should have long lines.

Below is the comparison of the 2014 and 2013 May sales:

June of 2013 – 13 Sales – AVG Sales Price $153,561 – 120 New Listings
June of 2014 – 15 Sales – AVG Sales Price $279,159 – 83 New Listings

These numbers are stronger than I would have guessed and they are not 100% correct yet because some sales have not closed. My guess is that we should see the slow down in June showings & phone calls be reflected in the July sales. The June sales were generated earlier in the spring.

The weather here AND where buyer’s live does definitely influence the timing of our market. When it is super hot everywhere else, Cook County tourism jumps as do sales. Gas prices also have a strong effect on tourism and sales. When gas prices spiked in 2007, the land sales plummeted and that was BEFORE the market crashed.

Since the market crashed in 2008, many buyers have been leery to move on property in the beginning of the summer and instead prefer to wait to offer till late fall or the middle of winter with the hopes they can negotiate the best deal.

Positive and negative media coverage definitely influence consumers and their confidence. The Minneapolis Star & Tribune printed the following article and they are correct because there are a significant amount of cash buyers.

There is a lot of speculation in real estate and we don’t know what the future will bring but what we do know is that the sun needs to shine, the bugs need to die, the cities needs to dry up AND get some super hot weather and buyers will continue to find their own get-a-way on the North Shore!

Landslide – the story of our lives…….

My dad was a house flipper way before there was HGTV, or even remote controls!!  Bless my mom because she was the manual labor in their relationship, and she always fixed up the houses.  One time Mom had to stay in the hospital for 2 nights so dad put a sign in the yard and sold the house.  She was mad for several years!

When we were kids, it was tough moving 1 or 2x per year because we were always changing schools.  Now I understand that they moved around because that is how they made money and a house was an asset, not a home.  I can’t imagine how tough it was to make a living in the 1970’s when folks talk about 15% interest rates on home loans.

As adults, both my brother and I and our families have each owned a total of 3 homes.  Our houses aren’t investments but homes for us to raise our families, relax & laugh with friends or just a place that we can find peace from the world outside.

When propane hit $5 per gallon, Rich and I decided it was time to insulate the walls of our 1910 home.  As we looked around the house we saw a lifetime of memories.  In the kitchen, we have that dang 1970’s obnoxious orange sink that Lucie and Dean would always clean their fish in.  Around the island, my classmates have celebrated numerous reunions and Sherm Benson even did tequila shots at our 5 year reunion.  There are a lot of folks with pictures of their kids on our couch!  Whether it was Girl Scouts, Birthday Parties, Prom, Halloween, Lucie’s Memorial or Lexie’s graduation,  it really made me sad to think we were ripping out the walls that housed the laughter and tears of those treasured times.

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AND then that Stevie Nicks song Landslide came on the radio and I seriously started to cry because it is the story of our lives.

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too
Oh I’m getting older too

We have definitely over improved the house and I know that we will never get our money out of it.  Luckily this is our home and not one of our investments so we take a deep breath and think about the future memories and celebrations that we will have in our “new” home.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and take a peak!