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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Seller Photos

Every year our sellers send us great pictures of their property. Here are some of the best from 2015. Enjoy!

Moving North

14 Months ago I moved north to Grand Marais from Eau Claire, WI. Before that, I had spent four years in Milwaukee – Quite the change…

Boss/Aunt Virginia asked me to jot down some thoughts on the transition to a small town in Northeastern Minnesota, and here they are:

The Good

Whirlwind Summer: Between keeping up with the increased business brought on by all the wonderful people visiting Grand Marais and finding time to enjoy the fantastic weather, summer on the North Shore is a whirlwind. There are festivals with great art and lively music. There are fish to catch, trails to hike, and blueberries to pick. There is more, lots more, and you’ll have to spend an entire Summer up here to fit it all in!

The Food: Not much more to say here, the food rocks. Whether you’re in the mood for tacos, pizza, fish, burgers, or breakfast all day, your culinary needs will be met in Grand Marais.

The Big Lake: I still gape in awe of Superior every time I drive down the Gunflint  or watch its angry waves crash over the breakwaters during those gloomy November gales. Pack a lunch and a book, find a spot in the harbor and enjoy the majesty of big lake they call Gitche Gumee.

The Wildlife: Every time you venture up the trail, you never know what you might spot. In my first year up here I was fortunate enough to see a number of creatures you won’t find roaming city streets: Wolves, foxes, owls, hawks, eagles, snapping turtles, beavers, snakes, loons, deer and moose all made an appearance. That’s not even counting the some of the best fishing in the country. AND, if you’re into dogs, I think I saw just about every breed known to man make its way through Grand Marais at some point or another.

The Not-so-Good

Mosquitoes: Duh! I knew they were thick in the Northwoods, but the swarming clouds of the unofficial State Bird were astounding. Bring your bug spray and buy a net, they’re hungry.

Closed-for-Winter: While winter on the North Shore isn’t all bad – there’s ice-fishing, winter sports, and always something to commiserate about with strangers at the post office – it can be a bummer when your favorite restaurants are closed. On the other hand, the mandatory break from the local food joints makes it all the more exciting when they open their doors come spring.

Winter Blues: It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s winter. The roads are slick and the days are short. BUT, a nice pair of boots and a snowsuit will keep you warm enough to enjoy some of it. Of course, you could just stoke the fire and crack a good book. Yes, the winters are tough, but they’re a price I’d pay gladly to enjoy this place when everything thaws out.

The Unexpected

Community: I knew it was a small town, but it was unexpected how connected everything in Grand Marais, and even Cook County, appears to be. For me, getting involved in the community meant volunteering at WTIP North Shore Community Radio. For others, there are many different ways of getting involved;  the clubs, the classes, the festivals, the high school sports and adult leagues, the boards and committees, it seems like everyone you meet is entrenched in the community in some way or another.

The Hub: Everything you need to know about the tip of the arrowhead can be found from two websites: Boreal.org and WTIP.org. Everything from community news to classified ads to music venues, all can be found in these two places, and that’s pretty cool.

On The Whole

The move to the North Shore has been an positive experience. I’m not sure how long this move will last, but one thing is for sure: I’m glad I made it. The North Shore has so much to offer. Whether it’s two weeks, two years or a permanent move, it’s something everyone should experience. The people are welcoming, the food is delicious, and the woods, trails and lakes are always waiting.

 

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Joey Detrick

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!