Off grid and in demand: Selling property in the American Redoubt

Selling remote, off-grid properties in the Pacific Northwest is no easy task. CBC News went on a property tour with Chris Walsh, a real estate agent in Idaho who has a personal hangar filled with a plane, boats, snowmobiles and trailers — the tools of his trade.

Wanted: Secluded property, ideal for surviving economic, political and natural disasters

Real estate agent Chris Walsh sits in the vintage plane he uses to scout properties in the American Redoubt. (Erin Collins/CBC)

Dressed in a camouflage jacket and jeans, Chris Walsh slides into the cockpit of his 1954 Beechcraft Bonanza.

He's surrounded by boats, snowmobiles, trailers and tools inside his personal hangar in Hayden, Idaho.

Toys to be sure, but also the tools of his trade. 

Walsh is a real estate agent who specializes in helping people relocate to the American Redoubt, an unofficial geographic zone in the Pacific Northwest where many conservative, Christian Americans who believe in self-reliance, living off the grid and being prepared for disaster have put down roots.

The term American Redoubt was coined in 2011 and the movement's map includes Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and parts of eastern Washington and Oregon.

"I would say that the primary thing that they are worried about is a financial collapse inside the country itself," Walsh said of his clients.

He says the goal is to create a safe haven, where like-minded Americans can live off the land, be more self-sufficient and wait out the calamities to come.

"They are big fans of the Second Amendment, they have guns but they may not carry them on their person every day, but the big idea is that they want to be somewhere that is more civil." 

Many of the properties Walsh shows are difficult to reach, hence the different vehicles in his hangar. Many are located at the end of winding rural roads and often blocked by locked steel gates adorned with "No trespassing" and "Private property" signs. Privacy and seclusion are big selling points in this market.

A tour of an off grid property for sale in Idaho 5:51

About an hour north of Hayden, Walsh shows off a rural property on about 12 acres of land that includes a small cabin, a well and a solar array. Walsh says this is precisely the kind of property that most of his clients are looking for. 

He says the "back to sustainability" movement isn't limited to the American Redoubt. He believes many Americans concerned about the future are making plans for when disaster strikes. 

"I think that the movement itself is really, really giant, and when I say that, I am not talking about people that are just moving to the Redoubt, that are moving to these states, but I think it is giant in terms of nationwide."

It's nearly impossible to know just how many people who move to the region are part of the Redoubt movement, but Walsh says he sells about 140 properties per year.

And he says there's a growing demand across the U.S. for homes that would function even when the rest of society has broken down. It's a demand he says can be traced back to a lack of trust in the country's economic and political institutions.

A sign outside a remote property for sale in northern Idaho. (Erin Collins/CBC)

He says that lack of trust has taken centre stage in this year's presidential campaign and is driving the popularity of Republican nominee Donald Trump.

"It isn't Donald Trump they are attracted to, they are attracted to the message, they are attracted to the change in policies, they want differences, they want things different than they are now."

About the Author

Erin Collins

Senior reporter

Erin Collins is an award-winning senior reporter with CBC National News based in Calgary.

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