The idea of living off grid has huge appeal amid the pandemic, not least due to its association with more space, the lower cost of living, and living more sustainably

The idea of living off grid has huge appeal amid the pandemic, not least due to its association with more space, the lower cost of living, and living more sustainably.

But while many of us may have only just acknowledged its appeal during this past year, one couple has been investing in living off grid for more than two decades.

Dave and Brooke Whipple have achieved the florida foreign national mortgage-free dream by climbing the off-grid ladder through flipping homes that they have built with their own hands.

The American couple have not done it the easy way, having travelled to one of the most remote parts of the world to do it — Alaska

Dave and Brooke Whipple have achieved their mortgage-free dream by living off grid

Dave and Brooke Whipple have achieved their mortgage-free dream by living off grid

That makes their path a difficult one to follow for any Britons dreaming of climbing the off-grid property ladder, but their story is inspiring nonetheless.

The first piece of land they bought was five acres in Alaska’s Fairbanks, which cost them $14,000 in the year 2000, the equivalent of £10,200.

They built a tiny log cabin, which measured 12 ft by 12ft — not much bigger than some garden sheds.

Planning constraints mean it would be difficult to follow a similar route in Britain. It would also be a challenge to find a plot of land for a similar price today on this side of the Atlantic.

Brooke explains that they have always bought cheap land.

She said they built up their property portfolio by finding ‘someone else’s broken dreams’, meaning that they bought land that appeared unattractive and worked hard on bringing it back to life.

For example, the land may have needed clearing or it may have been difficult to initially access.

The couple lived at their first off-grid property in Fairbanks for two and a half years, the last six months of which they shared with their baby daughter.

On the same piece of land, they built a second larger cabin, which they moved into on Christmas Eve in 2003.

They sold the property with both cabins for $125,000, the equivalent of £91,000.

They continued to flip several more properties by buying land, building a log cabin on it themselves and then selling it for a profit. 

Brooke works on the property projects with her husband Dave, building cabins from scratch

Brooke works on the property projects with her husband Dave, building cabins from scratch

Girl in the Woods: Brooke has become known for her love of being outside and enjoying the wilderness

Girl in the Woods: Brooke has become known for her love of being outside and enjoying the wilderness

Working hard: The couple say that you need plenty of 'sweat equity' to make your off-grid property dreams come alive

Working hard: The couple say that you need plenty of ‘sweat equity’ to make your off-grid property dreams come alive

During this time, they have also become known for their love of the wilderness having appeared on the History Channel TV show ALONE, which takes 10 survivalists and drops them in remote areas of the world to see how long they can survive and live off the land.

At the heart of their property development has always been the concept of, what Brooke describes as, ‘sweat equity’.

She said: ‘It was all sweat equity.

We put all the work into it ourselves, we paid cash for everything and lived in a tent while we built the first cabin.

‘With sweat equity we’ve been able to buy cheap land that needs work, then turn it into a nice piece of property, then flip it when we were ready to move on.

‘This put money in our pocket to buy and build the next thing with cash.

Always cash. No mortgage. In order to do this you have to be reasonable with what you can afford, but it works for us.’

Living off-grid: Brooke and her husband lived in tents while they built some of their wood cabins

Living off-grid: Brooke and her husband lived in tents while they built some of their wood cabins

The couple’s fourth project saw them buy five acres in Delta Junction in Alaska, where they lived initially in a campervan while they first built a garage that they then moved into — before building a new log cabin.

By now, they had two toddlers and lived without running water.

They eventually moved into the log cabin, which did have running water.

They had bought that piece of land for $11,500 — around £8,500 — in 2006 and sold it with the cabin for $215,000 — the equivalent of £157,500 — four years later.

Brooke explained: ‘A lot of people are not willing to make that sacrifice and do it the hard way.

People see the Instagram picture of the cabin in the woods and say they want it now. But without the sweet equity, it is not rewarding.’

Wider family matters mean Brooke and her husband are currently based in Michigan, in the US, but are continuing with projects so that they still get spells living off-grid and somewhere to head back to when they commit once again to living off-grid full-time.

Brooke explains that what is allowed to be built in America depends on the land, but generally speaking there are few restrictions compared to Britain.  

‘There’s so much more freedom here.

If you are in a city, things are more restrictive and will need more permitting and zoning considerations, but that’s not where most people want to build a cabin. There is a lot of rural land that is available for building a small cabin with little to no restrictions,’ she said. 

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