Small to large acreage
Land for pasture or gardens
A rural area
A private, secluded property, which would be out of the way of any sort of trouble
The ability to defend the retreat, in the case of a total collapse, in which crime becomes rampant.
For detailed information on retreats, read the 'Retreat Areas' page (http://www.survivalblog.com/retreatareas.html) and 'Retreat Locales' archive on www.SurvivalBlog.com. There are over 250 articles on the subject of survival retreats there.
Once you have selected a potential region to concentrate on, select an experienced local real estate agent. Odds are that you won’t be able to find one that specializes in retreat properties. So it may take a while and a few false starts before your agent starts showing you the right type of properties. The following is a basic criteria list that you can give a real estate agent. (Tailor to suit your particular needs):
3. Not on a flood plain and in a region with minimal natural disaster risks. (See this map: Where to Live to Avoid a Natural Disaster - http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/05/01/weekinreview/01safe.html)
4. Southern exposure (for those reader in the northern hemisphere) – particularly important at higher elevations
5. “Panoramic views.” This usually means a hilltop location with open fields of fire and defendable terrain. The concept of holding high ground goes back to prehistory. Yes, I know, that this is mutually exclusive with the concept of having a house that is not in line of sight of any major road. TANSTAAFL. Decide on one or the other. But don't buy a place that has neither attribute.
6. A diverse and healthy local economy. (See the City Data web site to do your research on demographic information - http://www.city-data.com)
8. Not in the path of real estate developers. Look at where suburban developments have been established in the county. Suburban tracts tend to follow a “line of march” in certain directions — especially where there is level terrain. Note that in most regions row crop farmland and orchard land is at the greatest risk because it is easy to subdivide. Put on your thinking cap and do some extrapolation. If your intended area is in the path of the suburban sprawl within 10 to 15 years then start looking in a different direction in less advantageous terrain, or a little further out of town.
9. If it has an existing house, a house with fireproof and ballistically-protected construction (e.g. masonry construction or reinforced concrete - http://www.hardenedstructures.com). Note: If it is also in an earthquake prone area, you might weigh the odds in this regard and opt instead for more earthquake safe construction (timber-frame construction).
10. Low housing costs. As discussed in detail in some of my previous blog posts, don’t overlook examining as many factors as possible including home and car insurance rates, property taxes, and so forth. This useful Internet tool (http://www.monstermoving.monster.com/Find_a_Place/Compare2Cities) compares cost of living in two cities.
11. An active, growing farmer's market. I have found directories of Farmer's Markets posted on the web for Idaho (http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm/Idaho.htm), Montana (http://agr.mt.gov/farmersmarkets/FarmersMarketsList.pdf), Oregon (http://www.oregonfarmersmarkets.org/directory.html), Washington (http://www.wafarmersmarkets.com/washingtonfarmersmarketdirectory.php), and Wyoming (http://wyomingfarmersmarkets.org). The presence of farmer's markets is a good indicator for towns with retreat potential. Furthermore, in a post-collapse America, it will likely be the farmer's markets that will be the genesis of a revived economy.
I generally discourage folks from living in coastal regions for health reasons, risk of tidal waves or hurricanes, oil tanker mishaps, visits by foreign terrorists, and the outside chance of dramatically rising or falling sea levels in the event of a climate shift. I also discourage relocating to anywhere within 150 miles of the Mexican border. (Note: I'm not a racist–just a realist. The crime rate is higher near the border, and in the event of civil war in Mexico or any number of variations on TEOTWAWKI there could be a huge influx of illegal immigrants.)