Get him on the upcoming presidential election and Trevor Parscal, a 32-year-old technology worker originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, does a nice line in political vitriol. “It has been a ridiculous show of immaturity,” he says. “Trump and Hillary sound pretty much the same to me. They are both squabbling over how to spend more and more of the taxpayers’ money.”
But if he had to choose? “I wouldn’t vote for either of them,” he says. “I’m going to be voting for Johnson.”
Gary Johnson is the presidential candidate for the Libertarian party, the self-proclaimed third party of US politics. Broadly, the party campaigns for a reduction in the size of government and taxes, though at its fringes it is renowned for getting a little oddball. At its convention this year a man running for party chair did a striptease onstage.
According to many polls, about 5 per cent of likely voters are forecast to opt for Johnson, despite the fact that when he was asked on live television what he would do about Aleppo if elected president, he answered: “What is Aleppo?”
Parscal is not only planning to vote for him but has moved his family 3,000 miles across the country to support the Libertarian cause, from California to Concord, New Hampshire. He is a participant in the Free State Project, an effort to get 20,000 like-minded Libertarians to pledge to move to New Hampshire, a fairly rural, sparsely populated state, where 20,000 activists might wield some political heft.
“We hit that number in February of this year,” says Matt Philips, the president of the project. “Everybody has five years to move to New Hampshire.”
Those that do might want to call Mark Warden of Porcupine Real Estate. A Free Stater himself, Warden moved to New Hampshire from Las Vegas in 2009 and now acts as the project’s unofficial real estate broker. “It’s been snowballing,” he says. “I do between 40 and 50 transactions a year.”
In fact, transactions are up across the state. The New Hampshire Association of Realtors says the number of sales in August were up 7 per cent on the same month last year.
“There’s a lot of interest right now in the ‘farm-to-table’ movement,” says non-Free Stater Kristin Claire of Land-Vest, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. “A lot of people are talking to us about solar [power] and wind generation so they can be off the grid.” She thinks it is to do with 9/11. “A lot of people just have this idea in their head about the ‘what if’ getaway home.”
If you are anticipating the collapse of the west, you might consider barricading yourself in a pretty farmhouse a mile outside the town of Tamworth. The five-bedroom home, built in the 1790s, comes with a farm of more than 100 acres and is on sale for $2.99m through Christie’s.
Most of Claire’s buyers are not looking for a stronghold but a vacation home. Large waterfront properties by Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake are the most coveted. There is hiking in the autumn, when the leaves turn gold and crimson, and skiing in the winter from Gunstock mountain, Mount Sunapee and a cluster of others. “I wind up with a lot of buyers in their forties with kids,” she says, “and they come here for the skiing, for the lakes and the experience of letting their kids run wild a little bit.”
In Jackson, a town higher up toward the White Mountains, Badger Realty is selling a five-bedroom timber-frame house in 20 acres for $2.3m, with views of Mount Washington, one of the tallest peaks east of the Mississippi.
Philips sees a natural affinity between Free Staters and New Hampshire. “There’s an inherent Libertarian streak in the culture here,” he says, “embodied by the state motto, which is ‘Live Free or Die’.” There is no broad-based income tax in the state, no sales tax, liberal gun laws, no knife laws, no motorcycle helmet law and no law requiring you to wear a seatbelt. These things play well with Libertarians.
Not everyone has welcomed them. A group of Free Staters who set up in the town of Keene have been causing a stir with their acts of civil disobedience. Some have refused to remove their hats inside the local courtroom and some have been smoking marijuana in the central square, openly. They’ve been given a nickname: “Keeniacs”.
With less than a week to go before the election, there is one unhappy certainty Libertarians have come to accept: their man ain’t going to win. FiveThirtyEight, the data-driven news site, rates his chances of being made commander-in-chief at less than 0.1 per cent.
Still, Parscal is upbeat. “There’s nowhere in the US that’s a good example of Libertarian philosophies right now,” he says. “If New Hampshire can become that, then hopefully we can attract people [here] who already feel that way and even convert some people as well.” Warden, for one, expects the phone to ring off the hook.
● Median house prices in New Hampshire are still about 5 per cent below their peak in 2005, according to the New Hampshire Association of Realtors
● The Free State Project reached its goal of 20,000 Libertarian pledgers in February, though the contact details of about 5,000 signatories are thought to be out of date. More than 2,000 have already moved.
● New Hampshire has no sales or income taxes, but property taxes vary wildly depending on the town, ranging from around 0.7 per cent to 3 per cent of the value
What you can buy for . . .
$200,000 a four-bedroom home with around 20 acres on the outskirts of Manchester
$1m a four-bedroom home on 100 acres up in the White Mountains
$5m a six-bedroom home on the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee with private moorings.
More listings at propertylistings.ft.com
Photograph: Getty Images