Full disclosure: my thoughts on yurt living are simply the result of my own personal experiences of wretched suffering. Your experiences of wretched suffering may vary.
That said, if I could do it all over again I would not build a yurt. Yurts originated in Mongolia where there are very few trees and hence, very little lumber. I built my yurt in a forest surrounded with trees and honestly would have been much better served simply felling a bunch of timber and building an A-frame cabin. But hey, live and learn I guess.
I’ll start with a little background info: graduated at the height of the great recession and couldn’t land a job. Had some savings from my previous work as a lab tech and decided to buy a yurt and wait things out until the economy improved. My family had a piece of land in the woods with nothing on it so that’s where the yurt went.
The yurt was about 30 minutes from town and I did pipe in water from an existing well and miraculously the property did have an electrical transformer on it. It cost about $6K to develop the water and electrical infrastructure along with building the platform that the yurt sat on. The yurt cost about $30K. Further development of the property (fence, road, outbuildings, appliances, repairs, etc) was another $20K over the five years I was there.
I used composting toilets of various designs for my piss and shit and they all fucking sucked. In the end I just ended up shitting in the woods like a fucking animal. Accept that you have about three minutes max to take a shit before flies start buzzing up your asshole. Protip: Use a folding camp toilet chair, dig your holes in advance, and keep your TP in a watertight box.
I went without internet for a number of years and used a biquad antenna with a wifi USB adapter to steal wifi from coffee shops when I went into town with my laptop (this was before I had a smart phone).
The yurt was built from a kit purchased from pacific yurts. It was a good kit, the instructions were clear and the materials were good quality. Bear in mind that all yurts need to be built on a platform of some sort and because yurts are round the platform needs to be round too. This basically means building a square deck and then cutting a circle out of it, which means you spend a lot of cash on plywood that just gets wasted in the end. I used some of the scraps to build a chicken coop and ended up burning the rest.
Yurts are fairly maintenance free but you need to take time to seal any exposed wood and any stitched seams. Every 20 years or so the top/side covers may need to be replaced depending on UV exposure and those textiles are NOT CHEAP.
Here are some general pros and cons that hopefully will give you a better idea of the structure and its inherent problems:
The yurt itself is very easy to build once the platform and any necessary infrastructure is in place. It took me and a few friends/family about three days to build the whole thing (and then I spent a few months finishing out the interior space at my own pace once the main yurt structure was up).
Yurts handle a lot of snow/wind with ease, never had any issues with that kind of weather damaging the structure. Make sure you buy a snow load upgrade if you live in a snow prone area. That said, trees can come down in a storm and severely damage the structure. Never had it happen to me but I’ve seen photos of yurts getting completely flattened from a tree falling on them.
Having a large circular space with amenities around the perimeter of the structure is a cool aesthetic and the top dome lets in a lot of light. The thin walls allow you to hear everything going on outside (can be a con if you’re not in a nice area).
It’s VERY expensive for what you actually get. It’s just some wood lathe and fabric with a plastic dome on top. You could probably hand build a simple conventional structure with some basic know-how or purchase a bitchin RV trailer for the same price.
I was never able to find an insurer willing to insure the structure so I just went 100% risk and didn’t insure anything. Lucked out for me, but maybe not for you.
It’s very difficult to manage temperature in the structure. Even with the “insulation upgrades” It’s super cold in the winter until you get a woodstove or heater going and then you end up getting too hot and stuffy so you’re stuck in this constant battle of opening and closing the windows and doors (and the windows open from the outside, lol). In the summer, if you open the top dome vent and run a fan, the fan affects the incoming light to create a super seizuriffic strobe effect which is really annoying. Even with the insulation upgrades it’s usually not enough, you need to start adding foam insulation or something around the perimeter which looks shitty and tacky. I ended up stapling up a whole bunch of that silver bubblewrap insulation all over the place and it ended up looking like I lived in a spaceship or tinfoil hat. And even with all of that I went through cords upon cords of wood every winter.
There is literally zero security for the structure. Someone can just take a box cutter, cut the wall next to the door and let themselves in (I solved this by bolting some thick plywood panels on either side of the door frame).
Most counties will not permit a yurt as a permanent structure. I’m not sure on this process because I just went 100% risk (again) and built and lived in a totally unpermitted structure. Never had any problems from the government so that lucked out for me again.
MOLD! Because the sidewall is so thin and the inner air tends to be moist from breathing/showering/cooking/etc it will condense onto the interior layer and start to mold. I had to wipe it down regularly and it still would grow back every time.
If you’re JUST looking for a vacation structure, I would 100% go with a truck and trailer. You can use the truck for a daily driver and you can enjoy a variety of different locales for relatively cheap. No need to purchase or rent land. You can insure the truck and trailer. You can usually resale the trailer at an acceptable loss as long as it’s cared for. Having a vehicle is generally considered to be a benefit. In the event of an evacuation order you can take your mini-house with you. Camping at campgrounds can be a lot of fun. Makes a good play house for kids if you have it parked at home. Instant spare room for guests. The list goes on.
If I had to do it all over again, I would have built an A-frame cabin from the available raw materials on the land instead of going with a yurt but that’s just me.
On a side note, you might also look into purchasing real estate outside of your home country. Example: you can literally buy a beachfront condo in Thailand right now for the price of a used car in the USA.