Homeownership can come with many added costs, such as having to pay for land. It’s always another thing to worry about when trying to build up a business or a home, and buying lands is expensive, even if it’s public-land.
What if we told you there are ways you can obtain free or cheap land around the United States? While it isn’t totally catch-free, there are many programs that will provide you with major savings on real estate costs and taxes, meaning you get to save more money in your pocket.
Before getting into the where of getting free land, let’s talk about how.
Enter democracy, affordable-housing techniques, and the million acres of state land ready to be occupied and taken refuge inside in the grazing states of the west.
Table of Contents
What is the Homestead Act?
Back in the 1800s, the California Gold Rush corridor was in full swing and western expansion in the United States was a hot commodity for some with a single-family life or as an individual. To increase the rush of people moving west, the Homestead Act of 1862 was put into effect to give free land to anyone who was willing to move west and live on that land for at least five years.
Up to 160 acres of land was given to the western settlers wanting to start a life, and even modern-day wildlife management areas were up to play.
The last-ever claim handed out was in 1988 in Alaska, and since then, it’s been impossible to get land homesteaded to you from the federal government.
Some towns and small cities, however, offer its land in exchange for the creation of jobs or other needs in the community.
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How To Get Free Land in the United States
Conduct Your Research
Before applying for any type of homestead, make sure you look at all your options and all the things that come with those options. How will families make out in a specific location compared to another? What’s the school system like? What activities are there for you?
Also, make sure you are looking at legitimate offers. The federal government does not homestead anymore, so anything claiming to work on behalf of the federal government is a fraud.
Make sure you find whether or not your land will come with utilities, is off-grid, the down-payment, if there is a golf course on the lots available, what building-site regulations are leased, any exemption for settling on non-federal land, private land, or a preservation if a state forest or wilderness areas as the piece of land is close by and requires specific natural-resources to be conserved in the open-space farmland.
Really, look up ANYTHING you can find about each of the homesteads, builders, statutes, a state park or national parks, ranches and ranching regulations, hunting and hunters’ regulations, land, and water bills, etc. before you start dwelling there.
Apply For Free Land
While it is free to apply to free or cheaper land, you will need to provide tons of information on the application form. Counties and towns will not want you to take up space on free land if you are not going to be beneficial to the everyday life of its people. So, it’s important for your future home to know what you will be using this land for.
Sign the Agreement and Make a Deposit
When signing an agreement, you must know that while certain applications come without a price and are free, you will most likely bring financial incentives with you in your move. For example, you may have to build a home by a specific time or sign agreements to bring a business to the area with bank statements. Sometimes, you will have to be per square foot at extremely low rates, too, in the wild west of economic development programs.
You might have to start building homes within one year because when you find free land programs that give away lots available from public lands, they want to ensure you are serious about moving into it. Many people don’t think they can find free land anymore even if they want it, so it’s important to know towns are just giving away lots.
It’s not hard to obtain free land and start building within six months, and typically, there are multiple lots available as long as you build new homes quickly.
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Understand the Fine Print and Obligations
Reading documents and contracts and going over them meticulously with lawyers and other interested parties will be a must when you are applying for free or cheap land since you will be entering into a contract with the towns that offer the land.
If you do not stick up to your obligations on your side of the agreement, you will probably be kicked out of your “new” home. As long as you are making a real effort to fulfill requirements, towns will typically work with you.
Regardless, read the fine print. Not doing so serves as a disservice to you.
Places To Get Cheap or Free Government Land
For all of these places, searching for the town’s government website on Google will potentially provide you with more information on the specifics of homesteading.
1. Lincoln, Kansas
Lincoln, KS is one of the more enticing towns on this list with a large area just an hour away in Wichita. It’s got a small-town feel with only around 3,500 inhabitants, and because of that low number, it’s trying to entice people to move to the area with low property taxes. There are many suburban lots, some shopping centers and places for sports activity. It’s pretty much move-in ready.
2. Osborne, Kansas
Osborne, not too far from Lincoln, is located in one of the hillier sections of the central state. It offers land for both residential and commercial use with low-interest loans in play for businesses.
You will have to deposit $500 that will be returned once your home is built, which must be within 12 months. Your home must be at least 1,400 square feet in this undeveloped land for the homeowner homesteader to enjoy their new pasture.
3. Loup City, Nebraska
Loup City is going through a bit of a generational problem right now. With a population of just over 1,000, about a 33% loss from 1970, there is a much older set of people living in the community.
To change that, the government is trying to attract a younger crowd to live in the town west of Omaha. Lots of, well, lots are free with a refundable deposit.
4. Plainville, Kansas
Plainville, habitant to 2,000, offers a 155-foot wide, 93-feet deep lot for homesteaders to build a home in. The land for sale will also require people to make a $500 deposit that will be returned upon completion of your home. The home will have to be built within 18 months of acquisition.
5. Elwood, Nebraska
Elwood, NE is pretty much in the middle of nowhere on Route 80. Although you can drive a few hours on the highway to make your way to Lincoln, Nebraska, and Omaha, you will see only around 700 residents in the area.
To build a home on a cheap patch of land, you will need to pay a non-refundable $500 for the deed and a home of at least 1,400 square feet in size.
6. Mankato, Kansas
Mankato is even smaller than Lincoln with fewer than 1,000 people living in the town. You’ll get to know everyone in this area with a shopping center housed within its confines and a school.
Within 180 days of acquiring land, you must have broken ground on your home of at least 1,200 square feet and have it completed within two years of owning the land.
7. Flagler, Colorado
Jumping a little bit more around the country, you’ll notice that most of the towns offering free land are still in the mid-western portions of the country. Although the Gold Rush is very much over, the yearning of getting people out to the west is not.
Flagler is not looking to provide homes with this free land and is only available to businesses that can provide jobs for locals. With fewer than 700 residents, you’ll get quite the small town to build out of and a 100-mile drive to Denver.
8. Marquette, Kansas
Marquette, KS is a premiere place for raising a family as it has a great education system and is very peaceful. Kansas is obviously a flat state, so you’ll get great views of the sky at any time of the day. However, if you are interested in Marquette’s free land, the town’s homestead policy is that you must build a house within 180 days of acquiring the free land you apply for.
9. Agate, Colorado
Agate is an extremely small unincorporated town with around 70 people attributed to living there. If you are looking to be a farmer on farmland or simply live around almost no one, then you can grab part of a 60 acreage property as long as you pay for your own home’s construction. It’s also an hour away from Denver.
10. Curtis, Nebraska
Curtis also has many available lots for free as long as you build a home on its property. It’s much farther from a city unlike Beatrice, and it also has under 1,000 current inhabitants of the area.
11. Beatrice, Nebraska
Beatrice created its own version of a homestead act, called the Homestead Act of 2010. As long as you agree to build a home within a specific time frame, you will be able to do so for free.
It’s much different from other towns on this list as it is fairly close to a city, as it’s only 40 miles from Lincoln. It’s also quite large itself with a population of 12,000 people. Much different from Agate, CO’s 70 people!
12. La Villa, Texas
La Villa is offering land for the purpose of economic stimulation. Around 90 plots of land-management will be free for homes to be built as long as you live there for five years. If you move before then, you will have to pay the local governments a specific amount in result.
The town, which is extremely close to the United States-Mexico border, is much different than the flatlands of Kansas!
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More Ways To Find Homestead Land For Free
13. Manilla, Iowa
Manilla is located north of Marne and is a bit further from cities such as Omaha and Des Moines but contains 700 people as of the last census in 2010. It’s pretty much your typical small town with many family-owned businesses greeting homeowners who can get free land in exchange for building a home.
14. Claremont, Minnesota
Claremont is offering free lots to people who have a gross income of under $84,200 if you have families of two or less and $96,830 for families of three or more.
In today’s America, it’s not like that’s a remarkable mark, so many people are eligible to get free land and build a home in the area. It’s even closer to Minneapolis than New Richland is, too.
15. Camden, Maine
Now, this is certainly a gorgeous place to live if you are a fan of ocean life. Camden, ME, home to under 5,000 people, is providing free lots to people wanting to open businesses with the intent to hire locals.
Although it’s fairly remote in terms of large cities, with the closest being Portland at an hour-and-a-half away, it presents a rare east coast opportunity for free land.
16. New Richland, Minnesota
Out of the middle country and up to America’s version of Canada is Minnesotan land. New Richland provides free land as long as you build a house within 12 months of moving in to land financially.
Minnesota has a sprawling outdoor-living life, and New Richland is only 1 hour and 30 minutes from Minneapolis. It’s got something for everyone, and that’s why just under 1,200 people already live there.
17. Marne, Iowa
Iowa may not seem like a popular state, but it’s in a gorgeous part of the country with sprawling cornfields, cities, and sporting venues. Planted right between Omaha, NE and Des Moines, IO, the town only has a population of around 100 people. It used to house many more people, but the decline in family-owned farming with livestock on the prairie zoning lands has forced people to find new land.
The town is giving away free land with under market-value lots for residents because of that. Will Marne be the place where you, a potential landowner, will permanently build your dream home where the town is just giving away parcels?
18. Buffalo, New York
Buffalo, NY also has free lots available. It’s pretty ridiculous that after all of the small towns on this list that a medium-sized city like Buffalo rounds it off, but it’s true. Buffalo offers designated areas in the city for one dollar plus any closing costs on the land.
These free lots are meant to be a primary residence for the resident, which must be verified by the city. Nonetheless, this provides one of the only opportunities for modern-day homestead-law land use programs in a city.
Alternative Options for Acquiring Free Land
If you don’t meet the requirements for a free land program, consider your options to find and buy land cheaply.
Find Land for Sale by Owner
Most land listed by brokers will be expensive, not only because it’s highly sought-after land but also because of the commissions charged by the brokers. If you instead go directly to the source, the owners, you can knock out the middle-man, have more room for negotiation, and avoid the commission fees.
Check the County Assessor’s Office
If you find land you are interested in but it’s not listed for sale, head to the county assessor’s office to find the owner on record. The county assessor keeps track of owners and their contact information. If the property meets your requirements, you can approach the owner with an offer to see if they’d be willing to sell.
Rent-to-own is common for properties but is an option for land too. Like with a house, sellers can offer a contract allowing you to purchase the land after a set term, using a portion of the rent paid as your down payment. Like a FSBO property, you may have more negotiating power and are not under any obligation to purchase the property if you decide it’s not right for your needs.
If you don’t qualify for bank financing because you don’t have good credit or are without a large down payment, owner financing may offer an option.
The seller determines how much money you must put down (if any) and what terms they’ll charge for the loan. You may find an owner who can work with your budget, keeping your payments low or on a different frequency to allow you to purchase land.
Use USDA Financing
If your household income qualifies you for USDA financing, you can purchase land with no money down and have the loan to build a house. USDA loans are only available in select areas and to those with income that qualifies but can provide an affordable way to purchase land and build a home to live in on it.
Do You Want To Own Free Homesteading Land?
There are tons of opportunities for people wanting to start a new life in a rather unique place in the country. Wherever you decide to go, make sure you read the fine print, stick to contract requirements, and most of all enjoy your new life!
If you’ve checked all of those boxes off, then you’re well on your way to taking advantage of homestead opportunities. Be safe and adventurous when you look to find homesteading land within year-building plans!
What would you do with free land? Tell us your thoughts in the comments, and also make sure to check out our article on free money!
How to Find Free Land for Homesteading?
To find free land for homesteading, you must do a lot of research. The federal government no longer hands out totally free land, so you must ensure that any offer you receive is legit to avoid being taken by a scam.
Instead, check with your state or local government to see if any free land for homesteading is available. You may also come across deals from private sellers or land owners, but ensure you understand what the free land programs require and ensure the deal is legit.
Who Obtains Free Land From the Government?
The government provides free land to people who qualify financially and who they feel are a good fit for the area they’re trying to fill. Each state and area has different requirements, including how much money you must put down and the size of the house you must build. Some may even say how long before you must begin construction.
Which State Has the Cheapest Land for Homesteading?
Tennessee is among the cheapest states for homesteading because of its low cost of living. Even though the land is free, you must still build a house and be able to afford to live there. The cost of living in Tennessee is 10% lower than the national average.
What Did People Have to Do in Exchange for the Homesteading Land for Free?
The original homestead program required homesteaders to be willing to move west and commit to living on the land/home for at least five years.
Samantha Hawrylack is a personal finance expert and full-time entrepreneur with a passion for writing and SEO. She holds a Bachelor’s in Finance and Master’s in Business Administration and previously worked for Vanguard, where she held Series 7 and 63 licenses. Her work has been featured in publications like Grow, MSN, CNBC, Ladders, Rocket Mortgage, Quicken Loans, Clever Girl Finance, Credit Donkey, Crediful, Investing Answers, Well Kept Wallet, AllCards, Mama and Money, and Concreit, among others. She writes in personal finance, real estate, credit, entrepreneurship, credit card, student loan, mortgage, personal loan, insurance, debt management, business, productivity, and career niches.