Acquiring the land needed for your homesteading endeavors can be a challenging and crucial aspect of your plan. While it may be tempting to pursue offers of “free land” often advertised online, these claims are typically not fruitful.
Face it — land is expensive. Knowing where and how to buy it is even harder. Luckily, there are ways to lower the initial cost and de-mystify the search.
In this post, we will go over the seven paths to finding affordable land and discuss seven key considerations before making a commitment.
If you take your time and save your money, eventually you will find something that is just right for you!
1. Ask Friends and Family Members
I managed to get my piece of land by asking a friend. Just before the 2008 housing crash, my friend inherited some money and brought about 40 acres of land outside of his hometown to use for hunting and firewood and as a rare plant nursery.
When the 2020 pandemic hit, I realized I had an opportunity to move out of the big city and work remotely. The catch? I had nowhere to go if I left.
My friend didn’t even think about offering a piece of his land. He hadn’t even considered homesteading out there. It wasn’t until I asked that he realized it could happen. So, he offered me a great deal on a small section, and here I am today.
You never know who has access to what type of land if you never ask.
2. Spread the Word
Along the same lines, you have to make your needs known. Don’t just ask your friends and family, ask them to ask people they know. Go to the local hardware store and tell the manager (they know everyone if it’s a small enough town, I promise).
Tell the barkeep, leave your number at a local realtor’s office, and put up a WANTED poster at the post office. The louder you are, the more likely you will get a response.
3. Place Wanted Ads in Newspapers and Magazines
If the free method of shouting on the rooftops doesn’t work, try putting an ad in the paper, a couple of homesteading magazines, or Facebook groups about what you are looking for. I promise they will see it! In small towns like the one I am in, everyone seems to know everyone else’s business because all of it is posted on Facebook.
4. Look in Areas With Population Decline
If you want to narrow your search, find small towns that are experiencing population decline. Land prices will be cheaper than average because owners know they are not likely to sell any time soon.
Beware, though. There is usually a reason the population is declining, so think hard before you decide to raise kids or join a farmer’s market. You may not have anyone to sell to.
5. Check Abandoned Properties
There are two ways to find abandoned properties.
- Look up HUD foreclosed homes.
- Drive around and look for boarded-up houses. If you find any, you can get on the tax map of the county or city and find the owner’s name and contact information.
Many times, homes are abandoned simply because the care and maintenance are too much to upkeep or there simply aren’t enough family members to fill the space. You won’t know until you ask.
6. Visit Local Auctions
It is amazing what you can get at an auction that is geared toward homesteaders! Tools, cars, furniture, or even the homestead itself!
These homes will often be repossessed, foreclosed, or sold as an estate. What you buy is what you get, though, so keep an eye out for maintenance costs.
7. Ask Property Owners Directly
Once you get a hold of the tax map of a county, you can find the contact information of the owners directly.
If the property is condemned or the owners don’t have any family members to fill it, they might be happy to sell directly. Many times, country folks don’t want to get real estate agents or “the bankers” involved, and yet they may be lacking the know-how or motivation to actively go through the selling process.
You won’t know until you ask.
Considerations When Looking for Free or Cheap Land
Don’t jump in head first if you can’t see the bottom! Before you sign and take on a piece of property that was too good to be true, take a moment to understand that it is, indeed, too good to be true.
You always get what you pay for. Don’t be too discouraged, though! If you know what you are getting into, you can prepare yourself to come out ahead in the end.
The dream becomes reality when money changes hands.
Free Land Is Quite Rare
While there are some sites and offers that claim to give away free land, those are usually gimmicks put up by small, dying towns that are offering a tax break provided you meet certain requirements.
The problem is that if those towns had anything going for them, the people who meet those requirements wouldn’t have left in the first place.
What you are saving in money is being made up in promises to build according to a certain schedule or in a certain fashion. After a certain period of time, the property taxes kick in.
If the city or county was really interested in giving away free land, we wouldn’t have a homeless problem anywhere in this country. Instead, they want to attract a certain socio-economic class of people who, if they can meet the building schedule and plan, honestly don’t need to seek out free land anyway.
Land May Be Polluted or Unusable
Make sure to check what is in the area surrounding the inexpensive land you have found. Is there a chemical plant up the road? Is the water tainted from a buried oil pipeline?
In my area, we have a paper mill that was dumping tons of chemicals into a local river every year. They would pay the fine and continue dumping. It wasn’t until litigation was threatened that they cleaned up their act.
Surrounding Area May Be Undesirable
Also, make sure to check the local crime statistics for the area in question. Unless you plan on becoming the new boss, that is.
Make sure to take a drive around the potential homesite and see how your new neighbors live. Will you be the only homesteader? How are the schools? Is poverty the defining feature? Who did the county vote for in the last election?
Any and all of these questions will give you a glimpse into the culture you will be joining.
It Will Take Money To Develop the Land
The more money you spend on a piece of land, the more likely it is that there is pre-existing infrastructure. If you are buying cheap land, you will make up that difference in price with either the money you will spend building infrastructure or the time you will take to put the infrastructure in place.
Either option is valid! You can either pay $20,000 for a well, or you can take the time to tap your own spring and haul water.
There May Be Strings Attached
Homeowners associations are horrible in my opinion. If you ever doubt that the U.S. is a free nation, just look at the institution of the homeowner’s association to find proof that “freedom isn’t free.” Although, if freedom isn’t free, is it still freedom?
Make sure when you sign on that you aren’t signing away any rights you aren’t aware of. Go over your homesteading plan with the seller first.
Land Taxes May Be High
Oftentimes, land is marked down in order to pay fewer taxes on the sale. When the land becomes yours, those high taxes could catch you by surprise next year.
Check into it before you sign.
How Much Land Do You Really Need?
It is tempting to grab as much land as possible if it is affordable. It’s natural to want a good deal, especially when owning land is the key milestone to liberation.
However, it is easy to bite off more than you can chew. If you find affordable land, don’t spend all of your money on it. Save some back for the inevitable repairs and infrastructure growth.
Are You Sure You Want To Homestead?
Before taking the plunge and becoming a land owner, carefully consider if homesteading is truly right for you. Interests change over time, and as we age, day-to-day tasks become harder. Will you still want to live the lifestyle 25 years down the road? Are you sure you’re in it for the long haul? Is your family completely on board and willing to make some big changes?
Once you’ve considered all of these, if you are still in love with that inexpensive piece of property under your feet, go ahead and buy it!
Love will see you through.