When almost nothing is available for free, eight states with free land may come as a surprise. However, this article will show you that it is still possible to get ahold of free land. You just need to know where to go and what rules to follow to make it happen for you.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, they estimate an acre costs an estimated $12,000 across 48 contiguous states. Free land is certainly something to be happy about when it is next to impossible to buy land, much less a house.
- How Does The Homestead Act Work?
- How To Get Free Land?
- What Are The Benefits of a Homestead?
- Where Can I Live Off The Land For Free?
- Best Places To Homestead by State
- States That Offer Government Grants Towards Buying Land or Homes
- States with Free Land Summary
How Does The Homestead Act Work?
If you remember the Homestead Act of 1862 from your history classes, you will know that there was a time to get hold of free land if they were willing to move West. The US government has granted over 200 million acres of land under the Homestead Act. The last claim approved by the government was actually in 1988 in Alaska. Not so long ago.
Nowadays, the Homestead Act is no longer in effect. Requirements are different, but still, obey the general spirit of homesteading. You get free land, after all.
How To Get Free Land?
Follow the four steps to get free land.
1. Locate a State with Free Land
How do I find homestead land?
You first need to find a state that offers free land. The eight states below no longer practice homesteading, but they still give free land annually.
If you are expecting to be lodged in a bustling city or a densely populated town, you may be disappointed. States offer free land that is usually found in the rural countryside. When we say “rural,” we may not be served with the usual modern comforts you are used to in the city. For example, there is a distinct possibility you may need to install your own plumbing on the free land.
However, focus on the word “free.” Claim the land if you enjoy being in remote areas. The place may serve as a place for inspiration for an artist. If you are not into that kind of thing, you can still claim the land for investment purposes. The investment can be a gamble because you don’t know when or if the surrounding area will be developed in a meaningful way.
2. Make a Deposit for the Property
Cities often require a minimum deposit.
While the property will be advertised as free land, you’ll likely be asked to make a small deposit. Don’t worry: the price is likely to be negligible, but it makes the sale official.
For example, in Lincoln, Kansas, free land requires a deposit of the equivalent price of $0.08/square foot. There are 43,560 feet in one acre. A deposit for one acre in Lincoln, Nebraska, would cost $3,384.80.
Each location has its own process for selling land. Though, most of the time, the deposit is refundable. So, the land really is entirely free in the end. The refund is given when the business or residence that you contractually promised has been completed.
3. Read the Fine Print
Now, anything that is free will come with a catch these days. The same goes for free land in the United States. When the city or town grants you the land for free, you are entering into a contract. There will be requirements and will vary by location.
For example, the agreement may require you to add housing and or a business to the area. The business you set up is meant to attract more people to the town. You have been offered free land for the primary purpose of growing the population and commerce.
Make sure you fulfill your side of the agreement. Ask for an extension if you end up struggling to meet the requirements to complete your obligations. The extension will only be granted if you can show you’ve made an honest effort in meeting the terms.
Some places require you to have land to get free land? Know this ahead of time. You may waste time trying to apply for such a piece of land if you are just starting from scratch.
4. Understand Your Obligation
Free land comes with obligations and unanticipated costs.
When you have been granted land in a rural area, you are expected to develop your neighborhood. You must make the best use of the land to build your home, set up a business, and provide jobs for locals and freshly-moved people alike. It takes a lot of responsibility to commit to that!
These are obligations that you may not expect at the moment. After all, you are on the hunt for free land because of the difficulty of buying property. However, it may just work out if you have some savings. The good news is the land is free, and you can focus on building a home or business. You can have it all in the end, with some hard work.
Prepare yourself for some expenses such as water, sewage, and electricity deposits. Conduct some research on the area. Luckily, some of these areas already have these utilities set up. You will still end up shelling out some money.
At least, you don’t have to worry about the land it will be constructed on.
What Are The Benefits of a Homestead?
A homestead is still generally beneficial for the following reasons:
- A property tax break on your primary residence
- Protection from foreclosure or forced sale when you can no longer pay
It is, again, free! At least, the lot is. So, you get to build a home to live in at about half of the price. Of course, this will depend on the type of home you are planning to build.
Where Can I Live Off The Land For Free?
Now that you know the pros and cons of free land, you are probably wondering where you can find such an offer. You may be surprised that the United States has many states with free land if you know where to look.
The best homesteading states tend to be in the Midwest. Nineteen towns listed below are creating their own version of the homesteading act.
Here are the best places to live off the land (pun intended):
Free Land Colorado
Flagler, Colorado, is located 110 miles east of Denver. It currently has a population of about 650 residents.
If you are interested in ranching and farming, you may think of setting up a related business here. You will get free land for farming. The free land is an offer to those who can contribute to the town’s business and industry.
Flagler has an excellent educational system. The town also has all the essential services, including restaurants, grocery stores, a library, speedy Wi-fi, and more.
Learn more about the free land incentive program in Flagler, Colorado.
Agate, Colorado, is giving away free land of up to 60 acres in its communal co-op. The land being given away is expected to be developed for agriculture. When you are granted some land, you must give the co-op a small percentage of your profit and crop every month.
Contact Mary Choate or Aaron Brachfeld at 720-295-5275 to pursue free land for farming in Agate, Colorado.
Free Land Iowa
3. Manilla, Iowa
Manilla, Iowa, offers some free lots for families. The lots are located in a nice area with paved streets, green grass, and mature trees. You don’t need to worry about setting up utilities because they are already in place. The town is only 57 miles from Omaha.
You also get a 5-year 100% tax abatement. The lots are available to eligible first-time home buyers. You must build a single-family house on the lot and comply with the project requirements and covenants.
Manilla has a vibrant business atmosphere, despite it being a small town. It is possible to find ways to make money off the land in Manilla, Iowa.
4. Marne, Iowa
One of the places to live off the land for free is in Marne, Iowa. It is a clean community with low crime. The city offers lots of approximately 80 feet x 120 feet each. Marne is only 35 minutes east of Omaha and about an hour west of Des Moines.
Marne has essential services and recreational facilities, such as a basketball court, baseball field, high-speed internet, cable tv, and a state-of-the-art local phone company. This cheap homestead land comes with low tax rates.
Free Land Kansas
You can get free land from six rural Kansas towns.
5. Lincoln, Kanas
Lincoln, Kansas, is a 720 square mile city located in the north-central part of the state. It’s an ideal place for farming and ranching. Lincoln has a low crime rate and comes with essential services, an industrial park, and a medical complex.
Learn more about Lincoln’s free home site program and how you can become one of their 3500+ residents.
6. Marquette, Kansas
Marquette, Kansas, has a population of 680 residents. It is only 30 minutes away from the nearest Walmart and 65 miles from Wichita.
Homesteading today there means getting ahold of lots that range from 11,000 to 25,000 square feet. You must start building within 180 days after receiving the land and complete it within a year.
Visit the Marquette, Kansas website to learn more about how to get free land.
7. Mankato, Kansas
Mankato, Kansas, is not much different from Marquette. Its population is only slightly bigger, at just over 900 residents. The lots are near a hospital, high school, motel, steak house, shopping center, and 45 minutes from Walmart auto repairs or everyday low prices. It’s only 108 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska.
The lots are 18,000 square feet on average, and the new home or modular construction has to be a minimum of 1200 square feet, excluding the garage and basement. Construction must begin within six months of acquiring the lot and completed within two years. You have several festivals to look forward to.
Learn how to get free land in Mankato, Kansas, at the Chamber of Commerce website.
8. Osborne, Kansas
Osborne, Kansas, has a population of 1300 and is 75 minutes away from the nearest Walmart. The lots are a lot bigger, though, averaging at 23,100 square feet. You do have to complete your house construction within a year. Moreover, this is an excellent place if you are into outdoorsy activities.
9. Plainville, Kansas
Plainville, Kansas, located in north-central Kansas, has just over 2,000 residents. Local industries include agriculture, oil production, truck trailer manufacturer, furniture design, and healthcare. It’s located only seven miles north of Rooks County Regional Airport and about 150 miles northwest of Wichita.
The free land in Plainville, Kansas, lots are approximately 93 feet deep and 155 feet wide. All new must be new construction on a full foundation. The homes can be stick-built or modular but cannot be single wide mobile homes. The new owner is responsible for bringing utilities to the house.
To get the free land, Plainville, Kansas, requires a $500 deposit paid to the city then refunded at the time of closing. Rooks County rebates 50% of property tax savings over ten years with its Neighborhood Revitalization Plan. The property tax rebate can help you make money with the land for over ten years while located near some major industries. Maybe rent out a room or the house?
10. Washington, Kansas
Washington, Kansas, is a rural community with a population of about 1200. It offers not just one kind of free land but also residential, commercial, and industrial lots. You can ask about the requirements for availing of the open land.
Find out more about the requirements. For example, a residential lot must be developed with a three-bedroom and two-car garage minimum. The town council will interview every family that wants to apply.
Washington, Kansas is only 71 miles to Lincoln and 116 miles to Omaha,
Free Land Michigan
11. Muskegon, Michigan
Due to high unemployment, Muskegon, Michigan, started offering free land for businesses to create new industrial jobs. They’re offering five acres for 25 new jobs or 30 acres for 100 jobs. The lots have full utilities and access to a deep-water port, railroads, access to highways, and the Muskegon County Airport.
Muskegon is only 85 miles from Milwaukee and just 117 miles from Chicago, Illinois.
Free Land Minnesota
12. Claremont, Minnesota
Buying land for homesteading in Minnesota may lead you to Claremont. For you to qualify for one of its single-family lots and residence development, you must have a certain gross income. For example, households of 3 or more people should have a gross income of $105,770 or less. Each family can only purchase one free lot for a $1,000 processing fee. Normally, lots cost between $20,000 and $30,000.
Claremont is only 62 miles from Saint Paul and 66 miles from Minneapolis.
13. New Richland, Minnesota
New Richland, Minnesota, is offering free land on the northwest side of town. The town is located 60 miles west of Rochester and only about 75 miles from the Twin Cities area.
You have one year to build a new home on a 86 by 133 feet lot. The town estimates the cost per lot for development is approximately $25,000. Though, they have tax increment financing to reduce the cost to around $14,000 and payable over 15 years.
Free Land Nebraska
14. Beatrice, Nebraska
The rules of Beatrice, Nebraska, are a little more lenient. They created their version of the Homestead Act and call it the Homestead Act of 2010. They are offering free land under the condition you build it within two years and live in it. Beatrice is giving away city-owned land to boost the tax base and increase the population.
Beatrice, Nebraska, is located just 40 miles south of Lincoln and 81 miles from Omaha. It’s surrounded by agriculture and has over12,000 residents.
15. Curtis, Nebraska
Curtis, Nebraska, is on the lookout for more people to live in town. It’s a quaint city with five different nearby lakes for hunting and fishing. In 2014, Curtis tap water was rated the best tasting water from the National Rural Water Rally in DC.
It provides cash incentives for families and students who plan to move to the town. For example, a family with three children or more will have an incentive of $1000.
The town offers single-family home lots for free, provided you build it within a specified period. All lots have utilities and paved concrete streets. Curtis is also offering free industry and commercial land for developers.
16. Elwood, Nebraska
Elwood, Nebraska, is offering free land as part of a homeownership program. The residential lots are 100 feet x 115 feet. Constriction must begin within 1-year and be occupied within 2-years of the purchase date. The lots require a $500 deposit but is refunded upon completion of the home.
Elwood has about 1,000 residents and is located on the southern end of Nebraska. It’s 168 miles from Lincoln and 211 miles from Omaha.
17. Loup City, Nebraska
Loup City, Nebraska, is a small town in centra, Nebraska, with around 1,000 residents. However, it does not mean that this place is not thriving because it has Sharman Dam for recreation, Jenners Park, Loup City Golf Course, and more. It is actively looking for more people to be part of its community, so it’s offering homesteading for beginners.
You can pick and reserve your desired spot for a refundable $1000.
Free Land New York
18. Buffalo, New York
What do you know? Even urban settings like Buffalo, New York has a homestead program. Its requirements are just a little bit different and detailed.
For example, an applicant must live in and own a primary residence located next to a city-owned vacant lot. He must present residency proof through the bank and credit card details, driver’s license, and/or other financial bills. The applicant must have no outstanding obligations and have evidence of his current source(s) of income. He also must not have violated any property codes.
If the prospective owner does get free land from Buffalo, New York, they must build the structure within the first twelve months and occupy it for at least 36 months.
Free Land Texas
19. La Villa, Texas
La Villa, Texas, has a limited program offering free land for new homes. The residents need to meet minimum requirements, including pre-approved financing, an acceptable floor plan, and 1,200 or more square feet.
La Villa’s program was already in place in the early 2000s. However, it had to be halted because of some issues with its water and sewer infrastructure. The town couldn’t’ handle the population. It took four years to improve the infrastructure to prepare for more residents.
La Villa, Texas, is only 109 miles from Corpus Christi and 129 miles from Laredo.
Government Grants for Real Estate
20. Government grants to buy a home
If you have gone through our list of states and towns and do not see any location that interests you, it may not be the end of your dream. The government also provides grants so that people who need assistance can build a home.
The Housing Industry Foundation offers a relocation grant for up to $2500. The funds can be used for security deposits, rent payments, or utilities for eligible low-income participants.
Also, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development offers aid to citizens displaced from their homes expectedly. Applicants may receive subsidy assistance for up to 42 months for comparable housing in your area.
Best Places To Homestead by State
Homestead laws allow homeowners, in select states, to declare a limited part of their property as “homestead.” It protects the property owner from creditors in the event of economic hardship or bankruptcy, like another Great Recession or the Great Depression.
The homestead laws are listed alphabetically by state with the help of Findlaw.com. Here is a list of what states you can homestead in:
Arkansas homestead exemption is a maximum of $2,500 of one’s equity and up to one acre for urban properties. Rural properties cannot exceed 160 acres.
Alaska state and federal agencies do not offer free land. Occasionally, Alaska may offer land for sale to private citizens.
Homestead laws in Arizona allow homeowners to declare a partial portion of their property as a homestead. The Arizona homestead exemption protects equity in a home up to $150,000.
The California homestead exemption allows property owners to declare at least $75,000 to be protected in a bankruptcy or related creditor actions.
Florida homestead allows residences in a municipality up to a half-acre with no restrictions on square footage. The homestead protection will be pro-rated if your lot exceeds a half-acre.
Native Hawaiians can apply for the Hawaiian Home Lands homestead program. An applicant must be at least 18 years of age and a native Hawaiian. See the state’s website to learn more about the Hawaii homestead requirements.
Idaho homestead exemption allows owners to designate 50% or up to $100,000 worth of their property (including all land, improvements, homes, mobile homes, etc.) You can claim it on your taxes once you’ve qualified for the exemption. It will significantly lower your property taxes.
The Illinois homestead law allows property owners to claim up to $15,000 and $30,000 if jointly owned.
The Main homestead exemption allows a reduction of up to $200,000 of your home’s value for permanent residents. You must own the home for at least twelve months before claiming the Maine homestead exemption.
Massachusetts homestead provides limited protection for up to $500,000 of your home value against unsecured creditors’ claims.
Missouri homestead exception allows up to $15,000 for the related home, building, and land.
Montana homestead can assist in protecting a home for up to $250,000.
The Nevada homestead protects homeowners’ equity for up to $550,000 from general credit claims. Types of claims include bankruptcy, unpaid medical bills, credit card debt, personal loans, business loans, accidents, etc.
New Hampshire homestead exemption provides up to $100,000 of protection in the event of a bankruptcy. The exemption can potentially double for married couples.
The New Mexico homestead exemption law allows up to $30,000 of the property value.
North Carolina exemption allows a maximum of $1000 worth of your property. The law does not specify an acreage limit.
Ohio homestead exemption allows up to $25,000 worth of the property from property taxes. The Ohio homestead law extends the protection to senior citizens over 65, surviving spouses, and disabled persons.
Oklahoma homestead exemption allows up to 1 acre in an urban area or 160 acres in a rural area to protect farmers.
Oregon homestead exemption allows up to $40,000 for a property, whether it’s floating, mobile, or a manufactured home. Married couples are allowed an exemption of up to $50,000. Rural areas homestead laws protect up to 160 acres.
The Pennsylvania homestead exemption law allows a very small $400 for any property.
Rhode Island homestead allows homeowners to claim up to $500,000 worth of property in the event of a bankruptcy.
South Carolina homestead exemption allows the first $50,000 of the primary homeowners’ fair market value from property taxes.
South Dakota homestead law exempts up to one acre in an urban area and 160 acres in rural areas.
Utah homestead exemption allows the primary homeowner up to $30,000 per person. The law allows a non-primary homeowner to claim up to $5,000.
Vermont homestead exemption allows up to $125,000 of the property or home.
Washington state homestead exemption law allows up to $125,000 with no maximum acreage.
West Virginia homestead exemption is limited to $1,000 of personal possessions or $5,000 of real estate.
Wisconsin homestead allows no less than a quarter-acre and no more than 40 acres. The homestead law applies to both rural and urban properties.
Wyoming homestead exemptions are limited to $20,000 of a home and doubles for married couples.
States That Offer Government Grants Towards Buying Land or Homes
There is a lot of land in the USA that is given away through government grants or land programs, and many people are keen to settle on vacant land and build a home for themselves there. Some people are specifically looking for land for agriculture where they can keep farm animals and have access to natural resources. Others are looking for land to build a home on.
Public lands that are given to people usually have strict income requirements and residency requirements. While you may be looking for plots of land that are given away either for commercial purposes or as homesteading land, there are also grants available that can help pay towards the cost of buying land parcels.
One such type of land opportunity is offered by cities that are trying to incentivize people to relocate there. That’s because people who move to new cities can help generate economic activity for the city. This recent trend in offering attractive incentives and cash payouts has been fueled by the rise in remote work.
Some of the financial incentives offered to help entice people to relocate include offering monthly payments or cash lump sums towards housing costs.
Below are some examples of what’s on offer in different cities across America:
To try and attract new residents to settle in Newton, the city offers up to $10,000 in cash to people who buy new homes there, and you get a welcome package of an additional $3,000. While it’s not quite the same as getting a parcel of land, it can certainly help you buy one, as the incentive applies to anyone who wants to build a new house.
Lincoln, Kansas is offering free land to people who want to settle there and build new homes. The plots of land as part of these land grants range from 12,000 to 35,000 square feet. You’ll have to comply with the guidelines and the time restrictions for building, but it could be an opportunity to build your dream home.
People who relocate to Topeka, Kansas can get paid towards the cost of buying a home (up to $10,000) or can even get paid towards renting for the first year. The Choose Topeka program has certain requirements and an application process. One requirement is that your employer must be located outside of Shawnee County. That’s why this program is specifically suited to people who are remote workers.
The Shoals, Alabama
If you’re employed remotely or self-employed outside of Colbert and Lauderdale Counties, then you may qualify for the Remote Shoals program which is aimed at remote workers. If you relocate to The Shoals, you can receive $10,000 in your first year there, which you could use towards buying a home or plot of land to build a house on. There is an annual income requirement for this program — you’ll need to be earning at least $52,000 a year.
The city of Tulsa in Arizona also has a remote working incentive program called Tulsa Remote, which offers a relocation package of $10,000 if you use it to put down a payment on a house in the area.
States with Free Land Summary
Real estate seems to be out of reach for many Americans, especially millennials who have to pay student loan debts and credit cards.
Taking advantage of a homesteading program in your nearest state or county has its cons, as well. You may end up being and separated from family and friends. It could mean letting go of the amenities and services you’ve been accustomed to in a city or urban area.
However, it may be the difference between living in squalor, possible homelessness, or not saving money? At a time like this, it sure helps to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Homesteading in states with free land is a terrific way to drastically cut expenses.
Moving to a small town will be a lot cheaper than living in a big city. Places to get a cheap haircut will be easy to find. You’ll be able to find discount meat cheaper at your local grocery store. A cheaper gym membership will be available. Your cost of living will be more affordable.
Free land does not mean everything will be handed to you. You must build your own home and pay for it within a set period. Some cities even require you to contribute to the business community with job creation.
It’s a win-win for both parties. The towns are giving free land that no one was using. You come along and turn it into something useful. The town and community receive taxes on the property, and the businesses do better since when there are more residents spending money on food and services.
Homesteading is a way to make money off the land for both the town and the landowner.