Back in 1862, the Homestead Act was introduced to provide land for homesteaders to build a home and run a farm on. This is no longer in effect however, and thus getting free federal government land for homesteading in 2018 is no longer an option.
So what options do you have? Can you still homestead in the US? Is there any free land in the US at all?
Yes, and there are quite a few options you have to get land for free in the US. Many rural states & counties are offering free land to help attract economic activity and businesses. This list is composed of the currently available programs different states & counties are running, along with a few other avenues to consider. In fact, the best has been saved for last, as it doesn’t involve any entity and can result in the most property without restriction.
An extraordinary small town, in the heart of America is how the town of Marquette, Kansas describes themselves. It’s a small town that offers free home lots to those who are willing to build a home on them.
They require you to start building within 120 days of getting the land, and 12 months to finish a minimum of 1,000 sq. ft. home meeting residential design standards.
The town of Marquette clearly lays out how to apply and what the requirements to get homesteading land for free on their website dedicated to the program.
The free home site program from Lincoln, Kansas offers land to build on within the city limits, near a baseball field and park. Along with that, it isn’t too far from a golf course and a 45-minute drive gets you to major shopping centers.
They have 3,500 residents and 720 square miles in size, buffalo and farm animals, and no serious crime.
You can find more about the program on their towns website.
The City of Mankato, Kansas , a population of 900, is offering free lots for the construction of a home to join their small-town atmosphere.
The lots are close to places such as a hospital, school, restaurant, and shopping center. They require that you build a home that is no less than 1200 sq. ft. and begins construction within 6 months of acquiring the lot.
To learn more information about the free lots, visit their website here.
The City of Osborne is unique because it is offering free land for both residential and commercial purposes. In addition, they also offers low-interest loans and special business incentives – all in an effort to increase economic activity.
One thing to consider is that they require $500 deposit, which will be returned with the competition of your home.
Learn more about their free land for both homes & businesses on their website, here.
With a population of 2,000, the City of Plainville, Kansas (located in Rooks County) is offering 155 foot wide by 93 foot deep lots of land for free to grow their community.
While there are a few requirements, you should note that you will need to meet with the local council when applying (or soon after) to get your plans approved.
Learn more about their requirements on the Rooks Country website.
Construct a single-family home meeting their requirements in their specified time-frame for free land in Curtis, Nebraska. They have multiple different lot sizes available, all on paved roads.
Learn more about the Curtis, NE free land program here.
Beatrice, Nebraska has enacted their own homesteading act, called the Homestead Act of 2010. This is the replacement for the no longer active government act called the Homestead Act of 1862.
The act is an exchange of free land if you build a house on the property. They require you build your home within 12 months and start within 6.
To learn more and see what is available, visit the Beatrice, NE website here.
Loup City, Nebraska
This city offers two different programs that both result in free property, Workforce Homes and Market Rate Homes.
The Workforce Homes program offers free residential lots for those with a qualified income and asset levels. Additionally, they may also be offered an up-to $20,000 down payment assistance.
For the Market Rate Homes, they are provided on a first-come-first-serve basis which require a $1,000 deposit which is refunded upon building completion.
To learn more about either program, click here to visit their website.
Elwood, Nebraska is a small village that is offering free lots of land to build on.
At least six homes have already been built on approximately 110 foot by 150 lots, with nine left. They require a minimum home size of 1400 sq. ft. with a two car garage.
Click here to visit the villages website to learn how to apply.
The small town of Marne, Iowa has many 80 by 120 foot lots available for free which much be constructed within 18 months of acquiring the lot and not be smaller than 1200 sq. ft.
They will not allow any sort of livestock or farm animals to be housed on the property. Only household pets such as dogs and cats are allowed.
You can learn more and download their application on their website, here.
Manilla, Iowa is known for their low cost of living. Mix that with free land to build on and you can get by with minimal money.
Their website isn’t very descriptive about this program, but you can find contact information for the City on their website to lead you in the right direction.
If you want peace and quiet in a remote place with a population of less than 300, Anderson, Alaska is for you. With no grocery stores, gas stations, or even public street lights; you can tell it’s remote.
However, they are huge fans of homesteading to this day and you can get free homestead land by applying and a $500 deposit, which is refunded when building is complete.
New Richland, Minnesota
This small town packs a punch with many different things to do including a golf course, large lake, bike trail, and more.
They are giving out 86 by 133 foot residential lots, which much be built within 12 months.
Claremont is open that they got the idea from New Richland, and now they are offering lots of land for free too (if you qualify). You need a gross income of less than $84,200 for a family of two (or less) or $96,830 for a family of three to get into their free land for homesteading program.
110 miles east of Denver is where Flagler, Colorado has allotted 480 of free acreage for businesses to set up shop. The amount of land with Flagler, Colorado’s free land program you can receive will depend on the amount of jobs the business will create for this small town of approximately 650 people. This is a perfect opportunity to set up a homesteading business for cheap.
The large City of Muskegon, Michigan is offering free industrial park property for businesses to come in and operate, which are located in “Michigan Renaissance Zones.” They are open to offering tax incentives, reduce water & electricity rate, among other benefits.
There isn’t a lot of information online, but this article should send you in the right direction.
Buffalo, New York
As part of Buffalo, New York’s Urban Homestead program, they are offering land for $1. The program offers a variety of options of land, some of which already have a home built (that will need to be brought up to code).
There are quite a few requirements, which you can learn on their website here.
Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio
While you aren’t technically getting free land to keep from the Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio, it’s worth mentioning for what you get.
For $500-$1000 per month, you will get a property with 9-12 acres and a house. The program was designed to give farmers cheap land to work with.
Okay, it’s not in the United States – but it’s a neighboring country with a great program that is giving away land for agricultural purposes. However, you’ll need to become a Canadian resident and like in Yukon for 1 year before being able to redeem the land.
Although it has a high barrier to entry, it’s an option. Learn more about it here.
Helping out on other farms can result in a free place to stay, for both long and short-term timeframes. With WWOOF USA, you can be connected with farms all across the United States looking for help on their farm in exchange for basic necessities, including free rent! Is it free land for you to own? No. But it could be an option to learn more about farming, meet great people, and have a free place to stay while you try taking advantage of the other options on this list.
The USDA has a lot of programs around affordable loans and grants for agricultural purposes. There are always new ones coming up, so keep checking back on the USDA’s website periodically for new opportunities that may lead to you getting free land for farming.
And… the best for last.
Land hacking is an extension of my favorite way to get things for cheap (or free). Buy extra (in this case, land) keep a portion for yourself, and sell off the extra land for your initial cost – making it free for you.
How it works is:
- Find & buy a large, undervalued property
- Rent out some of the land while you wait for the property to appreciate in value. In the meantime, you can build the piece of land you will live on.
- Once it has appreciated just enough, sell the property that you have been renting out to cover your cost to buy the entire property.
- End up with free land.
Easier said than done, and it’ll take some work – more than any other option on this list. But it is probably the best way to get free land on this list in a large quantity in a location you choose – not just a small lot in a undesirable location.
You’ll need to learn how to spot undervalued land, how to rent out farm land, among many other things. All of this is possible to learn by searching around the web, and I wouldn’t pass this opportunity up simply because of the complexity. After doing some research, I found this post that lays out a similar process to land hacking.
States Without Free Land
Currently, there are many states that do not have any free land programs (for homesteading or commercial purposes). However, that doesn’t mean land hacking won’t work in these states – because it absolutely could! However, in case you are wondering about which states don’t currently have free land programs, here they are:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington State
- West Virginia
- District of Columbia (DC)
*If we have missed a state, town, or city that does have an active homesteading / free land program; please share and it will be added!