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How to Get Free Land to Build a Home

Knowing how to get free land to build a home is important to potential homeowners. Free land programs offer affordable ways to claim a piece of the American dream while revitalizing small towns.

May 17, 2023
May 17, 2023
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Knowing how to get free land to build a home is important to potential homeowners. Getting free land to build a home may sound too good to be true. But in a few states, free land programs offer homebuyers just that. You’ll need to meet the program guidelines, and you’ll want to scope out the town offering the land to make sure it’s a place that meets your lifestyle needs and preferences.

What are free land programs?

Free land programs are incentive-based initiatives to attract homebuyers to certain areas. Most offer a piece of free property to qualified buyers – with some stipulations. Programs often require participants to begin or even complete construction on their homes within a set period of time.

These programs are designed to bolster the towns or counties in which they exist, so governments don’t want the land to languish or for people to snap up properties but then not move in and invest in the area. So if you’re intrigued by the possibility of getting your own piece of property at no cost, remember that while you might be getting free land, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Nonetheless, free land programs can be a great way to start a homestead or secure a plot where you can build your own house for less money than you might otherwise need.

And if you’re thinking the idea of getting land for free sounds too good to be true, consider this. Free land has been offered periodically throughout U.S. history.

Abraham Lincoln’s Homestead Act in 1862, for example, gave 160 acres to settlers who’d agree to build a homestead, in exchange for a filing fee. A series of land rushes in Oklahoma took place in the late nineteenth century.

Those programs existed for pretty much the same reason they do now: State and local governments want to incentivize people to settle down there. In some rural communities that have seen little growth or that have seen their populations drastically decline, free land can make an otherwise ho-hum locale a lot more attractive.

Where can I get free land?

Many free land programs are located in rural areas of the Midwest. These areas saw population declines in the twentieth century as single-family farms gave way to larger, more consolidated farms. The towns offering free land want to revitalize their economies by bringing in more people and businesses. To that end, some may offer free property to businesses as well, in the hopes of building up local amenities that make the area more attractive.

The following are free land programs currently listed online:

  • Manilla

Currently, some are located in Kansas (Lincoln, Mankato, Osborne, Plainville), Nebraska (Elwood, Curtis), and Minnesota (New Richland).

How to get land for free

The specific requirements for free land initiatives vary by program, so you’ll need to contact the city in which you’re interested to find out their exact guidelines.

But you can likely expect the following:

  • Commitment to start or complete construction of your home within a certain timeframe
  • You may be asked to put down a small deposit
  • You may need government approval of your construction plans
  • Construction plans may need to conform to guidelines and homeowners association rules if you’re building in a subdivision

What to consider before getting land for free

Before you start packing your bags, you’ll want to assess whether a particular community meets  your needs – free land or no free land.

Remember that free land programs exist in towns with populations so small, their local governments need to go big to bring in more people. That means the area may not have certain amenities, conveniences, and services on which you currently rely.

That doesn’t mean you should write them off, though. The town itself might be small, but it might not be that far from a larger area where you can access services as you need them.

For instance, one Iowa town with a population of 120 that was offering free plots was located only an hour from Des Moines, the state capital. Folks who moved there could take advantage of the free land offer while being a relatively short drive from plenty of dining, shopping, entertainment, health care services, and other amenities.

To make an educated decision about whether a free land program will work for you, consider the following:

  • Job opportunities: Is the area likely to have job opportunities for you? If you want to start a business, does your concept suit the local market? If you work remotely and can settle down anywhere, find out about the local internet offerings and stability. Some rural areas have limited options and slow service, which could make it difficult for you to work.
  • Climate: The weather on the Great Plains can include cold winters, hot and sticky summers, and tornadoes. That all might be fine with you. But if it isn’t, be honest with yourself before you break ground.
  • Amenities: It’s prudent to visit or research the community to see what amenities are available. Are there grocery stores, coffee shops, and movie theaters nearby? Nightlife options? A farmers market? Make a list of the amenities that matter to you and use that list to assess the area on your visit.
  • Proximity to family and friends: If you don’t have family or friends in the area, how difficult will it be for you to visit them and vice versa? How close is the nearest airport (and how many layovers will it take to reach each other)? Are road trips a feasible option for visiting? This may not be a make or break aspect for you, but it’s worth knowing how isolated you might feel from loved ones while you settle into your new community.
  • Access to medical and emergency services: Not all the towns have hospitals, so be sure to find out where the nearest hospital and doctor’s offices are. If you need specialist care, research how far you’d need to travel for those appointments.
  • Challenges of building a home: Building a home can be exciting, but it’s challenging as well. Supply chain issues can slow down progress, and you may need to get your construction plans approved. Additionally, you’ll have to abide by any restrictions or neighborhood covenants, not only for the home itself but how you use the property. There may be limitations on whether you can have a vegetable garden out front or whether you can put certain fixtures in your yard. Make sure you’re clear on all of the rules and steps of the process before you commit.

The bottom line on getting free land to build a home

If you can find free land in an area that suits your lifestyle needs, that can be a great way to start your real estate journey and claim your piece of the American dream. Just be sure to research the area and the program guidelines to ensure that it works for your vision of homeownership.


*This advertisement does not constitute tax advice. Please consult a tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

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