The dream of homesteading is still as alive as it was when the first Americans headed West into the unknown. Today, children of all backgrounds are facing the reality of a lower set of opportunities and less protection than their parents had. This makes the idea of a completely sustainable property even more appealing. Unfortunately, the amount of land that was once available by the Homestead Act is much less than it once was. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t free land available if you know where to look (and where to apply). This is not a way to flip land, as it is only free if you build a home (up to the requirements of the town) within a certain amount of time. Otherwise you must give it back. Read on to find out more about taking advantage of free land opportunities.
How the Homestead Act Works
In order to encourage expansion in the 1860’s, the US Government allowed settlers to take control of 120 acres of free land in exchange for signing up, building a home, and living there for five years to qualify. Today, the parcels are not as large, but there are still towns with property that do allow you to homestead, particularly in the midwest. The Great Lakes and the Breadbasket States are the main areas, and they have been working hard to encourage residents, as industries flee to larger cities. Here are some of the states (and the cities within them) that are offering residency.
The deals that Kansas towns offer are some of the best in the nation. This article shows five different small towns in Kansas (as well as the properties in Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota) that offer a signup process for the land. The individual requirements per town differ, and include:
- Lincoln: This town off I-70 offers land with just an application process.
- Marquette: To qualify, you must sign up, begin your house within 120 days, and finish the home to a certain specification within one year.
- Mankato: To qualify, you must have a builder contract within 6 months and a home 1200sf or more within 2 years.
- Osbourne: The requirements here include building a 1400sf house on the ground level within one year, and being completely moved in within 2 years. They require a $500 deposit with signup that they will return to you when your home is built.
There are a couple choices in Nebraska as well that fit certain demographics of people. Curtis, Nebraska is a retirement town that has several lots with utilities already placed. There is an application process but no other requirements. Elwood, Nebraska asks only that the home built on their homestead parcels must be on a foundation.
Loup city is one of the best opportunities for low-income people. For a $1000 deposit, you not only get the land, but you are also allowed to use the value of the property as a down payment for a construction loan. If your income is below a certain level, they will offer up to $20,000 down payment assistance.
Two towns in Iowa have been advertising their lands. Marne allows you to place a modular home (and not just a stick-built one) on their 80×120 foot lots, as long as you’re moved in within 18 months. Manilla, Iowa boasts one of the state’s lowest costs of living but doesn’t advertise many other requirements to qualify for the free land.
The town of New Richland is offering 80×133 foot lots for those who sign up. However, the cost of having utilities installed are not free, and run around $14k that will be turned into a monthly fee over 15 years. If you qualify as low-income, you will be charged less for this.
If you are a business owner, you might choose a different option in Northern Michigan. Muskegon has offered free industrial land to anyone who can create 25 full-time jobs in the area. As a bonus, the business owner can also choose between a free boat slip or season hockey tickets.
So here are some leads to finding free land.
If any of these communities sound appealing, the steps to take advantage are simple:
Head to the town’s website to sign up.
- Look at the properties being offered and choose your favorite.
- Pay a deposit if needed.
- Plan your home and double check that it meets the town’s homestead requirements.
- Sign off your completed home with the town and get your deposit back.
- Move in and enjoy.
Questions, need more info? Leave them for us below in the comments.