The Go List

We can't promise that you'll feel like a homesteader, but we can give you ways to find cheap, often wild, land.     Photo: Bureau of Land Management Oregon/Washington/Flickr

The Cheapest Land in the Country

The days of the Homestead Act are over. But if you’re willing to be flexible, there are still ways to get cheap—even free—land.

The days of large-scale land giveaways are over, but there are still options for getting land or a house without spending a lot of money.

The economic recession that began in 2007 made land and houses more affordable. Some of the real-estate markets in the country have recovered, others have not. Which means there are still deals to be had.

Finding your best bet is a matter of priorities. Are you looking for a place to raise a family, a place to live alone where you can work over the Internet, or somewhere warm to park a camper in winter? Here are a few not-always-perfect options.

If you can get through a year in Marquette, Kansas, a plot of land is yours.   Photo: Neal P. Knight/Flickr

Free Land

Marquette, Kansas, is one of several small Midwest towns that give lots away to anyone who will come, build a real house (not a trailer, in most cases), and live there for at least a year.

Camden, Maine, will give 2.8 acres to anyone who can bring a business to town that will employ at least 24 people after five years. The city requires a down payment of $175,000, which will be rebated if and when you meet the payroll requirements. The land is zoned for both residential and commercial development.

For a couple grand, you can lay claim to this crumbling Detroit mansion.   Photo: Stephen Harlan/Flickr

Land for Less than $1,000

It’s a buyer’s market in Detroit. $500 will get you a 4,800-square-foot house on the city’s west side. There may be some trash in the yard, and all the copper wiring is likely to be gone. But your new home will have no covenants attached to it, it’s within walking distance to shops and restaurants, and the value of the land can go nowhere but up.

If Detroit is too rough for you, you can get three acres in a Poca, West Virginia, subdivision for $1,000. The previous owners didn’t pay their property taxes, the state seized the land, and the current seller, an investment firm based in Jane Lew, West Virginia, bought the land at a courthouse auction. The drawback: it’s in the shadow of a three-tower, coal-fired power plant.

Live in San Luis Valley, and you'll be steps from enjoying Great Sand Dunes National Park.   Photo: Michael Rael/Flickr

Land for Less than $2,000 an Acre

You can get 2.35 acres near Kingman, Arizona, in the state’s northwest corner, for $1,310. The land is dry, flat, and hot for most of the year, but it’s only two hours from Las Vegas and three hours from the Grand Canyon.

If you’re looking for land in a more forgiving climate, you can get a one-acre lot in Colorado’s San Luis Valley for $1,800. The nearest town, San Luis, is too small to support a police department, and the surrounding area is full-blown desert. But the lot has views of Mt. Blanca (14,344 feet) and is a regular hangout for wild horses. An acre will give you plenty of room for a solar array and a quinoa garden—the SLV was the first place quinoa was cultivated outside South America.

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