How to Find Quality Homesteading Land in the US

aerial shot of farmland

When I looked for homesteading land before, I could never find great listings in my area. They were either too expensive or lacked information for me to make a decision. While I could make a bunch of calls and trips to see the properties, it simply wasn’t worth the time. Most properties were too far away (to the point where flying was a better option than driving) and the few times I tried getting more information, it was like pulling teeth. So, what are the best options when searching for land?

The best way to find land for homesteading is to use websites like Zillow, landandfarm.com, and landwatch.com. Save time in your search by taking advantage of their filters and satellite view to check the property. You can also use a tax data service that’s free to the public to identify hidden listings.

But that’s not all you can do when hunting for land. There are a few other factors and tools that could be helpful in your search for your ideal homesteading property.

Cost, Quality, and Accessibility

pick two, cost, quality, or accessibility of homesteading land

Finding good land is one of the biggest challenges a homesteader will have to face. Many things can go wrong from lack of water access to flooding. While these might seem daunting, knowing just a few things on what to look for can go a long way.

When looking to purchase land for homesteading in the US, consider the cost, quality, and accessibility of the land. Also check to see if the land is buildable, has water access, and space for a septic tank. Make a list of priorities and do some research and you’ll avoid many of the pitfalls of purchasing bad land.

There’s an inverse relationship when it comes to cost, quality, and accessibility of land. Most often, you’ll only find land with two of these factors. If you’re lucky, you could find some acreage with all three, but it’s best to choose the two that are most important to you and let them guide you from there.

Cost has to do with how much you spend per acre and how much it will cost to get water, power, utilities, and shelter to your property.

Quality is what the land offers you. This could be:

  • Quality soil
  • Solid foundations for building
  • Access to water (or the ability to install a well)
  • Ability to put in a septic tank
  • Able to feed livestock (grazing or otherwise)

Some other options could be having a small forest you could use to build a house, and space for solar panels or a windmill. While there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, these are questions you could be asking yourself to help in your search. Make a quality checklist and run through it on each property you are seriously considering.

Accessibility is how easy it is to access the land. It’s also how close the property is to basic necessities like grocery stores, gas stations, and schools along with Internet access and how safe the community is. If you have a job in this city, you should also factor this into accessibility and how difficult it would be to commute.

Every person has their preference for living on a homestead. Some prefer living closer to the city, while others prefer being more remote where they can sometimes find better land quality or price. Overall, most property listings you’ll come across will usually have two out of these three factors. While you might be able to find all three in a property, pick your top two, and get clear on your homesteading priorities. From there, you’ll be mentally-equipped to survey the land and make sure it has everything you need.

How Do You Find Land for Your Homestead?

To get a better grasp on how to best search for land, I first looked at how other homesteaders found their land. While there were definitely some unique cases, I did find some trends.

The best way to search for homesteading land is to use websites like Zillow, landandfarm.com, and landwatch.com. You might find some luck with certain farming realty companies or even driving around and talking to the owners. Finding a good property takes time and isn’t something that should be rushed.

Even though our goal is to homestead and live closer to the land, we can still take advantage of what technology offers today. Websites like Zillow offer many filters that can automatically sort through listings so you don’t have to. Your time is valuable and it’s tough to manually remember each filter yourself, so try outsourcing it to a free app or site like Zillow (I’m not biased on apps or sites, Zillow is just one of the most widely used).

Zillow

zillow listings
Zillow had a bug and wouldn’t let me filter by land/lots, so here are some houses.

So what filters are best when searching for homesteading land? Well, here are a few you can find on Zillow.

Filter by:

  • Price
  • Lots/land
  • Bedrooms (unless you’re buying land)
  • HOA fees
  • Square footage
  • Acreage
  • Price reductions
  • Listings near schools
  • What kind of views (city, mountain, park, or water)
  • How many days it was listed on Zillow
  • Keywords (horses, barn, etc)

You can even see which properties were recently sold so you can get a good sense of what’s selling in your area, and maybe even see its selling price. Also, take advantage of their satellite view. You could see how close it is to water, the city, and may even spot any issues with the land before you spend time visiting in-person.

Set up the filters you want from your land so you can maximize your time and find the right property for you. Many other apps and sites also use filters like this, so try looking across multiple services for the best chance of finding quality land.

Still, even though Zillow is helpful, it does have its limitations. After all, it’s mainly used by people searching for apartments or homes in urban or suburban areas. So what if we went with a service that’s a bit more…specialized?

Landandfarm.com

farmandland.com

I was super impressed when I first looked at landandfarm.com. Their website navigation doesn’t overwhelm you like Zillow. You simply type in your zip code or click on the type of land you want and they’ll show you all the relevant listings.

Here are the types of land they offer:

  • Farms
  • Ranches
  • Residential
  • Recreational
  • Hunting
  • Auctioned
  • Commercial

I’ve heard great things about landandfarm.com from the homesteading community and I can see why. When I’ve looked for land on Zillow before, I could never find good options in my area. Listings were often too expensive or didn’t have enough information for me to feel confident about the property.

With landandfarm.com, you get the ease of use, clear navigation, and fair prices on land in your area. You can even go further and search for organic farmland or other specific property types.

There are other services and websites like landwatch.com that can help you in your search for homesteading land. Ask around or visit a few homesteading forums or the homesteading subreddit to see what’s been working best for others.

Other Ways to Find Affordable Land

Using Public Tax Data

Many states now have their property tax maps online, which means you can skip can see an aerial view of properties and its borders. Additionally, the tax websites show who the owner of the land is and if they’re currently living on the land or living elsewhere (based on their billing address).

Sometimes you’ll find someone who owns the land but is living in another state. These properties are much more likely to be sold because the owner could be holding onto the land, and not sure what to do with it. The best part is this land isn’t listed on any realtor sites, so you can find some hidden gems by doing some searching and contacting the owners.

For more information, check out this video by Red Tool House and give it a like for providing this super helpful tip.

Driving Through the Countryside

While it may be old-fashioned, driving around the countryside and knocking on some doors can still prove to be fruitful. At the same time, don’t expect to discover the perfect property along with a for sale sign within the first hour. Finding the right property at the right price, without major issues, is challenging and will take time.

When you drive through your areas of interest, you’ll never know who’s thinking about selling and hesitant to put up the “for sale” sign or online listing. That’s why it’s best to talk to people and ask about them. I know it can be less appealing to approach people since social media came around, but many people still appreciate kindness and an opportunity to talk about themselves.

Knock on some doors and maybe even bring some food or treats. Many owners simply want a fair price and to know that their land will be cared for. If you can assure someone who is on the fence about selling, you could get a great deal and be in good standing with them in case you ever needed anything in the future.

It’s also a great way to get a feel for the area. You can see how nice the locals are, how clean and safe the area is, and what the drive is like for grocery stores, gas stations, and schools.

Also, if you don’t have a lot of money saved up for buying property, but are willing to finance it, you could ask the owners. If they see you’re trustworthy and they’re willing to take on the risk, they’ll allow you to finance the land directly from them instead of going through a bank. While you will likely pay higher interest than you would with a bank, you don’t need to pay nearly as much in a deposit.

Another option is if the owner allows you to lease the land for a few years and apply that amount to the purchase price. It’s not as common but is a great way to get started homesteading if you can swing it.

You get the land without paying a huge lump sum upfront, and the owner gets a better value than they would’ve if you financed from the bank. It’s a win-win really.

Situational Events

Occasionally, there are times when others are going through divorce, death, or destitution and are in need to part with their property fairly quickly. While it might feel unethical to search for these types of listings, know that you could be providing the family with the liquidity they need to move forward. Additionally, some owners are more willing to part with their property if they know the buyer actually cares about the land and isn’t just wanting it to develop commercial buildings.

While these listenings are more difficult to find, you could come across land that hasn’t been listed yet and potentially at a good value. Just make sure you’re doing it respectfully.

How Much Money Do You Need to Buy Homesteading Land in the US?

USDA map of farmland cost by state

Image source: USDA NASS 

Land for homesteading costs anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000+ per acre. The biggest determiner of the price comes down to which state you’re searching in and the quality of the land. While you can find some more affordable farmland in the desert, mid-west, and the rural north, it doesn’t come without its challenges.

If you’d like a general idea of what land might cost you, consider the average and multiply by how many acres you’re thinking about.

For example, the average farmland in the US costs about $4,100 in 2019. If your land budget is $10,000, then you could likely find two good acres. If you’re in one of the more expensive states, it might be closer to one acre and some change.

If you do decide on a property and are thinking about getting a loan, know that most sellers ask for anywhere from 20-50% of a down payment.

Conclusion

Finding land for homesteading can be tough, but staying persistent and smart about your search can make it much easier. Decide on what your priorities are from a cost, quality, and accessibility point-of-view, use filters on websites and apps to only show relevant listings, and see if there are any other routes you can take. Even if that route takes you to the owner’s front door and starting up a conversation.