How To Purchase Land Without A Lot Of Money - Part 1

I am frequently asked if there is a way to purchase land without having a lot of money? The answer is a qualified "yes" depending upon your willingness to take into account four factors.

This is Part 1 of a 3 Part Series.

In this article we will look at four factors necessary to find land that can be purchased without having a lot of money:

  1. Are you serious enough about wanting rural property to spend time looking for it?
  2. Are you willing to learn how to effectively manage small acreage?
  3. Do you have the basic skills needed to construct a dwelling or are you willing to learn those skills?
  4. What is you present living situation?

Are you serious enough to spend time looking for rural property?

If you don't have a lot of money to spend on land, don't waste time going to a Realtor and asking if they have any cheap land. I know someone who did just that and the Realtor told him that if he did not have at least $150,000.00 to spend on land he was out of luck!

If you are cash poor but are determined to have a place of your own, it is still possible if you are willing to look for just the right situation. A good place to start is to look in the smaller free sales papers for your county and the surrounding counties. Another source is to look in Craig's for the surrounding area. You are looking for For Sale By Owner (FSBO) ads that say the owner is willing to finance the land. A typical ad might say something like "Owner will accept a down payment and carry-back a note for the balance." If an amount of down payment is listed, don't let it discourage you if it is more than you have. When push comes to shove some owners will lower the down payment requirements and accept a longer payment term. Not every owner will do this, but there are some who will.

This method works best on small acreage, say 2 to 3 acres that has been for sale by the owner for some time. You will need to call the owner and make an appointment to see the land. After looking at it, if it is suitable land, be honest with the owner about your financial situation.

Are you willing to learn how to manage on small acreage?

You want land that has a relatively flat area large enough for a house and perhaps a garden. A small area of woods is nice and this can be on ground that is not level. With careful planning a level acre or so can be enough space for a house, septic system and garden. I have met people who looked at land in fairly remote areas away from towns where there was no limit on lot size. Check with the County Building Commissioner or County Zoning Board to see if there are restrictions on lot size in the part of the county where you are looking at land. Usually the lowest priced land is undeveloped land that has to be cleared to be useful.

Any trees that have to be cut can be cut up into lengths for burning in a wood stove and stacked out of the way until needed. One person I know was able to put the cost of the land on his credit card and was willing to carry water from a spring about a mile away until he had paid off the credit card and had saved money for a well.

If there was about an acre and a half that was fairly level, you would have room to add a larger garden. Carefully cultivated and laid out, a 100' x 100' garden can produce a large amount of food. Some berry bushes or dwarf fruit trees could be planted along the edge of the woods if the woods do not shade them in the daytime.

In the mountains and in northern snow country there are usually U.S. or State forests. It is possible to get a permit for a very reasonable cost allowing you to harvest firewood from State or Federal land. This may allow you to get by on a smaller parcel of land than if you had to have your own woodlot for firewood to heat your home in the winter.

Do you have the skills to build a dwelling?

Be sure the land is zoned residential/agricultural, check with the county zoning board. Also check with the County Tax Assessor's office to see if the taxes are paid up to date. Get a written contract to buy the land and have the contract recorded in the county office where deeds are recorded. This is for your protection.

Check with the nearest Goodwill Store or other secondhand store that sells used books and see if they have any books on building, plumbing, and electrical for references when building your dwelling. For less than $10.00 many people have purchased books by companies like "Time Life" that cover construction framing, foundations, plumbing, and electrical and built small homes themselves. Check with the county building inspector to see what permits are needed.

Temporary housing while building a dwelling could be a travel trailer or an older mobile home that could be purchased for very little money and moved to the property.

What is your current living situation?

If you are currently renting in or near the city, a careful search may turn up rental property in the country for less money. A portion of the money saved by renting in the country could go toward the purchase of land.

Not long ago a friend was looking for land. He did a web based search instead of going to a Realtor and found, among other properties; 5 acres with a 300 square foot cabin that was live able while building something else for an asking price of $35,000. He also found 6 acres with a 744 square foot cabin that had a creek running across it for $49,900.00. The 5 acres and cabin were for sale by owner (FSBO) and the owner did not live there. These are examples of property that can be ideal for a reasonable down payment with owner carry-back financing and you may be able to negotiating a fairly reasonable reduction in sales price if the property has a dwelling on it that is livable but vacant.

Part 2 will discuss financing raw land with a small down payment and the owner financing the balance, sometimes called "owner carry-back financing." The negotiating discussed in Part 2 will give one idea of how to negotiate an owner-carry-back financing deal.

About The Author

John Brownlee

A retired Lawyer and Health Care Provider, he teaches people how to locate, evaluate, and purchase Country and Homestead Property. He and his wife, Linda, have taught hundreds of people how to suture wounds in an emergency. He teaches both Preparedness and Health Care Classes and has been a Presenter at Sustainable Preparedness Expos. He holds a General Ham Radio Operator's License.