Dirt Cheap Land: Where’s all of the Affordable Land in America?

Dirt Cheap Land: Where’s all of the Affordable Land in America?

Buying land is a unique investment. It has been said that buying land is a good investment if not for only one reason: “they don’t make it anymore”. Land is a finite resource that cannot be made to order or replaced by any other commodity. Whether you are looking to buy land for future development, or buying land to own it; you might look first to buy some affordable land. This will be less of a list, and more of a guide for places where land is a hot commodity, and where you can buy relatively cheap land posted for sale. These are some of the most affordable options for obtainable land, but there are always new opportunities in this dynamic market of static goods.

Before you sit down to start buying, work out a few things for yourself. Know whether you are looking for vacant lots of land available, or whether you are looking for greater acreage for purchase. Think of “vacant lots” and “tracts of acreage” as two different entities and know which one you are after before you start looking. What may be cheap prices for vacant lots with access to full infrastructure may be very different than the prices of large acreages of raw land that have not been developed. Generally, you can expect to pay more for land that has access to local infrastructure, and you can expect to pay the lowest prices for larger plots of undeveloped land.

The Cheapest Option for Purchasing Land

It is becoming truly difficult to find land in the continental US under $500 an acre. As few as 20 years ago, a person could buy rural land in the western states for as little as $75 an acre, but inflation and increased demand have brought prices up. Your best bet for buying large acreages of raw land on the cheap is usually to look to western states like Wyoming and the Dakotas. As a rule of thumb: when looking for large (20+ acre) parcels of land, you will look into more rural areas that have little to no infrastructure already in place. The largest undeveloped areas of the country are still in the west. According to the 2000 census, more than 90% of the 1.9 billion acres that comprise the contiguous 48 states is rural. The land around developed areas and urban concentrations will usually fall into the higher priced range do to speculation and urban crawl. If you want to look for low prices, start by getting away from everything and start looking from there. The market for buying land is one that changes drastically as time passes and economic conditions change, so it may be good for you to observe the trends of land cost in an area before sinking a lot into a deal if you plan to resell the land. If you are just buying land to have it, then you may just find a nice deal (which can be from $250-$400 an acre) and jump on it after you do some research on the location. There are options in every state for cheap land, so take the following list only as an indication of where to look for comparison if you are looking for something closer to you. For good prices on land, start looking in: Wyoming, Montana, The Dakotas, and Idaho.

Purchasing Vacant Lots

If you are looking to buy land for future development, you are likely to pay higher prices per acre than those who are purchasing swathes of raw land. This can still be done for relatively cheap if done intelligently. When you buy vacant lots, you are usually buying land that has access to civic infrastructure, but that does make it more valuable on resell, also. Again, the right choice for you when buying lots will have more factors than could be explained in a short article, but you can shop around to get an idea of what you should be paying in certain areas. These are typically deals for small (<1 acre) pieces of land that are located in subdivisions or close to developing areas.

Resources for Research

Looking for cheap land is a project that will require some research. The amount and type of land that you want to buy will factor greatly into what you can consider to be “cheap as dirt” since, apparently, dirt isn’t exactly cheap these days. The following are a few resources that you can use to begin your search and begin narrowing your options:

www.landwatch.com is a good place to start looking. This site carries many listings of land and lots for sale in the eastern and southern US. You can use the site’s search restrictions to return results more in-line with what you are looking for.

www.landandfarm.com hosts information on the sale of more than 10 million acres of land. You can browse by state or by the type of property (farms, residential, commercial, etc.) to get an idea of what is available for purchase around the country.

www.landcentury.com has a huge selection of land available by state and serves as an adequate site to get wholesale and below the market prices for land for sale.

Comparison is going to be your best tool for finding deals. There are not very many national statistics available for land sales, but you can compile your own map of possibilities. Once you get an idea of what land in an area is going for, you can begin searches at the local level to find the best options to meet your land purchase needs.

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