Things You Will Need* Computer with internet connection
* Understanding of your financial situation
* Pen and paper
Step 1Make two lists of the things you are looking for in your land. The first list is your must have list. The second list should contain things that you'd like to have, but could do without. For example, if you have children or an elderly parent living with you, a must will probably be having a hospital close by. An item on the like list may be beautiful view. As you look at land, refer to your list to be sure you don't overlook something essential.
Step 2Decide on a budget, down payment amount and time frame for finding your land. If you have very little to put down and can only afford two to three hundred dollars a month, you'll know that you are probably looking for special financing or a foreclosure deal. If you have a substantial down payment and are pre-approved for a small loan, you may be able to buy a conventional piece of land.
Step 3Start your search on eBay. This is where we discovered a seller who auctions off cheap owner financed tennessee land on a regular basis and a second seller who auctions off rural acreage in several different states. There are usually several people auctioning off foreclosure land deals, too.
Step 4Search sites that specialize in cheap farm land. If eBay didn't pan out for you, you may want to move on to a site that provides a large number of listings for farm and ranch land, such as landandfarm.com or craigslist.org.
Step 5Do some research. Once you find some cheap acreage you are interested in, it is time to look into what is good and bad about that area. Find local newspapers online, access population statistics and check out forums such as the ones at City Data or Topix to see what people who live there now have to say about the quality of life in that area. This step saves you from driving ten hours to look at cheap land, only to discover that the whole town smells strongly of burned breakfast cereal. (True story!)
Step 6Use Google Earth to get a bird's eye view. If you are lucky, you will be able to put the lot's address into Google Earth and then use your mouse to drive virtually up and down the street to check out how nice nearby homes are and to make sure there aren't any buildings nearby that you would prefer not to live next to.
Step 7Call the realtor or land owner. Sometimes, you can find out everything you need to know with a single phone call. For example, one realtor I called told me that the listing's claim that town water and sewer would be at the lot in ten years was something the town had been promising for about thirty years. Since the lot wouldn't perc, I saved myself a trip.
Step 8Visit the lot. No matter how perfect a lot might be, never, ever buy sight unseen if you can help it. Before the advent of Google Earth, we almost ended up with a place with a lovely view of a dump. Other buyers who didn't go poke around a bit before making their purchase ended up next door to a "clothing optional" community and now have to take the long way in to town if the kids are awake to avoid awkward questions!
Step 9Bring in some experts. Once you've found your land and have an unsigned copy of the contract in your hand, it is time to call in the experts. If you are buying land directly from a seller, you may want to consult with a real estate attorney to be sure you're not leaving yourself open for a problem later on or have missed an important clause in the contract. I've heard several stories of people who didn't realize their great owner financed loan had a big balloon payment at the end. You'll also want to find out about prior perc attempts and will want to be sure the land is free and clear of all liens. Don't forget to confirm zoning with the town zoning board, too.
Step 10Sign your contract. After the experts give you the all clear and you are sure you will be happy in your new location, you can finally put in an offer on your dream farm land or recreational acreage.
Finding that perfect spot for your little self sustainable homestead isn't going to be easy, especially if you are looking for dirt cheap land. However, once you find that perfect spot for a great price, you'll be glad you persevered.
Tips & WarningsBe sure you don't overextend yourself if you can't quite afford a place you like, even if it is a real bargain. Believe it or not, there really will be more once in a lifetime deals. I've come across at least ten of them in the past year!
Make sure your significant other is on board with your decision.
I really can't stress the importance of getting professionals involved and doing your homework enough. You don't want to buy a piece of a superfund site or a piece of land that spends six months of the year underwater because you didn't ask a few questions!