We usually associate the concept of people settling in unclaimed lands in the US as something reserved for the olden days. The age of exploration where land was plenty and the untouched land of the new world was free to any one who could work it. Times have change though and as global populations swell, land is becoming more and more of a scarce resource than ever.
Although unclaimed land in the United States is undoubtedly hard to acquire these days, many would be surprised to find that unclaimed land still exists in certain parts of the country. In this article, you will learn more about these lands, the legalities involved, and what you can possible do to become a land-owner yourself.
Unclaimed land, or Terra nullius, is originally what lured the first settlers and pilgrims to the New World in the first place. Europe at the time was a cramped and inhospitable place for the peasantry class and so, by the 16th and 17th century, many decided to immigrate to what would become the United States. They did so because land and property was being given to anyone who could work and till the land.
In 1862, the Homestead Act was introduced. This was responsible for driving American expansion westward and can be credited for giving rise to the Wild West. The act was essentially aimed to have newly acquired lands claimed and settled by Americans and many Americans did just that – enticed no doubt by the fertile soil and mining prospects. However, they didn’t settle for free but were required to defend the land from Native American incursions.
The act would later be repealed in 1976 but there are still lands that exist deemed “unneeded” by the government. Today, Terra nullius is a term reserved for Antarctica and outer space where no man can live and no country can lay claim to but with claiming unclaimed land, there are other forms of acquiring land that works just the same.
Unclaimed Land in the USA Today
Take note that although they are known as “Unclaimed”, all unowned land in the US is the property of the government. It excises full jurisdiction on land unsettled and it’ll be the one you’ll be dealing with if there is a plot you wish to attain. Brushing up on the legalities of the land ownership laws of the state you’re interested in is a must for any prospective claimer. Nevertheless, the agencies responsible for the management and execution of land are:
- U.S Department of Interior
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- U.S. Bureau of Land Management
- U.S. National Parks Service
- U.S. Forest Service
Such land might be used by the government for grazing, defense, or as national reserves. Keep an eye out on possible announcements because sometimes the governments puts portions of these lands for sale on or above fair market value.
Also note that lands that are not found on the map or was newly created due to geographical events does not necessarily mean they’re open for grabs. Simply claiming a land as yours wont provide the legal protection of Property Rights that every land owner enjoys.
Despite there being no more Unclaimed Land in the US in the traditional sense, you can acquire land on the cheap or be given land through various legal method available today — which is just as good.
Modern Means of Land Acquisition
First thing’s first, research is essential. Staying informed on small and sparsely populated towns offering land for free or with high incentives is your best bet in becoming a land owner at minimal expense. Brushing up too on the local laws and regulations, land value, and tax incentives will also allow you to create the best game plan possible.
Towns that Offer Free Land in the United States:
- Lincoln, Kansas
- Osborne, Kansas
- Mankato, Kansas
- Plainville, Kansas
- Osceola, Iowa
- Marne, Iowa
- Flagler, Colorado
- Elwod, Nebraska
- Loup City, Nebraska
- Curtis, Nebraska
- New Richland, Minnesota
With these towns, expect that the local government units will require that you improve the property up to standards or build a business that offers jobs to the local populace. They may also require that you build a home using locally approved builders. These unclaimed lands might be free but building costs might brake bank if you’re of limited means.
If you have a family member that has some extra pieces of land lying around, then under the laws of most states, you can inherit these lands with no payment needed. The family member does not even need to be deceased. In order to enact this properly, the services of a lawyer will be needed to ensure a smooth and legal transition of ownership.
Urban Homesteading Programs
Certain cities are looking to improve living standards by offering properties for free. Cities like Boston or New York have launched programs where the city government sells the property, likely foreclosed or confiscated, for cheap to anyone who can improve it to meet city guidelines. Some programs provide incentives that drive home improvement costs down. Cities like Boston offer prospective buyers cash down payments of of up to $36,000 to help in the renovations.
Of course, renovation costs in major cities can cost up to hundreds of thousands, but programs such as these are present in almost every city across the country with varying degrees of viability. With enough canvasing and research, you’re certain to find a place that’s perfect for your pocket.
Buying Property using Tax Sale
Highly complicated and definitely not a land ownership guaranteed, this method entails acquiring property that the government has seized due to tax evasion. In selling the debt to investors, the government will award the property to the person who settles the debt and the person will acquire property possibly below market rates. There are, however, a lot of technicalities involved in this process so the help of a good lawyer will be needed.
Buying Seized Property
Tax evasion isn’t the only reason the government seizes properties, Of the property was related to a crime, then the government might seize it and put it up for action some years later. Participation in these auctions will allow you to acquire not just land, but cars, jewelry, and appliances.
You’ll usually have to sign up for weeks in advance. Sometimes you’ll also be able to view the properties being auctioned but not always. As a bidder, you will be given a number to raise when you aim to outbid others. Exercise due restraint when making bids and be sure not to end up paying too much for an already under-priced property. The idea is to get as much for as little money as possible.
Buying Real Estate Online
From time to time, you may actually find legitimately great deals on websites like Ebay or Craigslist. Some sellers turn to online markets to make a quick and easy sell without having to do too much. It goes without saying though that you must exercise a lot of caution and control when engaging an online seller of properties.
There’s a myriad of online scams and people with nefarious intentions on the internet so be sure to do proper background checks. Do things like looking up the property with the relevant agencies or for proof of Deeds of Ownership. Never agree to a meet up unless in a safe and public place.
All things considered though, many people have managed to secure property online with steep discounts.
Other Things to Consider:
Acquiring land and property is no walk in the park. You not only have to consider the methods of obtaining it, but also the trials and tribulations that come with moving to a new area. Take into account the weather and climate of the area and whether or not it is suitable for your ideal living conditions. Be informed on occurrences like twisters, seasonal flooding, forest fires, and any such natural events that regularly happen in or around the area.
Things like crime rates, political landscapes, and culture are also things one must consider when settle a new land. The space might have been gotten at a bargain, but it might take different kinds of cost to you personally or financially. Being aware of such things prevent things like buyers guilt that could ruin what seemed to be like such a great investment.
Beware of seller who sell properties than they don’t actually own. These unscrupulous con artists make off with your money and leave you with a property than was never yours. Be sure to always as for a warranty deed consult a lawyer as counter-measures.
We certainly hope that this article was of great help to you. There’s nothing like buying and owning your own home or plot of land – it always gives a sense of security and stability to the heart. We also hope that, to some degree, this article has dispelled the common notion that purchasing and acquiring land needs to be a financially strenuous endeavor. There are indeed a lot of research and technicalities involved before making such big choices but when done right, they can be the most liberating and gratifying of investments.
Unclaimed land in the US might be things of the past, but the tradition of carving out a new life in distant lands will always be a part of the human condition.