It seems as if everybody wants land, and those that have it want more.
I suppose there are a few exceptions to this rule, but not many, because
even a monk needs a monastery.
That's why land prices are always high, and
why some folks feel that if they can't afford land now, they'll
never be able to in the future. Tax sales may be a dandy way for the
state to collect its due, but the buyer rarely ends up with
marketable title and foreclosures often prove to be far more trouble than
After a time, we get the idea that we need to accept
land which is deficient in some way; property near a land fill maybe, or
without deeded access. We feel that we must pay some other cost in
lieu of the cash we don’t have to spend in order to get a good deal.
Or at least that’s the hair-shirt approach. In
fact, the best way to save hot, steaming piles of cash on a land purchase
is simply to find someone whose plans have changed.
For example: Arlene met Bob at Woodstock. Together
they planned to leave New Haven as soon as Arlene finished her degree in
anthropology. They had an idea to move out into the country and let their lives regress to
the Stone Age. They'd live nude except for animal skins and make their
living foraging for roots and berries. After a few years, they'd write a book and become
famous. So, with some money from her inheritance, they bought forty acres
of wooded land in the Midwest with a really charming cave, and begin to
fashion their future.
However it turned out that Bob had uncouth personal
habits and Arlene was a big of a nag. Thus, it came to be that Arlene and Bob
apart and went their separate ways.
That was years ago, but Arlene still has that property. She hardly ever thinks about it though, except when the
bills come in. Even then, the tax bills on vacant woods seem so cheap compared to her Atlanta condominium,
that she just pays them without much thought. The price she paid for the
land back then wouldn’t buy her a space in the parking lot today, so she
doesn't view it as much of an asset.
I suppose you could say that Arlene’s lust for land has
been fairly sated by this time.
So you’re thinking, “That’s a great story Neil, and
if I had the rest of the morning to waste, I’d sure like to hear the the
whole thing, but since I don’t, and since I don’t know anybody like
you’re describing in the area where I want to buy land…”
Bear with me a moment.
You can find people like Arlene. It’s simple.
But first, you’ll need a couple of tools.
Tools You’ll Need for Buying Land Very Cheaply
Tool Number One. - A County Plat
Book. Each county in every state makes their real estate ownership data
available to private mapping companies who make maps detailing all the
land ownership in the county. You can usually find these for sale in
one or more of the office in the county courthouse. They tend to run
You can get plat books online from
They have maps in six different states (MO, IA, IL, OK, AR, LA). If
you live someplace else, you
can probably find a company online that serves your state. Marcelline offers some of their books on CD for a lower price.
Here’s a page out of a typical county plat book
showing the name of each landowner and the number of acres in each parcel.
Tool Number Two - Maps. It would be a nice idea if
you have plenty of maps of your area. I used to buy these on paper too, but
find that I can get what I need online.
Topographic maps and aerial photography are online at
I also find Google
Earth invaluable and getting better all the time.
Throughout this article, I've placed different views
of the same forty-acre parcel on several different maps, to give you an
idea of how much you can learn about a particular property without ever