The Ultimate Guide To Finding Land for Your Tiny House or Homestead

It could be to build your tiny house on or to start a homestead, many of us want a little place to call our own.  Finding and buying land is a tricky thing, but there are some things we can do to help making finding land a little easier.

finding land

Before we start looking it’s really important to understand what we actually are looking for and to that we need to understand what we actually need our land to do. Many of us dream of a 100 beautiful acres with a nice river, great views and easy access, but the reality of managing that much land would be too much for most people.

Determining Your Needs

writing in notebook

In my own search for land I thought I wanted 20-30 acres, but after some careful examination all I really needs was 3 really good acres, anything beyond that was bonus in my mind.  It can be hard to figure out what we really figure out exactly how much you need, so start with understanding that an acre is a square that is 209 feet long and 209 feet wide.  That really helped me grasp the true size of an acre.

From there I sat down and listed all the things I wanted to do on that land.  For me it was the following:

  • 1 small home
  • 1 big workshop/outbuilding
  • 10 chickens
  • 2 pigs
  • 2 bee hives
  • 10 fruit trees
  • 1000 square feet of garden

It took me a while to really nail down what I wanted to do now and in the future, but those things were critical to do on the land I want to buy.  From there I was able to estimate how many square feet I need for each and any spacing requirements (like I wanted the shop and pigs to be hidden from the house).  From that I concluded I needed  three main areas: the house (1 acre), the animals/garden section (half acre) and the shop area (1 acre).  Adding in some buffer space I came up with my 3 acre target if all the land was totally usable.

gardening on land

The important part here is to figure out what you are actually going to do. Being realistic, too often people dream of a place with lots of cows, horses, and other animals or a little house miles away from their neighbors.  Be honest with yourself and realize that you most likely don’t need massive swaths of land unless you have a very specific need which you already have experience with (ie: you’ve raised cattle before and want your own ranch).

Determine the area

When it comes to land we all know the saying: “location, location, location”.  For me it all comes down to two main factors: proximity to employment and my willingness to drive a certain length of time on a daily basis.  For other people there will be other factors, but all I really care about is if I need a job, can I find one and how long do I want to be in car.

location location location

Don’t get caught up in the trendy areas or close to the city center because those places often have more rules, higher prices and more buyer competition.  Being open to more areas and being flexible will improve your likelihood of finding a great spot.

Figure Out Your Budget

Before you get into the search figure out how much you can afford and agree on a upper limit.   This may be the time you get pre-approved for a mortgage or land loan if you’re going that route.  If you don’t have much money, check out our post on how to buy land with no money.

Use Online Tools

At the time of writing this post, is my favorite tool to find land.  I’ve setup several saved searches that automatically find and highlight properties that meet my criteria.  The one major downside to this tool is there is no option to filter properties without restrictions or HOAs, that was a big one for me and will be for many of you.  Since I did my homework on what I wanted I knew that what I wanted to do on the land wasn’t going to be allowed in a community with restrictions.

Some people have had luck with Land Watch or Craigslist, I personally haven’t found much luck there and the usability of their sites is a deal breaker for me.

Check this video out below about how I search for land and evaluate listings.  I’ll dig into the tools, plus some awesome tricks.

Drive Around

rent to own signThere comes a point where you just need to get out there and driving around the area you want to be in can give you some good leads.  You’ll find “for sale by owner” signs which most likely aren’t listed online anywhere. You’ll see a property that you like that you could approach the owners about if they own a large parcel and you want to buy a part of it.  There is a lot to be gained by driving around even if you don’t find any leads, you learn more about the area you’re thinking of buying in.

Work Your Networks

People always discount the opportunities that might be sitting right in front of them the whole time.  Get clear on what you’re looking for, what you can afford and the areas you’re looking in and create a digital flyer.  Take that flyer and post it on all your social networks, email your friends asking them if they have any leads and if you know any old timers or farmers, reach out to them too.  All these people know other people and by getting the word out there, you might find some great options.

Use A Realtor

searching for landA Realtor is some that you can use to find land if you’re ready to buy.  Since you’re the buyer, there is no fee to use one since the seller will pay all the commissions.

It took me about a month to find someone that I liked working with, that was helpful, communicated well and we clicked pretty well.  I found that there are a lot of realtors that will just try to get a quick sale or only kind of listen, I weeded those out quickly if they kept bringing me poor listings.

Once you do find a good realtor, understand they are investing their time to help you find your land and they don’t get paid unless they close.  If you go this route, make sure you’re ready to buy and respect their time.  It is fine to end a working relationship if they aren’t delivering what you need, but if they’re doing a good job make sure you close with them as your agent so they can get their commission.

I found mine through doing inquiries through Zillow; there was one agent that stood out from the rest for me and I stuck with him.

parking checklist

Go Old School

If you’re in smaller towns, looking for farm land, or if you’re really scrapping for leads check out the newspaper or local print listings.  These are often a lot of older listings, duplicates of online, but you may be able to find some new leads.

Check out local shops and community centers for bulletin boards. While your at it, leave your flyer you made earlier to see if you stir up any new leads.  Again, we may not find a lot of options, but if you do get a call the person might be willing to strike a deal or know someone who is selling land.

Talk With Farmers

Land is a tool of the trade for farmers and they usually have more of it than most people.  I find that they are also very practical people, so if you’re a younger person with dreams of building a homestead or small farm, they might be willing to do owner financing.  In some cases you can also rent land for a while until you do find the right property.

talking with farmers

Farming folks are also really great to have as friends. They’re handy, they have a lot of local connections and they have equipment that they might be willing to lend you.  You might even hit it off with some of them and offer to help out on their farms for free at times to learn some particular skill.  I remember weeding strawberry beds with one farmer and while we were working I’d ask a bunch of questions.

Take A Break

Sometimes things just aren’t working for you or the market is over-valued.  It’s better to buy during low periods because you can find more options and better deals.  If we buy at the height of a market, we might end up paying too much for that property and will have to wait a long time, if ever, to get out from under a property we paid too much for.

So those are some of my suggestions on how to find land to purchase for your tiny house or homestead.  Let me know in the comments what you’ve learned in your own search!

Your Turn!

  • What tricks and tips have you learned to find land?
  1. Look at land that most other people would not want. You can get a better deal. On Craigslist I saw a logging company selling off pieces of land where they had already logged the big trees. So they left a few small trees, and you can plant more! They would finance for 7 years with a 5 percent down payment.

    • Hi Linda:
      I know a company that makes wonderful container type homes with one to three bedrooms at a very affordable price. Units have kitchenette and Shower room. Can you give me details of the property you got as I am interested to get some property to put a container type home and live rent/mortgage free for ever. (I say container type as the units are made using same chassis and frames just like containers but use innovative Sandwich panels for walls and ceilings.

      • Would love to know who your connection is with on the tiny home…the design sounds just exactly like what I would like to get.

      • Where can I get one

      • The are several companies on that sell these. Look on their site abs toe in container homes. They range from around 1500-30+. We are working with one manufacturer now for a 1227 sqft modern design. They are great! Good luck!

    • I am not having much luck so far.but will follow your lead and check local news papers. For my little home state dream .

  2. I found my 20 acres after a friend drove by it and though of me. It looked like crap from the road and was on the market for 16 months. But, my friend insisted that I walk the whole thing, It was a hidden gem and once it was cleaned up by us, everyone says its the best property in the area. A good friend can always help, so tell all your friends about your dream land.

  3. After attending a Tiny Homes Building conference this was the question I was trying to answer: I can build it, but where can I put it? Zoning is key. Back in the old days, urban environments like Milwaukee, WI allowed basement flats-think Laverne and Shirley or garage apartments-think Happy Days. Both based on Milwaukee appearance which also boasted east and south side neighborhoods with small cottages in the back yard used as rentals. High population density areas are now adapting this out-lot mentality-think Oregon.

    In rural areas like Central Wisconsin my 7 acres prohibits any dwelling structure other than the standard home, meeting minimum square footage. I can’t put a tiny home or RV on the back part of my lot. An RV needs to be parked near my house or inside a building.This was part of the original developers stipulation. This was done to insure neighbors would not be building expensive homes next to shacks and in turn the township is guaranteed the tax income they want.

    Meanwhile, down the road people have a hunting shack with chimney and screen door on what I have as a yard shed. Across the road is an RV with a porta-john permanently on the property. Obviously, these are opposite ends of the zoning spectrum.

    Personally, I’d rather see a nice tiny home with a composting toilet inside and grey water used to water a garden or returned to a holding tank if needed.

    My suggestion would be to look for properties than may be listed as “unbuildable” or odd lots where grade or drainage (flood plain) might make building conventionally difficult or limit the use of footing, basement, conventional septic. If counties were smart, they’d appreciate the increase in tax base even a small foot print could bring once properties are improved. That means power, phone or general improvement through outbuildings, etc.

    I suspect it is still a struggle to get municipalities to agree to tiny housing and I’m not sure why. Cabins in Wisconsin were they way this land was settled and until the 1980’s the small cabin still dotted our lake shores and back woods with abundance. Now it seams the mega-getaways rule our rural areas.

    Good luck to those who continue to push the envelope, reduce their footprint and in turn bring some wisdom to the municipalities.

  4. I have recently been on the lookout for some land and I wanted to look up some information. I really appreciated how this article talked about sitting down and listing all the things you want to do on that land. This is something that I will have to do so that I can find the right piece of land for my family.

  5. Phil,

    I am very interested in the affordable container type home you described.Would you mind sharing the name of the Company?

  6. Cook County, Minnesota, is very open to full-time tiny house on wheels living, on your own land! And, in addition, it’s absolutely beautiful there – right on Lake Superior, with the town of Grand Marais being a delightful mix of artists, music, and quaint shops. Murphy Mountain is just minutes from Grand Marais and has wooded private lots.

  7. I appreciate this article and especially the video portion so much!! I am new in the looking for land arena, so I feel as if the Lord has blessed me by saving me tons of aggravation and frustration through this article. Thank you

  8. I search for the mapping site
    And the landbank on the city and state government websites.

  9. For me, I have been thinking about going with some houses that have larger plots of land, as I would want to utilize that land. Now of the things you have listed here, I think that figuring out your budget is one of the better things that you can do. That way, you’ll have a good idea of what amount of land that you can afford.

  10. I build Tiny Houses and sale them commercially. There are ways to get around some zoning requirements in areas. We build all types of plans and can arrange shipping, setup and financing if needed.

    • Jonathan,
      I have purchased many books on building tiny homes and have looked in so many states for land. I am looking to settle in either San Diego, CA or Oregon. I would love to know where you are located and what are the 1st steps of starting to build my tiny home.

      I hope to here back from you soon.

    • Can you send me your info? I live in San Diego and would love more insight on this… I work in real estate finance and have some good connections with local realtors and currently looking for some land to build.

  11. Looking for 2 to 4 acords of land but unDecided on what location but the water are Words or forest type places. So I can Build on and can have are get access to water Hook ups ane make my own.

  12. Started reading Backwoodsman and American Frontiersman magazines. There are many articles in those magazines having to do with homesteading, sustainable living, and survival. You can write the Publishers and request certain topics and they will be happy to point you in the right direction. They’re both worth checking out as they’re both full of inspiration and creative solutions to the many problems individuals face, and they’re also both affordable. Check them out! and

  13. I liked that you explained that it would be smart to drive around and look to see if there are any properties up for sale. It does seem like a very simple way of finding a property to buy. Also, it would be a good way to find new pieces of land on the property.

  14. Land is all around us, but it’s not always for sale or the type we need. I’m wanting to build my own home and that includes buying the lot that it’ll sit on. As you said here, it would be a good idea to figure out my budget. That way, I wouldn’t get caught trying to buy something that I wouldn’t be able to afford.

  15. I’ve done the raw rural land thing in a no zoning area. For 3 years. Most deals are not good. Because alot of people are buying up large rural properties. Then splitting them into parcels. Jacking up the price in a rto deal. Knowing most people will have a hard time paying. I had 20 acres with a full time creek. Try 700 a month. Add taxes and it ends up to about 750. For 30 years.

  16. Good day! Do you recognize if they make any type of plugins to protect versus cyberpunks? I’m kinda paranoid regarding losing whatever I’ve striven on. Any type of suggestions?

  17. I have found a few places while driving a few states and I think I have found the place to build my home

  18. I really like it whenever people come together and share opinions. Great website, continue the good work!

  19. Hello,
    I have just started my research for tiny houses and cargo van living. I am interested in having land to call home, but have the option of taking my home with me to travel during the year.
    Can a tiny house or cargo van that can function off grid (with solar paneling and/or small wind mill as well as compost toilet stay/reside on property that is listed as nonbuildable?
    I also do not understand how a tiny house is safe/manageable to travel with on the road. Is there a size and weight that is the best to follow for a tiny house for traveling the USA in, off and on during the year?
    Thank you for your assistance.

  20. Informative. Thank you!

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