In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the United States government encouraged settlement of the West by offering free land to anyone who would live on the land and improve it. These homesteads helped populate Western states. The Federal Land Policy Act of 1976 repealed the homesteading program and ended the era of free government land. Today when people talk of homesteading, they usually mean building a home where they can live self-sufficiently. If the land is inexpensive, so much the better. You can find your land for homesteading if you're willing to put in time and effort, and wait for the right deal to come along.
Narrow your choice to a specific area of the country. If you intend to garden or raise livestock, consider the climate and growing season and the type of crops you can expect to raise. If you want to live near family, put that on your list of criteria. Search online for a cost-of-living calculator to compare the cost of living in various locations. Look at job opportunities as well. Most homesteaders have to work at least part time to support their homesteads.
Examine your finances and determine how much you can pay for your new homestead. Remember to factor in moving costs and money for making improvements on the property. If you don't have enough money to pay for the property outright, calculate how much of a down payment and the amount of monthly payment you can afford.
Research local restriction, ordinances and laws in the area in which you're interested in buying a homestead property. If you intend to raise livestock, you want to be sure such activities are allowed. Determine if water is available in the area or if you'll be able to drill a well or construct a cistern. For instance, Colorado law prohibits collecting rainwater in a rain barrel or cistern. Some areas do not have potable water. Some require water hardness mitigation infrastructure. Be sure about water and other utilities before you buy.
Search real estate listings in your preferred locale. This may not turn up properties in your price range, but it will give you an idea of what is available and what properties sell for. Contact a real estate agent who specializes in homestead properties. Ask about foreclosures and short sales, also. Subscribe to the local paper and study the real estate listings there.
Check listings on eBay for land in your preferred area. Look for listings with no reserve price, meaning the highest bidder will win the land no matter how low the bid. Read the listing carefully and note any additional fees, such as title registration or documentation fees, which usually amount to no more than a couple hundred dollars. Find out the exact lot description, and research the lot. Visit the area if possible, but know that Google Maps and the County Tax Assessor can provide more information about the land. Determine if the land is accessible by road and if any utilities are available. Ask questions of the seller before you make your bid.
Search county tax records for property owned by people who live out of state. You can search many tax assessors online. Write a letter to the owner of any property that interests you and make an offer to purchase the land. Many times, out-of-state owners of undeveloped property inherited the property and would entertain an offer to purchase the property.
Place an ad in the local paper where you wish to settle. Describe the type of property you're looking for and the amount you can afford to pay. See if you get any replies. You could also propose a rent-to-own deal. A seller whose property has been on the market for a while might take you up on the offer.