How to Buy Land Owned by the Government

You can buy government land.
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The federal government and your state, county or local governments own millions of acres of land. When the land is no longer needed or serves its purpose, the government usually disposes of it through public sales. When you find surplus government-owned land or real estate, you can often save money on a variety of land parcels that could be a boon for you, even if the government doesn't want them anymore.


Federal Agencies Land Sales

Although many federal agencies sell their surplus property, only a few of them handle real estate and land sales. USAGov website is a one-stop-shop for consumers who want information about federal agencies that sell surplus land. This website not only saves you time when you are looking for available land, but also lets you avoid paying third parties for public information about government land sales.

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Buying Federal Land

Public auctions are the most common way that the federal government uses to sell land. USAGov notes the Bureau of Land Management manages federal auctions for surplus public land owned by the federal government. Public land parcels can range from an acre or two to hundreds of acres. Few parcels sold by BLM are useful for farming. These public land parcels are undeveloped. You can only buy the unimproved land, usually without niceties such as water, sewer or access to electricity. The land might be a large parcel in rural wetland and desert locations or small urban tracts.


The U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Marshals Service also offer land sales for federally-owned properties. You might be wondering, "Why is the government buying land?" They aren't always buying it outright. Generally, this land belonged to someone who lost their legal right to own it by breaking U.S. laws or regulations. Some parcels were seized under the agency's authority or lost to the federal government because of criminal convictions. Like BLM, each agency uses its website to announce land sale dates and times, along with instructions for interested buyers. Both agencies offer surplus land, along with real estate sales that include land and residential and commercial properties.


Paying for Federal Land

When you take part in federal land auctions, you'll follow the instructions provided by the agency. The BLM requires its bidders to guarantee a specific amount of money as a deposit with each bid on public land parcels. It also requires U.S. citizenship to bid. Bidders handle getting their own financing for land bought at BLM auctions. Be sure to review all sales terms before bidding.

The U.S. Treasury Department lets bidders register online for its auctions. You must supply a picture ID to register as a bidder. Auction terms vary by property, but the treasury department also requires a bid deposit in the form of a cashier's check, in an amount specified for the auctioned item. The department publishes inspection and open house dates for parcels and real estate on offer. When you win a bid, you arrange your own financing and pay for your land with a certified or cashier's check. Non-citizens can bid on Treasury-owned land.


To find available land or real estate, explore the real property section of the U.S. Marshals website. Review international and U.S. listings here. Mainly sold as-is, the potential buyer must meet all bidding, financing and closing requirements listed for each parcel.

Local Government Land Sales

Find land owned by your state government by starting at USAGov. Navigate to the name of your state using the Surplus Sales by State dropdown list. You'll see links to each state agency that holds sales and auctions for land. For county and city land sales, contact the tax assessor, courthouse or city official.