How to Buy Land on the Alaska Frontier

Grizzly bear in a field in Alaska.
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Perhaps you've grown tired of sedentary life in the lower 48 states. Far north, near the top of the world, a new land beckons, vast and wild. Alaska is called "The Last Frontier" for a reason. The state's Department of Natural Resources, for instance, oversees more than 100 million acres of wild uplands and roughly 34,000 miles of jagged coastline. The same department offers private pieces of the frontier to residents and nonresidents through a number of public land disposal programs. In the past, the state has offered oceanfront, lakefront, riverfront, roadside and fly-in properties, with prices starting as low as $2,600. Location and availability of frontier land changes each year, but the sense of adventure remains the same.

Subdivision Auctions

The state's primary land disposal program comes in the form of periodic sealed-bid auctions. Ranging the state geographically, these remote parcels are part of existing subdivisions that have been mapped, surveyed, classified and appraised. Auction schedules, directions and forms are available on the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resource's website. Land sold at auction must receive a bid equal to or higher than the appraised value of the parcel. Parcels are awarded to the highest bidder. To bid on the majority of these parcels, you must have lived in Alaska for at least a year prior to the date of the auction. Nonresidents can bid on parcels that have no residency requirements as well as on commercial, industrial and agricultural lots.

Over-the-counter Subdivision Sales

Lots not sold during auction are made available on a first come, first-served basis at DNR offices. Unlike the auction stage, these leftover parcels are available to both residents and nonresidents. Though still part of existing subdivisions, these unsold, over-the-counter lots tend to be far off the beaten path or in areas just developing. They range in size from 1 to 40 acres and in price from $5,000 to $40,000. After each auction, the state specifies the number and type of over-the-counter lots available.

Remote Cabin Site Staking

Enacted in 1997, the state's Remote Cabin Site Staking program allows residents to stake out their own get-away-cabin spot in designated backcountry areas. Individuals first lease the land from the state for three years, pay for surveying and appraisal, and then, at the end of the lease agreement, purchase the land at fair market value. You must have lived in Alaska for at least a year to qualify for this program. The minimum parcel size for a cabin site is five acres, and the maximum size is 20 acres. Due to backcountry location, access to these sites is generally limited to all-terrain vehicles, snow mobiles, floatplanes or boats.

Financing and Other Considerations

You can finance state parcels in Alaska if the purchase price of the land, minus the down payment, is greater than $2,000. Sales contracts with the State of Alaska typically require a down payment of 5 percent and a repayment schedule, with interest, of up to 20 years. The state, however, makes no guarantees as to the condition of remote sites, and no future commitment to roads or other public services. Prospective buyers are advised to check out parcels before any purchase.

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