Yes, you can buy BLM land. The Bureau of Land Management does sell off parcels of land, though not very often. But, when the BLM puts up parcels of land for sale, you are allowed to make bids on them. Should you end up with the winning bid, you have a limited time to close the deal.
Can You Buy BLM Land?
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will sell some of its land from time to time, largely due to short-staffing and an inability to manage hard-to-reach parcels. They will often sell lands to developers for the purpose of expanding housing, retail, and recreation.
Is Anyone Allowed to Purchase BLM Land?
No, by law the BLM can only sell land to U.S. citizens and U.S-based corporations. As long as you fall into one of those categories, you’re free to purchase BLM land.
Where Can I Find Listings of BLM Land for Sale?
Unfortunately, there is no central listing of BLM lands for sale. Each BLM field office and state office is allowed to sell land when the need arises. An office will usually post a notice in local newspapers. You can also call a BLM office and ask if they have any plots for sale.
However, in 2018, the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act was reauthorized to task the BLM with identifying parcels of land that it will most likely sell someday. The BLM produced a list of these lands which you can find here. The BLM is not currently selling these lands. This is just a list of parcels the BLM identified as being most willing to part with.
How Often Does the BLM Sell Land?
Very rarely. In fact, their goal is to always hold on to their lands and never sell them. However, in times of need, they will consider doing so.
There is a federal law that requires the BLM to never sell its lands. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 prohibits the BLM from selling land with the exception of one of three circumstances…
- The land is an isolated, scattered, tract that is too difficult or uneconomic to manage;
- The land was originally acquired for a specific purpose and is no longer needed; or
- Selling the land will serve an important public objective, such as expanding community development.
The BLM still makes a few parcels of land available through the Desert Land Act (see below).
What Kind of Land Does the BLM Sell?
The BLM usually sells small parcels of land ranging from 3 acres up to 100 acres. They never sell large swaths of land. If anything, they prefer to lease these lands.
The land that the BLM sells are often small patches isolated from larger holdings. These lands are generally difficult to reach by vehicle, and thus become expensive for the BLM to patrol and service.
The BLM has also been known to sell developed properties, such as lands that include buildings, paved roads, water, gas, or electric utilities. They refer to these lands as “real estate”, whereas undeveloped lands are referred to as just, “land”.
Are All BLM Lands Sold Through Auction?
Yes, pretty much so. These auctions are generally held in public, where an auctioneer calls out bids and people in the audience raise their hands. You don’t have to purchase that land immediately. Instead, you sign a contract to purchase and are given a time frame in which you must come up with the money.
The BLM will also make private land transactions, outside of an auction, with states and local governments. This is usually to allow these other governments to build roads, prisons, hospitals, airports, etc.
Can You Buy BLM Land and Live On It?
Yes, absolutely. Once you buy BLM land, you are allowed to live on it, and do anything you want.
- However, the BLM usually retains mineral rights for the U.S. government.
- You are also bound by the laws, regulations, and ordinances enacted by the state, county, and city your land is located in.
- Often, lands that are sold by the BLM still have existing grazing rights. If that’s the case, you will be required to honor those rights until they expire.
Can I Purchase Land Under the Desert Land Act?
Yes, but not for residential or recreational purposes. The Desert Land Act was created in 1877 so that U.S. citizens could acquire land from the federal government for purposes of farming.
- The only lands available under the Desert Land Act are those that are arid, that do not currently support agriculture.
- The purpose of the Act was to recruit individuals into creating irrigation systems, and in exchange, those individuals could own the land.
- Price for the land is extremely cheap! $1.25 (one dollar, twenty-five cents) per acre is still the standing price today. However, there are very few parcels of eligible land available.
- If you were obtain land through the Desert Land Act, you will be required to create an irrigation system and then transform that land into some kind of agricultural enterprise, all within four (4) years time.
- To purchase land under the Act, first contact a BLM field office to find out what lands are available, then submit a request to that office to purchase land.
Can You Still Get Free Land Through the Homestead Act?
No. The Homestead Act was repealed in 1976. The repeal, however, did not apply to Alaska. Eventually, Alaska was repealed from the Homestead Act in 1986.
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