9 Tips for Buying Property With Little or No Money

Avatar Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
9 Tips for Buying Property With Little or No Money

Many folks, whether Preppers or not, dream of having their own special patch of land where they can settle in, raise a family, grow a garden, and simply take joy in knowing that the earth they stand on is all theirs. Whether you dream of homesteading as I do, or merely want to homestead in place, achieving that dream can seem daunting, if not impossible, if cash is short.

Today I hope to help you out make that dream come true with some tips for buying property when money is scarce. Now to be honest, these are not my tips but those shared by F.J. Bohan in his book, Living on the Edge. I love this little book and use it to gain motivation and inspiration as I think about my own journey to self-sufficiency.

Tips for Buying Property With Little or No Money - Backdoor Survival

The Arizona Cabin Built on Dirt-Cheap Property

Last month I contacted FJ and his publisher, Paladin Press for permission to share his property-buying tips. And so, today with their permission, I outline 9 tips for purchasing property with little or no money.

Property-Buying Tips When Money is Scarce

Here are some tips to follow for buying property with little or no money when you are ready to start looking for your piece of ground.

1. Have some money. I know this sounds contradictory, but you really are not buying with little or no money. You are buying with little or no money all at once. The term earnest money refers to the part of the deposit/down payment you give with the offer. It says to the seller, “Hey, I am serious about want ing this property.” You need to have this. Give up a summer of eating out at your favorite restaurant, and you’ll have $500 in no time. Anything less than $500 looks like you are dealing from a weak position; anything more makes you look too eager.

2. Look for listings that have been on the market for a long time. A seller who has not sold his property after a year or more on the market is more likely to be creative with you than the seller whose property was listed last week.

3. Look for OWC (owner will carry) or OMC (owner may carry) in the listing. Either way, this means that you will not have to go through a bank. If the seller has done this before, he may not even require a credit check. He will be holding the first deed of trust on the property, and that’s all he really needs. If you default, he is first in line to get the property back.

4. Ask for a delayed closing. The worst thing the seller can say is no, but he may be willing to delay closing past the typical 30–60 days. Any amount of time he delays is more time for you to get the rest of the funds you need to close. Time really is money. Also, use this time to search for the property lines and corners. If you can find the pins at all the corners, you may not want the added expense of a survey.

5. Ask for unlimited access to the property before closing. This tactic usually works well with raw land, but don’t expect it to work with a house or cabin on the property. Unlimited access will allow you to camp out on the property while you save more money for closing.

6. If the property has a cabin or a house on it that is unoccupied, ask the seller to rent it to you for six months and have 80 percent of the rent go toward the down payment. This tactic has also worked for me when purchasing houses. In the past, I have also negotiated for 100 percent of the rent for six months to be applied toward the down payment. That’s like living rent free for six months!

7. Know what you are willing to compromise on but ask for it all. You never know — you just might get it.

8. Remember the statute of frauds. Simply put, this legal principle means that anything and everything you think is a part of the deal must be in writing and signed on the offer/contract. If it isn’t in writing, it means nothing. I have had dealings with both honest and dishonest real estate agents. Trust none of them. Even an honest agent can make a mistake that ends up costing you. Have an outline of your offer with all the points of concern written out and double-checked before you make your offer.

9. Review the contract to be sure it covers all these points before you sign it.

About FJ Bohan

In addition to Living on the Edge, some of you may remember F.J. as the author of Barbed Wire, Barricades, and Bunkers and Emergency Air: for Shelter-in-Place Preppers and Home-Built Bunkers, both of which were featured in Backdoor Survival Book Festivals here and here.

In addition, he is the author of Living on the Edge: A Family’s Journey to Self-Sufficiency, a book that memorializes his family’s 17 year adventure that included everything from living in a tent to homesteading in the desert. He is also a valued friend of Backdoor Survival and a huge supporter of become prepared in a sane and reasonable manner.


As FJ says in his book, many homesteaders and survivalists begin their journeys in far better financial condition than he did. When his family arrived in Arizona, they had $500 in savings and a tent they called home. He goes on to say that it is much more comfortable to search for land that you can live on when you have a good job and a permanent home.

In his case, he thought he would have that luxury when he first started dreaming of becoming self-sufficient, but things did not quote work out as planned.

Regardless of your personal financial situation, having a dream of owning land is a goal worth attaining. Whether that patch of land is in the middle of a suburb or along a remote country road makes to matter. It is having the dream and the goal is what counts.

And fulfilling that dream? Yes, that makes the struggle and the journey worth it.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

Click Here To Vote For Me at Top Prepper Websites!

If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Facebook which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon. You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ and purchase my book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage from Amazon.

Bargain Bin: In addition to FJ Bohan’s books, here are some items to consider in your quest to be a modern, 21st century homesteader.

Barbed Wire, Barricades, and Bunkers: The Free Citizen’s Guide to Fortifying the Home Retreat: The title says it all. This is a guide to readying your home retreat for any scenario. It includes proven designs for fortified structures that can be adapted them to accommodate your personal defense plan.

Emergency Air for Shelter-In-Place Preppers and Home Built Bunkers: This books offers a reasonable solution for assembling an affordable air filtration system.

Living on the Edge: A Family’s Journey to Self-Sufficiency: When it comes to survival, one size definitely does not fit all. That’s exactly what author F. J. Bohan discovered when he and his family set out on a quest for self-sufficiency, a journey that has lasted more than 17 years.

Rothco Type III Commercial Paracord: You can get 100 feet of Paracord for very affordably. This is a real bargain but be aware that price can vary substantially depending on the color.

US Forge 400 Welding Gloves Lined Leather: These well-priced gloves provide complete heat and burn protection. They are made of soft and supple top grain leather for comfort and pliability, plus they have an internal liner gives more comfort and durability. These will keep you hands and arms safe while cooking outdoors over an open fire.

Lodge Logic 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet: This purchase changed the way I cook. I use my cast iron cookware for everything from burgers, to bacon and eggs, to biscuits. Be sure to select the Value pack Skillet with Silicone Handle which is less money and a better deal. Need help with cast iron? Read 7 Tips for Cast Iron Mavens or Soon-To-Be Mavens.

Ticket To Ride: The is my favorite board game, bare none. Family friendly, you will spend hours in front of the fireplace playing Ticket to Ride with your favorite people. This is worth the splurge.

Gerber Gator Combo Axe II: This Gerber axe and saw combo is useful around the yard (or the farm or the ranch) for all sorts or medium to light duty tasks. The rigid part of the axe handle is glass-filled nylon for a rugged construction and light weight.

Dorcy LED Wireless Motion Sensor Flood Lite: Don’t let the price lead you to think this wireless flood light is wimpy. I have two of these and feel that these lights are worth double the price. Using D-cell batteries, the Dorcy floodlight will light up a dark room or a dark stairway in an instant. I can not recommend these enough.


Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials: The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.

New this month is the Farmers Market Vegetable Combofor 79.99. This is a 51% (wow!) discount off of normal pricing. This assortment includes 6 #10 tins of veggies: broccoli, green peas, tomato chunks, spinach, green beans, and zucchini pieces.

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It is no secret that with the cost of fresh vegetables, I have been using freeze dried in my day-to-day meal planning. It makes it easy to throw together a soup and there is no waste. Until you garden kicks in and you have your own home-canned goods, this is definitely the way to go.

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46 Responses to “9 Tips for Buying Property With Little or No Money”

  1. As usual I’am Enjoying Your Website/Newsletter. You are such a big help with keeping things calm as well as helping Preppers. You have saved me money, time and nerves with my prepping. I Really hope that everyone I have told about your site. Signed up. As well as Voted too 😉 Keep up the Great Work, Many Blessings to you.
    Fran and Friends

  2. Another way to get land for little or nothing is to purchase land with marketable timber. My uncle did this in Alabama. The timber that was selectively harvested brought the cost of their 20 acres down to $1500.

  3. As much as people do not want to deal with banks, sometimes there may be no option…IF you want to get what you want. The USDA has low income/rural development loan programs. Do not over look this! I bought my home in 2012 with zero down through that program. If you have next to nothing this can help you a lot.

    • Carl, I also used the USDA Rural Housing grant nearly five years ago. Some people might be surprise that they qualify for “low income”, as the maximum income a family can make can be considered well into middle income for some areas. Also, what property is considered ‘rural’ is also surprising. I never thought I’d be able to afford a house (ie. 20% down), and without this program, I wouldn’t have.

    • Well, they turned me down because I do not make enough on SS disability to qualify….$1200 per month. So what does a person with even lower income than the USDA approves do?

  4. The worst part of this is, this is a terrible time to buy property. In fact, any time since 1998 has been a terrible time to buy property. I imagine quite a few people are simply waiting for real estate to crash again once more before buying, ah-hem, I mean, becoming “home-owing debt donkeys”, as they say at TheHousingBubbleBlog.com

    I guess it just depends on a person’s outlook and position?

    Anyway, I don’t get this: “Anything less than $500 looks like you are dealing from a weak position; anything more makes you look too eager.”

    If you have a larger downpayment you get better rates. How is that being “too eager”?

    • The idea is “buying property with little or no money”. If you have a lot of down payment you don’t really need this advice. You missed the premise of the article. Anyone with a lot of money for a down payment can indeed get a better rate from the bank. This article is for those who DO NOT have a lot of money.

    • Dear, Anne Narkey. I didn’t miss the premise, your answer does not explain how having more money for a down payment is, “too eager”.

    • Helot, you are thinking from the point of view of getting a normal bank loan. When you get a loan, a higher down payment is advantageous. However this article addresses negotiating directly with a seller to hold the note aka owner financing. In my experience, most buyers who ask sellers to do owner financing don’t have much money hence the reason they are asking for those terms. If the buyer offers a large down payment initially they could come off as “too eager” thus hurting themselves in price negotiations because the seller will a)think they have money to pay more for the property or b)have an emotional attachment to the property meaning the buyers are willing to pay whatever it takes or both. An experienced agent would pick up on that immediately as well. Also if you have a large down payment then the seller will wonder why you couldn’t just get a bank loan instead of asking for him/her to hold the note. Hope that makes sense and clarifies for you.

    • Hi Helot, you did miss the point. Earnest money is not down payment money. Earnest money is used as a deposit, usually given with a signed offer, which in most states must be held in an escrow account and returned if your offer is refused. Down payment is money that is used to secure a loan and insures for the benefit of the lender that the buyers interest (skin in the game) is sufficient to prevent them from walking out on the loan.

  5. Everyone would be well advised to keep in mind that all of these tips (and reader comments for that matter), are case specific. The area of the country, the amount of land being purchased, the credit worthiness of the buyer, the desperation (or lack thereof) of the seller, and state specific real estate laws make these generalized tips a starting point.

  6. Food for thought. In preparing for the grid going down we will see many cars and trucks siting abandoned. The gas or diesel fuel gone. All these will have batteries. the owners wont be back to recover for a while so if you use the batteries to provide power for your home it could divert moneys to photocell units and cabling. Leave your address on the car or truck and identify each unit so when the owner shows up they may be returned. left to sit they would discharge and unable to start a car some in just a few months depending on the drain the car puts on the battery’s No car or truck shuts down completely and will drain the battery. Be honest and leave where they can get the battery back. Scavengers will take them anyway. Enough can be obtained to provide power for some time.
    As an electrician I must always stress safety for a charging battery has explosive discharge. adequate ventilation must be maintained. Never let children near batteries. never ever service any electrical device in your bare feet. It takes little more than four milliamps to kill you. Your skin resistance is lowered when sweaty. cement is a grounded surface You are allowed one fatal mistake. no second chances. Safety first If your not sure of what you are doing dont. get someone who does.

    • Wow! What a great idea, I love it, especially where you are honorable and would leave the original owner a way to contact you to get it back. Just be careful, not all who come calling will be honorable.

  7. Grampa, I like your idea about car batteries. I just wonder if it’s a good idea to leave your address where scavengers will see it. Maybe leave a phone number instead?

  8. Hi –
    My dream has long been to get a nice piece of land somewhere and become as self-sufficient as possible: provide my own garden, fuel, etc. Is 65 too old to chuck the rat-race and seek a quieter, more self-sufficient lifeway? I couldn’t do this years ago as my then-husband was married to his jobs as much as me, lol, but now that I’m on my own maybe time for a change. I’m still physically fit and healthy, thank goodness but don’t have much $$ for a down payment so this article is encouraging.
    Have a good day, everyone.

    • I am the same age so definitely not too old. Just keep the amount of property down to a manageable size with a modestly sized home to match. You do not need 10 acres, or even an acre, to live a quiet, more self-sufficient life.

      I fled the city for good and never looked back. I love the laid back lifestyle away from noise, shopping centers, and traffic.

  9. I am 61 and my wife is 55, I have lived in very rural areas previously and my wife and I are very much looking forward to it again. While my health isn’t what it once was, I feel I am still able, with the help of my wonderful wife, to do the things necessary to sustain that kind of lifestyle. I have no doubt that we will thrive once we get where we are going…

  10. Hello
    My family and I have been actively searching for some deep woods land to get away from it all. We already have goats chickens, etc just waiting on a” fair price” on the land we want so we jjust sit and wait for the right land for us!!

  11. I’m in a real bind. I woke up feeling hopeless until I read this. Maybe all is not lost for me. Thank you for sharing this.

  12. I like what this mentions about saving up a little bit before trying to buy property. I feel like I’m ready to buy a second property, even though I don’t have a lot of available capital. I’ll have to look into saving up enough to feel comfortable with a property purchase.

  13. My family and I just found a property we would like to get. It would be for our horses, so I’m not too worried about getting it surveyed. However, I could use some tips on getting the property. My funds are a bit low right now, but it’s going to sale soon. I think I might be able to try your fourth tip and get a delayed close.

  14. Black Buddha House,
    I am in process of about to purchase a little lot out no where in
    Colorado City and didn’t have no development static on the land. I
    can’t even built on it and agent were nice too sell it back to him
    and workout a deal with him and waived that other’s useful land. I
    am glad we good peoples can workout our differ over little mistake.

    Peoples beware of these con artist people’s out their and do your
    own research online and call or visit the local office county for
    piece of land or lots in your area or state. Also, go to this real
    site for update of property listing, taxes, lien on them….
    http://www.NACO.org…bless you all and take care

  15. We purchased our rural home on land a few years ago and we have been selectively harvesting trees in an effort to be eco friendly while at the same time providing spaces for gardens and outbuildings. It has been a lot of work as we are doing it ourselves with a chainsaw and a split ax. We let our children help stack the wood for winter so they can learn some work ethic. They have also been collecting small rocks to fill some holes in the driveway. We went for a drive through the city and my son saw some children sweeping grass cuttings from a sidewalk and he said, “I didn’t know that kids in the city work too!” We are happy with our new lifestyle and so far the people in town seem very friendly as do our neighbors. Anyone who wishes to go rural should definitely do so as the crime rate out here is virtually non existent. I haven’t felt the need to buy a membership at a fitness center as there is plenty of work outside to keep me in shape. We are in Central New York and so we do remember to check for ticks and shower when we come in. Happy hunting!

  16. I like your comment to ask for unlimited access to the property before closing. I’m sure that if you’re planning to buy vacant land this would be a great opportunity to let a land surveyor check out your potential purchase for you. I’m sure most landowners wouldn’t mind either, since it would be difficult for you to damage an empty piece of land.

  17. It really helped when you talked about the importance of reviewing any contract when buying a house. I can see that doing this can help you make sure all the points are in order and that you agree with all the term involved in the purchase. Personally, I would want to make sure I find a real estate agent that is on my side in order to get the best deal I can and avoid having to do the paperwork myself since I have no patience for it.

  18. Hello dear souls, I have many lots for sell on the Southern Oregon Coast that include a shipping container home, 7 years supply of food; rice, beans, wheat, corn and a water supply with optional electricity. This all costs money. Gaye’s article suggests that 500 is a good amount for to entice sellers to lock up their property for months. I can say that each lot I get ready to sell cost me about 10,000. There is no way I will look at someone offering only 500 as an earnest money deposit. I carry the financing on each lot and offer good terms with a 15k down payment. I don’t use real estate agents as they want 10 % commission on land that does not fit into the Fannie May/Freddie Mac guidelines. But any property that does will cost much more… (a shipping container home does not fit). In addition, no seller should allow unlimited access to property for 500. Far too many people use the Landlord/tenant laws to lock up the property for months. The eviction costs are several thousand. I have actually been told that I don’t own the land even though I pay the taxes on it, but instead it is owned by mother earth and it belongs to us all. I have compassion for this view and believe we all have a duty to protect this earth but I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars purchasing the land, improving it and paying the taxes. Where were my friends of the earth then? My point in all of this is that 500 is not a reasonable enticement. Best wishes to all my fellow pilgrims on this spinning ball we call earth……or flat plain for those of the flat earth society.

  19. I liked that you pointed out that it would be good to ask for delayed closing. I didn’t realize that you could ask that. It does seem like a good way to get some more money to pay for everything. I would want to talk to a real estate agent about delaying closing.

  20. I liked that you had mentioned that when it comes to buying property that it can be important to know what you’ll compromise on but to ask for everything. My wife and I have been wanting to make a few investments and one thing we’ve wanted to invest in is property and we haven’t really been sure how to start. We’ll have to start looking around for property for sale and we’ll be sure to decide prior to what we’ll compromise with.

  21. My husband and I are hoping to buy a new property to help fit our growing family, but we’re hoping to get it for a cheap price. So I really like your advice to look at homes that have been listed for a long time since the owner will be more willing to work with you. I will definitely start our search for properties by checking out those that have been on the market for at last 6 months.

  22. Your advice to have an outline of your offer that includes all the points of concern would be useful. This would probably help you and your agent understand what you’re looking for so that they can help you find properties for sale that match your requirements. Once you’ve shown the outline to your agent, you’d probably want to go over it with them so that they can help you fix any mistakes and make changes that will improve the offer.

  23. I like what you said about having some money. Even if you’re going to get a loan to buy the land, you need to show the owner that you’re legitimate. Once I was recommended to put 20% down on any property I wanted to buy, and that if I couldn’t put down 20%, I couldn’t afford it. I think that holds true in this situation. //montosacanyonranch.com/info

  24. Thanks for going over some tips for buying property. You mentioned that you should ask for a delayed closing and can give you more time. You said that the typical amount is 30-60 days and i’m kind of interested to know if it could go on for longer than that.

  25. I would suggest that before you build on the land, head down in person to the building department, just so can hear in person what is and isn’t zoned for the land. Especially for commercial developments, it can be so important. I like that you mentioned asking for full access to the land. That could help you out in a legal jam. //www.edmgroup.com.au/landuse-planning

  26. You make a good point that if a home or piece of property has been on the market for more than a year then the seller will probably be more creative with you than someone whose property hasn’t been on the market for long. My husband grew up on a farm, and he wants to find a farm for sale that we could get. The problem is that money is rather tight, so we’ll have to use your tips once we find a farm we want.

  27. I love that you mentioned that we should sacrifice eating out or other expenses if we really wanted to buy our own property. With that in mind, I will be telling my husband to cut down our expenses by choosing cheaper ways to live our day to day lives. We just wanted to have our own property already because it feels a waste if we keep on paying for the rent since this house will never be ours.

  28. I want to buy my first home this upcoming year. My budget isn’t too large. It is good to know asking for a delay on closing could help me get more money for my budget. That might be something I would want to talk to a real estate agent about that.

  29. I agree that it’s important to know if your seller can give you a delay in closing time to buy more time for you to complete your needed funds. For people who want to buy a house but don’t have the means yet, finding a seller that isn’t strict with time is a gift to them already. I’d suggest asking help from a real estate agent so that he can take care of the negotiations for you at a considerable schedule.

  30. buying a property does seem like a complicated thing to do. It does seem like a good thing to look at how long a property has been on the market. That is a good thing for me to know because my parents want to get a ranch sometime next year.

  31. I think it is so important that you explained that you should try to get access to the land before you close, so you can camp out there and save money. I have been thinking about buying a ranch but I am not sure if I have the necessary amount of money for this. I will need to check with my husband first to be able to look at our budget and see what the best options for us will be.

  32. This piece has given me some really good ideas, I am very thankful for that. I also want to add a suggestion… Look for states, counties, etc. that are not so expensive in the first place if that is feasible for you. I have seen real estate in the Missouri Ozarks listed for some low prices and some of them are stating owner financing available for only $500 down. Most of them are smaller lots with little to no zoning as far as I can see, however, for those with a little more money, there is a LOT of Ozark land out there.

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