How to buy city land

Navigate through layers of municipal processes to acquire land owned by the city. Local governments offer land through auctions and special programs. Determine your needs as a future landlord to choose the property and program that best suits your goals.


  1. Identify the characteristics you want on a property in the city. Consider location, land use, zoning, geological characteristics and reference designation. Let your goals as a landlord influence what features you are looking for – if you are going to rehabilitate an existing home on a rental property, you are looking for a different property than someone who is planning to build an office tower.
  2. Determine the current and past land use of the property. Visit the site to check for any occupied or unoccupied structures on the site. Remember that real estate descriptions online and in the files do not always reflect the most current state of properties. Visit the office of City Property Secretary to determine beyond the uses of the site.
  3. Research the zoning designation of the property. He knows that the designation of zoning determines the size and shape of structures on a property and the types of land uses allowed. Contact Planning Department or check your city zoning code to determine what is allowed on the property of the city that selects your city.
  4. Dig on the floor. Learn about underground streams, specific nutrients in the soil and other geological features that could affect the types of structures that can be built and what type of vegetation will grow on a property. Hire a geologist, if necessary, analyze the soil.
  5. Know the historical designation of the property. I understand that signal status is given to sites that have a historical, cultural or architectural significance. The local historic preservation commission must preapprove the changes made to landmarked properties.
  6. Ensure a list of properties that meet your requirements and is within your budget. Factor of maintenance, demolition, construction, taxes and other costs beyond the purchase price of the property.
  7. Attend a property auction – city and counties governments offer seized property and foreclosure at public auctions. Understand, also, that different municipalities have different rules regarding the auctions. Call your local city planning department or finance department to determine how to qualify as an auction participant.
  8. Investigate city land programs. Remember, local governments have programs for different types of homeowners such as first time homeowners, entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations. Determine the program that best suits your goals as a future owner.
  9. Buy a city property that meets your needs and fits your budget.

Tips & Warnings

  • Visit all the properties you are thinking of buying in order to experience odors, sounds and other intangibles that cannot be determined by looking at a file.
  • Signal designation can positively or negatively affect the value of a property, depending on location, economy and intended use.
  • Past soil uses that include toxic chemicals like asbestos, lead paint and dry cleaning solutions result in costly cleaning for you as a future owner.
  • The home and family financial resources center warns foreclosure auction participants that bidders at these auctions often do not have the opportunity to inspect the property, which translates into increased risk.