• Many cities and towns have taken to giving away abandoned homes for free, or selling them at minimal prices.
  • Some local governments even offer stipends or discounts to encourage buyers to renovate old properties.
  • While the offerings may seem like a steal, rehabilitating a home can be quite costly.

Cities may be experiencing a global housing shortage, but there are still plenty of ways to find cheap real estate. You just have to know where to look.

In areas where homes are old or unoccupied, governments occasionally offer subsidies to finance a renovation. In other cases, homeowners are willing to list their properties at little to no cost.

We’ve rounded up the locations where you can find a home for free or at a major discount.

The list includes small towns like Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as major urban areas like Baltimore, Maryland, and Tokyo, Japan. Take a look.

Homeowners in Tokyo are listing their abandoned properties for free.


The Matsubara housing complex in Tokyo.


Tokyo has been building like crazy, but the city still struggles to get rid of its unoccupied and deserted homes. The Japan Times recently reported that more than one in 10 homes in Tokyo are empty.

Part of this has to do with the shrinking size of Japan’s population, which means fewer buyers. It’s also considered bad luck in Japan to purchase a home that has witnessed a murder, suicide, or “lonely death” (one that occurred in isolation).

For this reason, many properties are being given away for free on online databases called “akiya banks,” a reference to the Japanese word for “empty home.” Others are being sold for as little as $4.

Read more: Millions of Japanese homes are abandoned, and owners are giving them away for free

New Haven, Connecticut, is giving away up to $42,500 in housing discounts to first-time homebuyers.

New Haven has become increasingly starved for affordable housing.play

New Haven has become increasingly starved for affordable housing.

(Christian Hinkle/Shutterstock)

First-time homebuyers in New Haven are eligible to receive up to $10,000 to cover the closing costs or the down payments on their homes. The subsidy comes in the form of an interest-free loan, which is fully forgiven after five years.

City employees, teachers, police officers, firefighters, and members of the military receive an additional $2,500 off.

On top of that, the city is giving away $30,000 to those who renovate their homes using energy-saving upgrades.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, offers remote workers a 33% discount on a fully furnished apartment for three months.

Downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma.play

Downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma.

(Tulsa Remote)

The Tulsa Remote program is offering a small group of digital nomads — people with the freedom to work from anywhere — up to $10,000 to move to the city.

While the stipend doesn’t go directly toward housing, the program offers a 33% discount on fully furnished apartments in the Brady Arts District, with utilities thrown in for free.

Workers are expected to live in Tulsa for a full year, but the apartment discount expires at the end of three months. At that time, they’ll have to cover their own rent, which is still among the cheapest in the nation.

Read more: Tulsa, Oklahoma, is paying remote workers $10,000 to live there. They’ll even throw in a discounted apartment.

Buffalo, New York, is selling unwanted property for $1.

Storm clouds and snow blows off Lake Erie in Buffalo, New York.play

Storm clouds and snow blows off Lake Erie in Buffalo, New York.

(REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario)

In Buffalo, a city-owned property without an interested buyer that doesn’t serve the public is eligible for the Urban Homestead Program. The program sells properties for just $1, plus closing costs, but there are a few additional requirements.

Buyers must stay in the home for at least three years and fix any building code violations within 18 months.

While the deal may seem inexpensive up front, renovating an abandoned home can be pricey.

There’s also a limited supply: In 2015, the city’s Division of Real Estate told CNN that only a handful of homes were still available through the program.


Buyers in Baltimore could be eligible for housing incentives of either $5,000 or $10,000.

Baltimore home values are on the rise.play

Baltimore home values are on the rise.

(Jon Bilous/Shutterstock)

The Baltimore Homeownership Incentive Program offers a number of discounts for local residents, including $5,000 for first-time homebuyers who earn at or below 80% of the area’s median income and a $5,000 incentive for city employees.

Twice a year, the city selects 30 people to receive $5,000 in housing incentives. For those who want to live near work, the city will also match an employer’s housing contributions for up to $2,500.

The program’s biggest subsidy comes in the form of $10,000 for residents who purchase a vacant home.

The small town of Harmony, Minnesota, is handing out cash rebates of up to $12,000.

Main Ave. in Harmony, Minnesota.play

Main Ave. in Harmony, Minnesota.

(Bobak Ha’Eri/Wikimedia Commons)

Residents of Harmony can receive a cash rebate of up to $12,000 for building a new property in town.

Though Harmony already bills itself as the “Biggest Little Town in Southern Minnesota,” it’s making a concerted effort to grow its population, which hovers around 1,000 people.

People of all ages and income levels are invited to apply for the rebate, but applications are accepted on a first come, first serve basis.

Gary, Indiana, is selling a select number of homes for just $1.

Abandoned homes in Gary, Indiana.play

Abandoned homes in Gary, Indiana.

(Lotzman Katzman/Flickr)

In August, the city of Gary, Indiana, announced the sale of eight homes through its Dollar Home Program. Their website now lists twelve properties that, despite their ramshackle appearance, seem primed for renovation.

To purchase the $1 homes, applicants must agree to rehabilitate the property within one year of its purchase and stay there for at least five years. There’s also a minimum income requirement of $38,750.

A village in Italy is selling hundreds of abandoned properties for $1.25 each.

The old village of Ollolai in Sardinia, Italy.play

The old village of Ollolai in Sardinia, Italy.

(Michele Columbu)

The Italian fishing village of Ollolai has witnessed a drastic population decline. Over the past half-century, the number of residents in the town has fallen from 2,250 to just 1,300.

The government has to now taken to selling hundreds of abandoned homes to attract new residents. In exchange for a $1.25 price tag, owners must agree to renovate their properties within three years.

Renovations are expected to cost up to $25,000, but it could be a small price to pay to keep the village from disappearing.

Read more: An Italian village is selling homes for $1.25 so it doesn’t become a ghost town