Real Estate

15 Small American Towns That You Can Buy (Yes, Really!)

Aside from being elected mayor, there's at least one other way to get to run a town: Buy it. Discover American towns that have sold in recent years—and some that are still up for grabs.
brightly lit hotel at night in gallup new mexico
Photo: istockphoto.com

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In today’s constantly evolving landscape of American real estate, an intriguing movement has emerged: the sale of small towns. As modern areas become increasingly unaffordable, with the average price per acre averaging $69,170, and reaching up to $350,400 per square foot in Rhode Island, prospective buyers are turning their attention to more remote corners of America.

“For sale” signs have gone up in towns like Pray, Montana; Toomsboro, Georgia; and Hell, Michigan. Town ownership can be an interesting opportunity for investors and entrepreneurs alike to buy, fix them up, and make them more appealing than ever before. Check out some of the tiny towns for sale in the U.S., and find out if there is a town for sale near you.

For Sale

From Michigan to Texas, there are curious properties on the market that are offering once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for dreamers who desire a unique lifestyle and a slice of historical ownership. Each of these tiny towns can be the ideal investment or retirement plan for the right buyer.

1. Hell, Michigan

billboard in Hell, Michigan
Photo: commons.wikimedia.org via Sswonk

Don’t be fooled by the name. Hell, Michigan, is a veritable paradise that hosts 66 miles of hiking trails, fishing-friendly Hiland Lake, and an annual “Blessing of the Bikes” event. The peculiarly named town is still up for sale and comes with a price tag of $900,000. You can also buy one square inch of the community for $13.33.

RELATED: 27 of the Weirdest Town Names Ever Put on the Map

2. Swett, South Dakota

road sign for Swett South Dakota
Photo: Stacie Montgomery/Keller Williams Realty Black Hills

The only home standing on this 6-acre town on the southern border of South Dakota is said to be haunted. But if you find ghost tales thrilling, you can pick up the title to the land for a mere $250,000.

3. Lobo, Texas

abandoned gas station in lobo texas
Photo: flickr.com via panda brand

Just north of Valentine, Texas and just about 20 miles from the Mexico border, the abandoned desert city of Lobo, Texas is home to charming historic structures, a gas station, shower house, post office, and grocery store. The 10 acres of land was bought in 2001 by a group of friends from Germany and is now on the market for a mere $100,000.

4. Silverton, Colorado

wide view of main street in silverton colorado with mountains in background
Photo: istockphoto.com

If you are dreaming about owning an old town square, then this parcel of 21 acres in the old mountain mining town of Silverton, Colorado might be a worthy consideration. Priced at $1.58 million, the 9,148-square-foot lot contains two commercial buildings, three rental spaces, a residence that’s being used as a vacation destination, gift shop, and more.

Situated near the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad depot and historically part of the ghost town of Eureka, Colorado, the property also includes a boardwalk and all furnishings. And like most ghost towns for sale, this one doesn’t include a spooky homeowners association.

5. Willcox, Arizona

street view of small town of willcox arizona
Photo: istockphoto.com

If a bed-and-breakfast business sounds appealing, this little slice 14 miles southeast of Willcox, Arizona is worth a peek. The 3-acre parcel is located in a well-known ghost town and included three 1870s adobes that house a greenhouse, work space, and guest accommodations. A well, stone labyrinth, and views of the Dos Cabezas Peak. The current asking price is $519,000.

RELATED: 10 of the Cheapest Places to Buy Land in the U.S.

6. Gallup, New Mexico

old main street in Gallup, New Mexico
Photo: istockphoto.com

This old fort and former military base has been home to Navajo code talkers and Buffalo Soldiers, and now it’s available for private ownership for $11 million. Encompassing 18 acres, the town includes the original trading post, gas station, post office, cafe, and 27 residential units. Situated near the Cibola national forest and Mcgaffey Lake, the property is part of a national historic site.

7. Toomsboro, Georgia

for sale sign in Toomsboro Georgia
Photo: John Chambers, Jr.

Founded in the 18th century, this postcard-worthy former railway town boasts a historic inn, a syrup mill, and a railroad depot. While the entire town has never been for sale, about 30 properties have been on the market for $1.7 million. The owner of the swath of land, David Bumgardne, paid $530,000 for the properties in 2002, intending to transform them into a tourist attraction.

Sold

There are many people who already own a tiny town in the U.S. While the following tiny ghost towns aren’t currently on the market, we’ve seen a few of these tiny towns change hands over the course of the past decade. Any of these might pop back up on the market soon.

8. Pray, Montana

road sign for Pray, Montana in front of mountain
Photo: istockphoto.com

Since its inception, this tiny town north of Yellowstone National Park called Pray, Montana, has always been privately owned. The previous owner and mayor, Barbara Walker, attempted to auction the town in 2012, but wasn’t able to sell until 2018. Colin Burke and his girlfriend Rachel paid $420,000 for the property and has transformed the General Store into a vacation rental and has added a few more Amish-built log cabin rentals that start at about $200 per night and accommodate six guests.

RELATED: 18 Small Towns with Strange Claims to Fame

9. Johnsonville, Connecticut

historic house in johnsonville connecticut
Photo: commons.wikimedia.org via John Phelan

Founded in 1802, this former mill town and tourist hot spot was all but abandoned by the mid-1990s. In a bid to rescue the peaceful community and reopen its shuttered buildings, an independent church acquired the 62-acre ghost town in July 2017 for roughly $1.85 million.

10. Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada

sign outide cal-nev-ari nevada
Photo: commons.wikimedia.org via Steve D

You might need your reading glasses to find this 2.3-square-mile desert hamlet on a map of Nevada. As one of the smallest towns in Nevada––which is home to a casino, airstrip, and classic diner–– it sat on the market for more than 15 years before being sold for $8 million in 2021 to Heart of Nature, a sulfur mining company. The company plans to add dozens of jobs and up to $40 million in investments.

RELATED: 10 U.S. Towns That Are Older Than America

11. Tiller, Oregon

road through the woods in Tiller Oregon
Photo: flickr.com via Thomas Kriese

Tiller, Oregon, has easy access to a national forest, stunning views of the South Umpqua River, and a larger-than-life view of the Cascade Range. Part of the Pacific Northwest town, 257 acres of lots, were sold in 2018 by the Caswell family, who had slowly bought land over a period of 30 years until they owned most of the town. Garden Grove, California-based Global Shopping Mall purchased the property with the intent to build a resort and a river playground for tourists along the Rogue RIver. As of last year, it still hadn’t been built.

12. Henry River Mill Village, North Carolina

view up the road of abandoned mill town in north carolina
Photo: flickr.com via Steve Goodwin

If the eerily quiet, tree-lined streets of this Carolina town look familiar, it’s because the formerly abandoned community served as the location of Katniss Everdeen’s home in “The Hunger Games” film franchise. Once a thriving cotton yarn manufacturing town, the mill was burned to the ground in 1977 after a lightning strike. Even though the 72-acre town’s previous asking price was $1.4 million, it sold in 2017 for $360,000 and is currently off the market. However, you can vacation in the town with rates starting at about $280.50 per night.

RELATED: 7 Fictional Towns You Can Visit in Real Life

13. Garryowen, Montana

tourists walking outside at a gas station and museum site with American flags at the Little Bighorn site in Garryowen Montana
Photo: flickr.com via Susan Sermoneta

It may be hard to imagine, but part of the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn was unsuccessfully put up for auction in 2012 for just $250,000. This historical piece of land called Garryowen is just a few miles from the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, near where Colonel George Armstrong Custer unsuccessfully made his last stand against the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. The town of Garryowen, Montana, remains privately owned.

RELATED: 19 Places With (Almost) Zero Crime

14. Scenic, South Dakota

defunct Longhorn Store in Scenic South Dakota
Photo: flickr.com via GPA Photo Archive

Named after its spectacular setting in the center of Badlands National Park, Scenic fell into disrepair in the 21st century before it was finally put up for sale in 2011 for $799,000 and was on the market for just a few months before being sold to anonymous buyers. The 12-acre town still bears intriguing vestiges of decades past, including an old saloon, a dance hall, and cowboy barracks.

15. Buford, Wyoming

road sign for buford wyoming in front of farm house
Photo: istockphoto.com

Paying a visit to this all-but-forgotten town north of the Rockies will double its population. Currently, there is just one human and one horse living in Buford, which sits at about an 8,000-foot elevation along I-80. The town has a gas station that’s also the town hall and trading post. The current owner purchased the town for $900,000 in 2012 during an online auction to promote his Vietnamese specialty coffee, which is available at the trading post.