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BLM>More BLM Programs>Lands and Realty>Land Tenure>Sales>Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How often do sales occur?
A: There is no regular schedule for land sales.  BLM Field Offices can be contacted for information on upcoming sales, and a public notice will be published at least 60 days in advance of any sale.

Q: What land is available for sale?
A: Only land that has been identified for potential disposal in a land use plan (Resource Management Plan or Management Framework Plan) may be considered for sale.  To be eligible under the FLTFA, the land must have been identified for disposal in an approved land use plan in effect on or before July 25, 2000.  BLM Field Offices can be contacted for information on land use plans and lands that may be considered for sale.

Q: How are specific parcels selected for sale?
A: BLM Field Offices may decide to offer lands for sale based on coordination with local governments or response to local real estate activity and interest.  Indications of interest or requests to have specific parcels of land offered for sale may be made to the applicable BLM Field Office.

Q: How long does it take?
A: The time to process a sale will vary based on complexity and the issues that must be addressed, but it could take a year or longer.  The BLM must perform research to identify any pending or existing rights associated with the parcel, conduct an appraisal, complete field studies and an environmental assessment, and offer an opportunity for the public to be made aware of, and comment on, the sale.  The need to complete a survey of the parcel or other extraordinary processing requirements could significantly extend the time necessary to process a sale.

Q: People can sell their property with hardly any expense, except commissions to a realtor.  Why is it so expensive to sell public land?
A: Federal law requires certain environmental studies and analyses of Federal land.  Common environmental studies include: air quality, cultural resources, hazardous wastes, floodplains, hydrology, lands and realty, minerals, Native American consultation, recreation, soils, socioeconomic, threatened and endangered animals and plants, vegetation, wildlife, and wetlands/riparian issues.  An appraisal of the property must also be completed.  The cost of the necessary studies will vary depending upon the complexity of the task, acreage, and other factors, but some individual studies can cost several thousand dollars.

Q: Who can buy public land?
A: Purchasers of public land must be: 1) a citizen of the United States 18 years of age or older, 2) a corporation subject to the laws of the United States or of any State, 3) A State, State instrumentality, or political subdivision authorized to hold title or property, or 4) an entity legally capable of conveying and holding lands or interests therein under State law.  Certain Federal government employees are ineligible to purchase public land.  Each purchaser shall be required to submit a Certificate of Eligibility and may be required to submit articles of incorporation or other documentation.

Q: Can a person buy a small parcel of public land to build a home?
A: Although small parcels suitable as home sites may be offered for sale, the BLM will not subdivide a parcel of public land solely to accommodate a prospective purchaser's wish to acquire a home site.  The size and configuration of parcels offered for sale will be determined by various factors such as the existing land ownership pattern, marketability, and costs of processing.  Once a parcel is sold, any future subdivision or development of the parcel would be subject to State and local government regulations and ordinances.

Q: How does the BLM determine the minimum purchase price for public lands?
A: By law, public land cannot be sold for less than the fair market value (FMV) which is determined by an appraisal approved by the Department of the Interior's Office of Valuation Services (DOIOVS).  The approved FMV becomes the minimum acceptable bid for a property.

Q: Are appraisals refutable by a prospective purchaser?
A: If prospective purchasers believe an appraised fair market value is incorrect, they may submit substantive data (e.g., comparable sales information) to the field office conducting the sale.  Although this information may be reviewed by the DOIOVS, the final determination is made by the DOIOVS.  Prospective purchasers may choose not to bid on a parcel if they believe the appraised fair market value is incorrect.

Q: Are all lands sold competitively?
A: The BLM has three options for selling land: 1) modified competitive bidding, where some preferences to adjoining landowners are recognized, 2) direct sale to one party where circumstances warrant, and 3) competitive bidding at public auction.  The sale method is determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the circumstances of each particular parcel or sale.  By law, public land is offered for sale at fair market value.

Q: How are land sales done?
A: Competitive sales may be conducted through written sealed bids and/or through oral auctions.  The minimum acceptable bid is the appraised value.  The highest bidder takes the property.  The public notice for each sale contains detailed information on the process and requirements for bidding for that sale.  Properties that do not sell may be offered again at a future date without additional legal notice.

Q: Abutting landowners are supposed to receive notice of sales of public lands, but an abutting landowner didn't receive notice on a recent sale.  Why?
A: The BLM makes every effort to send notices of sales to all appropriate parties.  The BLM's mailing lists for adjoining landowners are derived from the local county tax records indicating the owner of record.  These records are checked just prior to the publication of legal notices.  If a person recently acquired title to a property, the County may have received notice after the date the records were checked by the BLM.  In addition, a landowner should check with the local County Assessor's Office to make sure its records reflect the current mailing address.

Q: What are the terms of the sale?
A: The winning bidder in a competitive sale at an oral auction is required to submit a non-refundable deposit of no less than 20% of the bid amount before close of business on the day of the auction.  Each sealed bid must be accompanied by guaranteed funds for the amount required in the public notice for the sale, which must be no less than 10% of the bid amount.  The balance must be paid in full within 180 days of the sale date.  The public notice for each sale contains detailed information on the requirements, terms, and conditions applicable to that sale.

Q: What information is in the marketing brochure?
A: Marketing brochures may vary by field office or by the property being offered for sale, but such brochures commonly contain general information on sale terms and conditions, Federal title reservations, encumbrances, maps of the lands, bidder eligibility, and the requirements for submitting a sealed bid and/or participating in an oral auction.  Some information may be obtained from public records and other sources deemed to be reliable, however, the BLM does not guarantee the accuracy of such information.

Q: How do sealed bids work?
A: Each bidder submits their bid amount for the specific sale parcel by the deadline date using a specially-prepared bid form with an enclosed bid deposit.  Complete details for the specific sale are fully described in the Notice of Realty Action (the legal notice for the sale) and other sale information, and copies of the bid form can be obtained from the BLM field office conducting the sale.  Failure to comply with the identified requirements will cause the bid to be declared invalid.

Q: How soon are bid deposits returned if a sealed bid is not accepted?
A: Depending upon the number of properties offered for sale and the number of bids received, unsuccessful bidders should receive their returned bid deposit checks within a week of the opening of the sealed bids.  Checks are generally returned through a traceable service (e.g., certified mail, U.S. Overnight Mail, FedEx, etc.) to ensure there is a record of receipt.

Q: How soon are people notified if they are the high bidder?
A: Timeliness of notification depends upon the type of sale.  In an oral auction, the apparent high bidder is announced at the close of bidding for each parcel.  For a sealed bid auction, the apparent high bidder will normally be notified within a week of the sealed bid opening, although this is dependent upon the number of properties offered for sale and the number of bids received.  In either case, a formal written acknowledgement of the acceptance or rejection of the high bid will be sent within thirty days of the auction.

Q: Does the BLM sell land through real estate brokers or agents?
A: The BLM does not pay fees or commissions to real estate brokers or agent.  Although a prospective purchaser could designate a party to act on their behalf, any payments to that party would be the responsibility of the purchaser.

Q: How does the BLM convey title to the property, and does the BLM provide title insurance?
A: For public land that has never previously been conveyed out of Federal ownership, the BLM will issue a patent, a legal instrument similar to a deed.  For public land that was previously conveyed out of Federal ownership and reacquired, the BLM will issue a quitclaim deed.  The BLM does not provide title insurance policies on lands that are sold, and it is the purchaser's responsibility to obtain title insurance if they choose.  Property interests to be reserved by the United States, and other encumbrances that affect properties being offered for sale (i.e., rights-of-way, mineral leases, etc.) will be identified prior to the sale, and will be listed in the patent or quitclaim deed.  It is recommended that any prospective purchaser review the list of encumbrances for any parcel prior to bidding.

Q: Does the BLM make any guarantees of the property?
A: Other than conveyance of marketable title, no warranty of any kind shall be given or implied as to the potential uses of the lands offered for sale.  Such lands will not be subject to any land use reviews or approvals by the respective unit of local government or other regulatory entities prior to conveyance.  It is the prospective bidder's responsibility to be knowledgeable of all applicable local government policies and regulations that would affect such lands, and to be knowledgeable of uses of nearby private lands that could affect any proposed future use of the property.  Any land lacking access from a public road or highway will be conveyed as such, and future access acquisition will be the responsibility of the purchaser.  It is the responsibility of each prospective bidder to complete their own due diligence of any property being offered for sale.

Q: Are contingency sales acceptable?
A: No.  All sales are final.  A substantial bid deposit is required with each bid and the remainder of the purchase price must be paid within 180 days of the date of the auction.  Failure to pay the full amount within 180 days shall disqualify the bid and will result in forfeiture of the bid deposit.  The final payment may be made at any time within the 180 day period.

For more information regarding land sales, select one of the topics below.  A Notice will be published in the Federal Register and local newspapers prior to any actual sale being conducted.  Any sale identified as a direct sale, modified competitive sale, or competitive sale may be changed based upon further analysis by the Bureau of Land Management or public comment provided in response to the sale Notice.