The US is experiencing a housing slowdown.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

  • 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.

The American housing market is entering the new year on dismal footing. Economists predict that home prices will continue to rise amid a nationwide uptick in homelessness

By October, new home sales had fallen for the fifth month in a row, marking the steepest decline since 2017.

Even in the midst of that housing slowdown, there are still plenty of ways to find cheap real estate – both within and outside the US. 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.

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.  

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

First-time home buyers 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.

Tulsa Remote

The Tulsa Remote programme 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.

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

In Buffalo, a city-owned property without an interested buyer that doesn't serve the public is eligible for the Urban Homestead Programme. The programme 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 programme.

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

The Baltimore Homeownership Incentive Programme offers a number of discounts for local residents, including $5,000 for first-time home buyers 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 programme'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.

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.

In August, the city of Gary, Indiana, announced the sale of eight homes through its Dollar Home Programme.  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.

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.

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