I found a few interesting lots. I focused my attention on small building lots for $10k or less with an emphasis on "no reserve" auctions going for less than $1000 bucks. Of everything I looked at, here are the best three.
My favorite listing was for an acre of land in Klamath Falls Oregon for $10,000. An empty lot. Klamath Falls is in southern Oregon in the Cascade Mountains. I love the climate and topography. Love it. The land in question is 0.7 miles from an artsy coffee shop, and a mile from a grocery store. The land is placed perfectly between the boonies and a cute town. The Yelp reviews for every business in Klamath Falls are glowing with accolades about how friendly and wonderful everyone there is. I guess living in paradise makes people friendly.
A listing of interest was .12 acres on Pine Island beside Florida in the gulf. It's a coral island of considerable size, above Sanibel and close to Ft. Meyers, etc. The major drawback here is that it's in Florida. A careful study of the building code revealed no major obstacles preventing a 200 sq. ft or so house from going up. Relevant state and local building code does not restrict dwelling size. They charge plenty for permits, and you have to build to hurricane standards (lots of Simpson Strong-Tie products), but it would be doable. The plan here would be to make a small winter bug-out cabin disguised as a cute little home - bright white exterior clad in T-1-11; rustic cabin on the inside. Rent it out on AirBnB to pay the ongoing expenses and maybe make a little money. (Tourism isn't crazy here, but it is near by. This land is outside the tourism & big city zones, making it appear quaint and interesting. For under $2000, this lot would be a great place to start living the trike life.)
The third lot is probably the most interesting. It is a one-third-acre lot in Fessenden, ND. I know what you're thinking and you're right: awesome. I spent some time in a small town like this during the sugar beet harvest in 2008. Fessenden has a population of 492. There is a grocery store, a bar, and a smattering of small businesses. There is a thrift shop. The lot in question is an empty corner lot across a street from the courthouse. The land is lush and grassy in the photos and surrounded by trees. A Google maps inspection reveals that it is also across the street from the grain towers and the train tracks. All mid-western towns need these. During the harvest season, a long line of trucks will queue up at the grain towers and it will be a slow parade of diesel boom-battys for weeks. Old haggard farm trucks will sputter and money will trickle into town. You could watch it happen from the porch of a 150 square foot house. I wouldn't want to live there full time, but I could survive a nice slow week here and there. (This is where I would go to write my novel.)
The first lot is my favorite for living, the third is my favorite for a new project.
I would like a tiny house in Fessenden or similar to visit infrequently and rent out on AirBnB. If nobody wanted to rent it, that would be fine. But I would relish the chance to try my hand at marketing it. I think there are people who would be interested in scoping out the "real" America. Something like this:
"Have you ever been curious about daily life in a small mid-western town? Bring your books, folks, because you are visiting the vast grain fields of the "real" America. All amenities are available in town. Fessenden has a grocery store and you can belly up to the bar at Motorheads. This quaint little house is right on center field, equipped with everything you need. You can sit on the porch and watch the trains go by, or you can borrow the adult tricycle to make a grocery run. A small two-burner propane stove rounds out the kitchen area and there is a 32" TV for watching DVDs rented from the gas station in town.
With a population just shy of 500, and open fields in every direction, Fessenden is the perfect example of a small mid-western town in modern times. Come take a look! You can stay as long as you want and not a minute longer."
... something like that. I would have an adult tricycle available to renters arriving by bus or train. I don't know a good price, but I think something like $40 per night; $200/wk. The whole idea is mostly just a gag I came up with, but I do believe there is a small untapped market. With city lots going for <$1000, a destination-vacation type business could rent properties in various remote locations. People who are interested in living in remote locations - or just the casually curious - could get their feet wet without diving in head first. Other areas of interest would be Costilla County, Colorado; the Lost Coast of California; Iola, Kansas... just to name a few. A working business name could be "Town Watch: destination vacations in remote locations."
Thoughts or ideas? Who's in?