Buy an inch of land in Detroit

Today at Institute for the Future, Jerry Paffendorf is telling us about Loveland, his art/game/activism project to sell real land in Detroit, Michigan inch-by-inch, for $1/inch. He already sold the first "colony," a 10,000 square inch grid called Plymouth. He's now selling deeds via Kickstarter to the second property, which will be called either Recovery or Hello World. The second property hasn't been purchased yet, so Jerry calls the investments "ghost inches." When you purchase an inch, you get a nice little deed package containing a magnifying glass to better survey your territory. The little money from deed sales goes back into the project. He also hopes to use the "profits" to provide microgrants to other innovative urban development projects in the city. From the Loveland project:
Based in Detroit, Michigan, LOVELAND is all about creative new concepts in micro payments for micro ownership and use of land. It is building frameworks for many people to invest and participate in the creation of something where nothing was before, and to interact with places both in person and online in various unique ways.
The Loveland Project (MakeLoveland)

"Inchvesting in Detroit: A Virtual Reality" (NPR)


  1. Wow, I wow never buy that. Who pays the property taxes? What happens if the land is found to be polluted and clean-up orders are issued? Too much liability for a “game”.

    1. Because you would have to pay taxes on that whole house and whole property/ worry about it getting looted, vandalized, or burnt down to the ground. I’m just guessing but paying a $1 for a house/land doesn’t include the city taxes (possibly back taxes), state taxes, and federal taxes for land owning in Detroit.

      This micro-investment is a cool idea, gives the opportunity so people who normally couldn’t afford it, to contribute to a greater cause. Anything that helps to improve detroit is good in my book, kudos to you Jerry P. and good luck in your current/future projects.

      1. There is no investment. You own nothing. Check this out from their FAQ:

        “So this isn’t about investing?

        Nope. Project creators keep 100% ownership.”

        You’re providing money to other people for them to buy land. This is not totally clear from their website. If I were them, I would get a good lawyer. They’ll need one.

    2. Buying a foreclosure house in Detroit involves signing a document that obliges you to bring the property up to code within 6 months. You can’t just buy a run down property and sit on it, or you’ll face fines and the loss of the property. That’s why they’re so cheap – you have to immediately spend tens of thousands of dollars to fix them up, then you don’t want to let them sit empty and get vandalized.

  2. Wait now- Plymouth is a real township just outside of Detroit, and it’s Western boundary sits about a quarter-mile from the house I grew-up in on the outskirts of Ann Arbor.

    That all aside- thank you guys for posting this!! My love for D-Town can now be baked into a deed, until I have the $4k required to buy a full vacation home for myself! <3 <3 <3

  3. seems like a pretty high asking price, considering the area.

    still, it would be cool to legitimately be able to say that i own land.

  4. They mentioned this on All Things Considered yesterday. I was thinking to myself it would seem ridiculous to spend money like that on an inch of space in Detroit. Then they brought on some lady from IBM (?) who was ranting about how it was teh greatest evah!1!11! and it confirmed that this is just a pyramid scheme taking advantage of the techno-hipsters.

  5. heya! this is jerry from the project typing away on my spacephone while i wait for a train up to san francisco. i’m here for a week working on project updates with developer friends (new site, new interactive map, “entertainment fundraising” visuals that track inchvestment in fun and interesting ways, inchvestor profiles etc). i’ll come back in when i can sit down with a more giant computer and actually see what i’m writing, but feel free to call me at 908-343-1981 with questions. this is a pretty (very) multi-faceted project that’s very much driven by a level-up-in-public philosophy. things that look ambiguous or unfinished in the first season will be advanced in season 2, etc etc. we sure could use help in inchvestment, art, software development, +++. if you’re incherested get in touch and get involved. loveland aims not to disappoint!

    also, bloggy action at . be back later when i can sit down. if my screen were sold for inches it would only be $4…

  6. Speaking as someone who has already “inchvested” in the project. There is no way it’s a pyramid scheme, since a pyramid scheme requires that people at the bottom bring in other people, and move their way up the pyramid in the hopes of receiving some cash. But in this case, there is no moving up the pyramid. Jerry is just at the top. I know I will never get any cash from this.

    It’s also kind of funny to hear some commenters on NPR and BB suggesting that Jerry is anything other than a creative young fellow who wants to make the world a better place.

    It’s a fun project, and Jerry is a creative guy doing something interesting and unique, which he puts a lot of his efforts into. And yes, he will make some money from it, (maybe a LOT of money) because people like me think the idea is cool, and don’t mind dropping $25. I hope he makes a million dollars from it.

    There’s no scheme. It’s all pretty up-front. I know that my $25 gets me 25 square inches that I can use for whatever I want, but that I don’t actually “own” the land. So what? It brings attention to Detroit as a place where interesting new things are happening, and assuming that Jerry moves forward with some of his admittedly outlandish ideas, maybe it will result in something interesting that can be seen on the web (including my 25 inches and whatever I do with it,) and possibly something that people would be willing to travel to detroit to see. Maybe the kids next door will open a lemonade stand and make money from people coming to see the project. Maybe it will be the start of a community of artists.

    The point is that the result is going to be something unpredictable, and some people like to help the unpredictable happen. :)

  7. That’s plenty of room to train and house my bacterial army. A billion soldiers, commanded by an insane despot who wants your inch.

    I’m, uh, the insane despot.

    In case you were wondering.

  8. This will be the first time ever that I can spend $1 and simultaneously get land usage rights (even if it’s not technically ownership), the ability to support art, purchase entertainment AND the ability to invest in the revitalization of a city.

    According to some, I’ll be making a poor choice. Maybe I should buy a video game instead? That would be more worth the money, right?

  9. Ridiculous? We prefer *crazy*, as in “crazy enough to work”. We don’t pyramid and we’re not taking advantage of people. We are trying to provide people with an experience. And yes, you pay to play but, we don’t drive ferraris.

  10. sheesh, if you don’t want to spend $1.00, then don’t.

    Seems like a fun and goofy idea to me. I bought myself a square foot. $12 is about what I’d spend on coffee and breakfast in 2 days, so whatevs. If it does something cool, great. If not, then I get the world’s tiniest deed and a magnifying glass in the mail, and it will be a great conversation starter.

    Maybe I’ll get one of those tiny display domes posted yesterday and put it in there.

  11. I’m going to buy a square inch and use a solid adamantium pier foundation to support an enormous structure towering over all you suckers! I’ll rule Loveland with an iron fist! It’ll be an iron fist inside a velvet glove, but still it will be iron. And I won’t really use it for anything other than gazing at it fondly, as I prefer to avoid confrontation. Mostly I’ll let you do your own thing, but please, don’t piss on my sofa.

  12. @mellowknees

    err… I’m more of a metric person but I thought a square foot was 144 square inches.

    1. uh…please excuse my bad math. May I blame my sugary fruit snacks for bad brain behavior?

  13. This is not a new idea, except for the art/activism angle, which reminds me of the old scam trick where someone gets various people to pay for their cross-country bicycle trip or whatever by saying that they’re doing it to “raise awareness of [random disease]”. The protests above that buying a whole house for $1 isn’t better, because you’d actually have to take care of and improve your property (as if, you know, that would be a bad thing), highlights this sort of stunt as really just being another form of slacktivism.

    Apologies to the people that did this, quite possibly with the best of intentions, but you just hit the wrong button on the Halloween Jack control panel.

  14. To put the value inflation in perspective, a typical acre of rural land in the US will run you about $10,000. An acre is 6,272,650 square inches.

  15. A square foot would’ve run you $144, Mellow, unless you got a shill discount. Please take no offense if you’re honest, but whenever someone makes comparisons of some random purchase to the price of coffee all I can hear is the drone of marketing.

    Whether it’s worth twelve bucks for a little deed, glass, and a chuckle is up t’you. I guess it’s in a good cause, although of course with no track record it’s hard t’say for sure. (Their website text is so ridiculously energetic that I’m instantly mistrustful, and the phrase “social network” just sets off big red alarms in my mind.)

  16. …Hey, didn’t someone try to pull this scam in the 70’s with 1×1″ lots of the Moon? ISTR that guy doing some jail time for it.

    1. Yes. They also did it in the 40’s for inch^2 in Alaska sold through comic books and the backs of cereal boxes.

      This project seems to be actually trying to help…something.

  17. Jerry’s a great guy – I’ve met him a few times and was on a panel he moderated. Creative, enthusiastic, full of fun. Go Jerry!

  18. There is an article here in The Age (Melbourne Australia) about how seriously cheap it is to buy a house in some parts of the USA right now. A lot of people here are doing just that.

  19. I just like the correction of “phenomenom” (om nom nom nom) on the video to “phenomenon”, when it’s a plural (“have been reports of”) so the _real_ correction should be to “phenomena”!

  20. Of course it’s cheap to by “a house” in many of these areas of Detroit. The houses are abandoned and damaged, and require more than the purchase price to actually get them livable. The areas have no jobs, no real services left, and high crime.

    People leave those areas in droves for a *reason*. Buying super cheap land there won’t actually be a good investment for a long long time. Which means it’s just not a good investment at all. You could buy bonds and have a safer long term investment that won’t cost anything to maintain. The houes and land up for sale cost money (taxes) and don’t generate interest. There’s no way to know if you’ll recoup your investment, much less sell it for more than you paid for it.

    Mind you, if you’re OK living in urban blight, get a cheap non damaged home, install some form of high speed internet (satellite? Does cable still run to these areas) and can work remote for a good salary, you’ll be able to live fairly cheaply. Beyond that, I can’t see any real good reason to buy that land.

  21. Somewhere in a box that’s been stored for about five or six moves I have the deed to a square inch of land in North Pole, Alaska. The deed specifically says the land is part of a public park.

    No, I’ve never been to see my square inch of land, but as I remember my father got it for me back in the 1970s for $1 so apparently a square inch of land is a pretty stable investment.

  22. This is a great crowdfunding venture. If your interested in other interesting crowdfuning projects you should definitely check out

  23. I am hoping to buy 5 blocks 1″ for my grandchildren when I work out how to get my $5 USA dollars to the right place. It has the children interested in the map of the USA, where Detroit is etc., and it is fun. I think some of your readers are TOO serious. Where is the fun of a crazy idea, and IF someone benefited I CANT SEE HOW then good for them. Heard all about this crazy fun scheme on ABC Abustralian Broadcasting Corporation. Go for it, Trish Bernard

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