It is no longer possible for citizens of the United States to file for homestead property under the Homestead Act, because this legislation was repealed by Congress in 1976, notes the National Park Service. Individuals used to file a claim with the local land office and pay a filing fee.
Homeowners seeking relief from high property taxes, or who are at risk of losing their homes to a forced sale due to financial hardship, can file for a homestead exemption, as reported by How Stuff Works. To receive a homestead exemption, homeowners must file the appropriate paperwork with their state's agency that administers the program, and not every state offers this exemption. States that do offer homestead exemptions set exemption maximums, according to state laws. Homestead exemptions are available to homeowners seeking protection from creditors of a primary residence.
Under the Homestead Act, people claimed millions of acres of public land, and turned it into individual homesteads, states the National Park Service. To qualify for a homestead, a person had to be at least 21 years of age or the head of a household. Each claimant could claim one parcel of land equating to 160 acres. By law, homesteaders had five years to build a primary home and farm the land.