How to Buy an Abandoned House

Four Parts:Planning to Buy Abandoned PropertyLocating Abandoned PropertyConfirming that the Property is AbandonedPurchasing the Property

An abandoned house is a property that is vacant. For numerous reasons, including foreclosure or bankruptcy, the owners have left the property. Abandoned homes are often tempting purchases because they're usually sold well below the market price. Whether you're looking for a place to live or fix the house up for resale, there are several things you need to keep in mind when you consider buying an abandoned house.

Part 1
Planning to Buy Abandoned Property

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    Decide what your plan is for the house. Your intentions for the property will influence how much you spend, as well as the kinds of repairs you'll make. For instance, if you plan on living in the home, you'll have to plan on making all the necessary repairs to make it livable. This will require a lot of money, so you'll have to keep the buying price low. If you intend to just sit on the house for a few years without making any repairs and try to sell it later, you can afford to pay a little more. Whatever your intentions are, make sure you have them figured out before you go on with purchasing the house.
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    Review your finances. While you may be able to get an abandoned house much cheaper than market price, it could still be an expense of tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention repair costs. Make sure you are in a financial position to be purchasing a house, or you could take a serious financial hit if the home is out of your price range. You should at least have enough cash for a down payment, otherwise you may be getting in over your head.[1]
    • Considering partnering up with someone else if you don't have enough of your own cash to spend right away. Then you can divide the profits after you sell or rent the house.
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    Educate yourself on typical costs for home repairs. If you buy an abandoned property, it will almost certainly need some repairs. This could end up costing more than the house itself, so it's essential to include an estimate of repair costs into your financial plan. Here is the typical cost of some common home repairs. Bear in mind that all jobs are different, and this is only meant as a general guideline.
    • New concrete: over $10,000. Abandoned homes often have cracked driveways or sidewalks. Concrete jobs are very expensive, and some estimates can go as high as $30,000 for extensive concrete laying.[2]
    • Roof repairs: $5,000-$12,000. Abandoned homes often have old, crumbling roofs. This will need to be repairs to prevent internal damage and potential collapses.[3][4]
    • Install new plumbing pipes: $100-$3,000. Plumbing jobs are difficult to estimate. A few leaky pipes won't cost much, while installing a new water main will cost thousands.[5]
    • Rewire the house: $1,000-$2,000. An abandoned house could have electrical problems and need wiring replaced to prevent fires.[6]
    • New paint: a few hundred to $2,000. Depending on the size of the house, a new paint job could cost a few thousand dollars.[7]
    • Replace flooring: $1,000-$5,000. The cost here will depend on whether or not the floor just needs finishing, or needs complete replacement.[8]
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    Assemble a group to help you out. While you could try to buy and fix up an abandoned house alone, it would make your life much easier if you had a few key people helping you out. Try to locate these people before starting the purchasing process so everything is all set by the time you buy the house.[9]
    • A lawyer. There may be legal wrangling involved in buying an abandoned home, so you'll want a lawyer versed in real estate law to advise you on decisions.
    • A handyman. As you saw, home repairs are very expensive. If you have a friend or family member that knows a lot about repair work, you can save yourself some money by having him or her perform as many repairs as possible so you don't have to call in an expert.
    • An accountant. Buying and fixing a home is a big financial investment. It would help to have an accountant around to manage your finances and advise you on taxes, etc.
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    Plan to move quickly. If your intention is to resell the house, you'll maximize your profit by moving quickly once you buy it. If you hold onto the house for too long, taxes and other maintenance costs will add up. Over time, even if you sell the house, you won't make a profit if these supplementary costs have added up. Buy the house, make any necessary repairs, then plan to put it on the market.[10]

Part 2
Locating Abandoned Property

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    Search for houses that look abandoned. Sometimes finding an abandoned property is as easy as driving around your neighborhood. If you come across a house that looks dilapidated, with overgrown grass, mail overflowing from the mailbox, and no obvious signs of life, this house could be abandoned. If you come across one of these, you'll still have to go through several steps to find out if the house is indeed abandoned.[11]
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    Visit the county executive's office. Usually the county government has records on property ownership. You may be able to locate homes that have been abandoned by visiting this office. Inquire about whether they have a list of abandoned properties. This should be a matter of public record, so it will only be a matter of finding the right person to talk to.
    • There may not be information about abandoned houses specifically, but the county office will have records of delinquent taxes. This can tip you off to properties that may have been abandoned, and you can further investigate these addresses if you find they are very behind on taxes.[12]
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    Inquire about property auctions. Counties sometimes sell homes if the owners have neglected to pay property taxes. Search your county's website or ask at the executive's office if there are any auctions coming up. In this case, you don't have to go through the trouble of locating properties yourself.[13]
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    Check with realty sites and realtors. Sometimes homeowners facing foreclosure or financial troubles try to sell their homes quickly before resorting to abandonment. These will probably appear on realty sites with phrases like "must sell" and are often very cheap. Start by looking on realty sites to find these indications of a home under foreclosure.[14]
    • You could also consult with a realtor directly. Even if their firm isn't responsible for an abandoned house, realtors usually pay attention to the local real estate market. It's likely they'll know of abandoned houses in the area that you could investigate.
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    Ask banks if they have a list of homes under foreclosure. Sometimes homeowners facing foreclosure choose to abandon the house abruptly. The foreclosure process can be a long one, so an abandoned house may be in some sort of legal limbo while the bank tries to repossess it. Consult banks in the area to see if they have repossessed any homes, or have started foreclosure proceedings. This will help you find houses that will soon be or already are on the market for below the market price. [15]
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    Contact local community improvement organizations. Since abandoned homes are bad for property values and can lead to crime, concerned citizens often try to prevent this from happening. They sometimes form organizations that will try to buy or sell abandoned homes to keep the area appealing. If you live in an area that has been losing population and abandoned homes are a problem, there may be a local group that keeps track of abandoned homes. Do an internet search to see if there are any local groups who can help you, and contact them. [16]

Part 3
Confirming that the Property is Abandoned

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    Educate yourself on local property laws. Different cities, towns, and counties might have different laws regulating property ownership. Do some investigating and find out what those laws are. This will help you find out if a property is legally abandoned.
    • Each state has a real estate board regulated by the Secretary of State. You can find state real estate laws on these websites.
    • Your county executive office will have information on property laws in your specific locality.
    • It would also be helpful to consult a realtor in your area, since they will be familiar with local laws.
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    Inquire with neighbors. If you do come across a house that looks abandoned, you should first ask the neighbors around the house. Specifically, ask if they know the owner, if anyone lives there, when they left, how long they've been gone, and if they know if the occupants are coming back. Neighbors can confirm that a house's occupants haven't been seen for some time, and you can then move on to more official means of discovering if the house is abandoned.[17]
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    Check the property's ownership status. After talking with neighbors, you'll have to find out who officially owns the property, if anyone. This way, you'll be able to see the legal status of the house and plan how you will proceed next.
    • In some areas you can find real estate and property ownership records online. Try a service like and Propertyowner to see if you can locate the property owner without leaving your home.
    • Visit your local county executive office. Inquire here about who can help you locate the owner of a property. This will usually be the tax assessment office, since they are responsible for collecting all the property taxes. This investigation will show you who the last known owner of the house is.[18]
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    Track down the last known owner. Even if a home has been abandoned, someone may still legally own it. Get as much information as you can from the county office and try to contact the owner. If you're successful, ask the owner if he is willing to sell the property. You can then begin negotiating with him to buy the house.[19]
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    Contact the bank if you can't find the owner. If the owner has disappeared and you can't find him, contact the bank that granted the mortgage. You may find out that the house is currently in foreclosure. In this case, the bank is repossessing the home. You can then inquire about purchasing the house when the process is complete.[20]
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    See if your local government has condemned the home. Most abandoned homes have either already been foreclosed on or are in the process, meaning the bank is who you'll need to contact. It is possible, however, that the local government has condemned the building. In this case, the government may be selling the house off for tax money. If you find that this is the case, return to the county executive's office and see if the house is up for sale.[21][22]

Part 4
Purchasing the Property

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    Have the home inspected. If the home has been abandoned or foreclosed, there is a good chance it will require repairs if you buy it. Have an engineer go through the house and check the wiring, plumbing, and foundation. If these need repairs, get a quote on how much they will require to fix. You want to know exactly what you're getting into before you make a buy. If you're not careful, the house that you thought would be a great investment could turn out to be a costly liability.[23]
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    Make an offer to the owner of the home. Depending on where your investigations have led, you could be dealing with the original owner, the bank, or the government. Approach whichever of these entities actually owns the home with an offer. Be sure to factor in the cost of repairs into your offer. You don't want to end up paying too much for the property when you know it needs several thousands of dollars of repair. After some negotiations, you'll hopefully come to a price that satisfies both parties.
    • If you're new to negotiating, read Negotiate for some good tips.
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    Get a mortgage. Once you've gone through the investigative work, the process of buying an abandoned home is very similar to buying any other home. You'll need to approach a bank and get a mortgage to finance the house. Read Get a Mortgage for everything you'll need to know while going through this process.


  • Prepare for a lot of red tape. Determining who the legal owner of an abandoned home is can be a headache and require a lot of research and phone calls. Banks have also been known to move slowly and delay foreclosures as well as short sales.


  • Remember that "adverse possession" and "squatter's rights" laws cannot be depended on. Some people try to move into abandoned houses without paying for them, and in some courses courts have allowed them to stay in the properties, depending on state and local laws. These homes are always owned by someone or some entity, and you run the risk of having the home taken away from you without any notice if you do not buy it properly through legal channels.

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