The Pros and Cons of Buying Abandoned Property (2023)

Many people enter the housing market looking for a fixer-upper. Whether it is because they want to turn it into their dream home or give a property some TLC to make it an investment opportunity, there are plenty of buyers willing to take on the challenge. For some motivated buyers, the ultimate fixer-upper is an abandoned house.

A property abandoned for a length of time might not be appealing to some buyers. These properties may come with a long list of rehabilitation projects and it could require dedication to make them livable again, but they can be a desirable option for DIYers and investors. However, before buying an abandoned property, you should weigh the pros and cons.

The Pros and Cons of Buying Abandoned Property (1)

Why might a home be abandoned?

There are several reasons why a home might be abandoned, which could affect the overall buying process. Here are a few of the most common reasons:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Foreclosure
  • Environmental issues like flooding
  • Divorce
  • Legal issues
  • Death of the owner

The pros of buying an abandoned home

Before you decide you want to purchase an abandoned home, you must determine if it’s right for you. First, consider the pros of buying a home in this condition.

Low price

The major draw to an abandoned home is buying the home well below market value. Whether you’re buying the property to flip or to live in, you’ll likely be able to save a substantial amount of money buying an abandoned home compared to a standard home on the market. Many foreclosed homes become abandoned, and the banks that own them may have motivation to sell the property to recover some of their losses.


If there is a particular neighborhood you are looking to move to, an abandoned home could be an option, especially if it’s in a competitive market. Instead of paying over the market value for a move-in ready home, renovating an abandoned home may turn out to be less of a hit to your bank account.

Less competition

You may face less competition when trying to buy an abandoned home compared to other real estate options. Many home buyers worry about the potential high costs and the amount of time it takes to rehabilitate an abandoned home.

The Pros and Cons of Buying Abandoned Property (2)

The cons of buying an abandoned house

Despite some of the pros, there are several negative aspects you must consider before buying an abandoned home.

Renovation bills

The home will likely be in some stage of disrepair and will sell as-is. Depending on the length of abandonment, the home could need considerable rehabilitation that takes time and money. You may need to deal with some potentially hazardous and expensive repairs to the foundation, plumbing, HVAC, and structure, as well as asbestos removal and water damage repair.

Finding the owner

Banks and cities are the owners of some abandoned properties. However, some vacant homes may still have someone who is the legal owner. You will need to do a title search, and the owner of the property may not be easy to get in contact with.

Other concerns

In addition to the overall physical condition of the home, there may be other concerns. There may be an infestation of insects or small mammals that you’ll need to take care of. You’ll also need to look for signs of vandalism, and there may be people staying in the home who do not belong there.

The Pros and Cons of Buying Abandoned Property (3)

How to find an abandoned home

The first step in buying an abandoned home is actually locating one you’re interested in. You can drive around looking for an abandoned home, but this isn’t always the best option. Even if a home has the tell-tale signs of abandonment—unkempt yard, structural damage, no cars in the driveway—there could still be someone living there.

To find an abandoned property in your area, consider one of these options:

  • Search local government websites. Some municipalities list abandoned properties for sale online. If you can’t find what you need on the web, your county clerk may have the information you need.
  • Check with banks. Some banks keep listings of foreclosed properties online, making this a good way to find a property in your area. Banks may also hold auctions for these properties.
  • Speak to a real estate agent. If you’re looking for abandoned property in certain areas, an agent may have information to help you find what you’re looking for.

Get an inspection before buying

Before buying an abandoned property, make sure you get an inspection. Even though you know buying an abandoned home will require some major renovations, you want to be sure you know everything that will be on the to-do list. Major structural issues or foundation damage could destroy your budget.

Buying an abandoned home isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re up for the challenge, it could be a great investment for you and your family.


Why do people abandon property? ›

Common Reasons People Abandon Houses

Financial distress culminates in an inability to pay the mortgage. Missed mortgage payments occur, which leads to the foreclosure process. Unpaid back taxes. The owner passes away.

Is buying abandoned property a good idea? ›

You can expect abandoned properties to have issues with the roof, plumbing, electrical, or HVAC systems. Other defects, such as insect infestations, foundation problems, and rot, aren't as easy to detect. Other risks of vacant properties include damage from vandalism, fire, leaks, and even squatters.

What is the problem with abandoned buildings? ›

Vacant and abandoned properties can quickly fall into enough disrepair that they no longer comply with local building codes. Code enforcement officials, who are empowered to secure properties that pose a threat to public health, safety, and welfare, can then issue citations and levy fines on problem properties.

Can you buy abandoned houses in the US? ›

Most abandoned homes, as well as condemned ones, are sold via auction. This does open the possibility of purchasing the property way below its asking, or listed, price. But this being said, auctions don't allow those bidding on the homes to inspect it before they're put on the lot.

What is true about abandoned property? ›

What is true about abandoned property? It has been intentionally left behind.

What is it called when someone lives in an abandoned house? ›

Squatting is the action of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied area of land or a building, usually residential, that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have lawful permission to use. The United Nations estimated in 2003 that there were one billion slum residents and squatters globally.

Is Abandoned property Advisors legit? ›

APA is trusted by the largest corporations and financial institutions in the U.S. and Canada to locate, contact, and facilitate the claim for assets and accounts considered “lost” or “inactive.” We believe owners deserve the opportunity to direct the handling of their assets.

Can you loot an abandoned house? ›

Taking stuff from abandoned houses without permission is illegal. Even though the house may be abandoned, it still belongs to somebody, including any contents inside. So taking anything would be considered theft. Also, damaging the property by any means is also illegal.

How long does it take for an abandoned house to fall apart? ›

Lack Of Regular Maintenance

In contrast, a small crack in the window of an abandoned building is enough to ultimately bring down the entire structure in a matter of a few years. This is why it's often said that an abandoned house ages 5 years for every year that it stands vacant.

How do you deal with abandoned and vacant property? ›

Commonly you will have to file a complaint to get much action from your local government, although of course if you can get your elected officials interested, so much the better. A town having a municipal code hires or contracts for a code enforcement officer. Police may handle the matter in smaller towns.

How do you take care of an empty house? ›

10 Tips for Protecting a Vacant Home After You Move
  1. Lock and secure all windows and doors. ...
  2. Give a neighbor or friend an extra key. ...
  3. Take care of your yard. ...
  4. Install motion detector lights. ...
  5. Remove valuables from the home. ...
  6. Keep home security system sign out front. ...
  7. Keep your alarm system up and running.
Jan 23, 2018

How long can you leave a house empty? ›

Generally, there are no set-rules in place that state how long you can leave your unoccupied property vacant for. However, it is important to note that most standard home insurance providers will only cover an empty property for 30 to 60 days.

What does it mean when a house sells for $1? ›

Dollar Homes are single-family homes that are acquired by the Federal Housing Administration (which is part of HUD) as a result of foreclosure actions. Single-family properties are made available through the program whenever FHA is unable to sell the homes for six months.

What state has the most abandoned properties? ›

The study by LendingTree ranked the nation's 50 states by their shares of unoccupied homes. The highest vacancy rates were found in Vermont, Maine and Alaska. Each state has between 20% and 22% of its housing stock vacant. The three states combined are home to more than 315,000 unoccupied units.

What US city has the most abandoned houses? ›

The three most vacant cities in the U.S. are all in Florida: Orlando, Miami, and Tampa. These cities are known for tourism and vacation homes, which means houses sit vacant for much of the year. More than 16 million housing units in the U.S. are vacant, bringing the overall vacancy rate to 11.6%.

What is abandoned property law? ›

Abandoned property is defined as personal property left by an owner who intentionally relinquishes all rights to its control. Real property may not be abandoned; see adverse possession.

What is the key factor in determining whether property is lost or abandoned? ›

Abandonment depends upon the person's intent, that is, whether the person intended to relinquish control of the property. The person's words and actions determine intent. If the person makes a statement that the property does not belong to him or her, the property is abandoned.

Can you keep an item you find? ›

Common law defines lost property as personal property that was unintentionally left by its true owner. For example, a wallet that falls out of someone's pocket is lost. At common law, a person who found lost personal property could keep it until and unless the original owner comes forward.

Can you sleep in a abandoned house? ›

Technically, this is still trespassing, but it's legal trespassing. However, if the property owner puts up a sign that says, “No Trespassing” then that consent has been taken away.

What do you call a person who lives in a house without paying? ›

Unauthorized tenants, otherwise known as squatters, are individuals or groups of people who have resided in a property that they don't own or pay to rent. Generally speaking, rules regarding squatters usually include the occupant's right to not be displaced from the property without notice.

Why are abandoned houses boarded up? ›

This is usually done in order to protect a vacant or abandoned property from squatters and looters. In some cases, boarding up a house can also be used to protect an occupied home from storm damage.

Why does someone not want to leave the house? ›

If you find it hard to get the confidence to leave the house, you might be experiencing agoraphobia. This is an anxiety disorder where people avoid leaving the house as they fear being trapped or embarrassed in a public place and having a panic attack.

Why are there so many abandoned buildings? ›

Many companies made poor financial decisions - They expanded too quickly, they didn't secure their markets, the under/over estimated their brand's appeal; or they simply ran out of capital. The business closed and they abandoned the building to the banks or to its original owner.

How do houses get abandoned? ›

The reasons why houses get left empty indefinitely.

The inability of the owner to financially meet the cost of repairs and the upkeep of the house. Planning restrictions relating to the occupancy of the property. Access problems such as land disputes or road closures. Problems with leaseholders or banks.

How do you secure an abandoned house? ›

Evaluating 4 Methods for Securing Vacant Properties
  1. Plywood & Board-Ups. Plywood window boards are perceived as being the most affordable method of vacant property security – however, plywood is an obvious outward sign that a building is vacant or abandoned. ...
  2. Security Cameras. ...
  3. Security Guards. ...
  4. Steel Door and Window Guards.
Sep 13, 2017

What states have the most abandoned houses? ›

The study by LendingTree ranked the nation's 50 states by their shares of unoccupied homes. The highest vacancy rates were found in Vermont, Maine and Alaska. Each state has between 20% and 22% of its housing stock vacant. The three states combined are home to more than 315,000 unoccupied units.


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