How to Find Vacant Houses

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A quick outline

Vacant houses can offer real estate investors a great way to find good deals, but they can be difficult to locate and often come with their own set of problems. If you’re thinking about investing in vacant houses for your real estate strategy, read on to learn about how to find vacant houses.

Table of Contents

Real estate investors are always on the lookout for good investment property deals. Quite often, these properties are on auction or in foreclosure. However, some investors are specifically looking for vacant houses because for savvy investors, these can represent a great opportunity. If you know what to look for, buying vacant properties can work out in your favor.

A vacant property is classified as a property that has been abandoned by its occupants, in other words, a house where nobody lives. However, it’s important to note that someone still has legal ownership of the property, even though nobody is living in it. If you’d like to consider this strategy, let’s look at how to find vacant houses.

How do you know if a house is vacant?

First things first, it’s important to know how to identify a vacant house. So, you should look for any signs that may indicate that the owners have left the property, such as:

  • Overgrown yards due to a lack of maintenance.
  • Notices in the windows because there’s nobody to receive these.
  • Damage to the exterior of the house.
  • No cars parked in the driveway.
  • The lights have been off for a long time.
  • The windows or doors are boarded up.
  • There may be broken windows.
  • There are no curtains in the windows.
  • Postal workers’ notes are piling up in the mailbox.
overgrown yard

How to find vacant houses near me

Drive around

One of the most widely used strategies for finding vacant homes in a particular area is to drive around that area and look for them. A good place to start is by deviating from your usual routes and taking new roads that you haven’t been down before. Look for signs of a vacant home, like the ones mentioned above, and you could find a great opportunity in the right area.

If you don’t have the time to do this yourself, you can hire someone to drive around for you and take photos of any vacant homes so that you can make a decision from there. Pay close attention to any notices on the door, these could be foreclosure notices which would indicate that the owners can no longer afford the property and will most likely be very motivated to sell before foreclosure.

Estate sales

Before a property becomes vacant, estate sales will usually take place, which means that the contents of the home are sold. Finding estate sales can be a useful tool for finding good property deals, because homes that are in an estate sale usually have owners that have deceased, or whose assets needs to be sold. This means that home will more than likely be vacant and then put on auction or sold within a short time frame.

Postal offices

Another strategy for finding vacant properties is to contact your local postal office and chat to the people who work there. They will usually have a good idea of which homes in the area have “return to sender” mail or where the mail is not being collected from the mailbox. They could point you in the direction of these homes that are more than likely vacant.

Landlord evictions

Real estate attorneys have lists of all the eviction notices that have been filed in the area and if you can get your hands on these lists, you can contact the property owners and find out if they’d want to sell their property, seeing as it will soon be vacant. Similarly, any properties listed as “for rent” online are usually vacant and the owners could be willing to sell, particularly if the property is sitting vacant for too long.

Advertising

Marketing the fact that you’re looking to buy vacant homes is another option for finding them. People who live next door to vacant homes are often happy to get them sold, so they are likely to contact you. You can put up signs, send out direct mails and use various other advertising techniques to spread the word that you’re looking to buy vacant homes.

How to find vacant properties online

Real estate websites

Real estate websites are a good place to start looking because you can find a variety of rental property listings. These will give you a good idea as to which properties are vacant, and how often they are vacant. If you can find a property that is often without tenants, you can contact the owners and see if they are willing to sell instead of struggling to find longer term tenants.

Vacant house list

You can sign up online to the USPS Vacant House List, which is a list of all the properties in a certain area where the post office isn’t delivering mail because the house is vacant. From here, you can contact the owners and try your luck with getting them to sell to you, without even having to leave the comfort of your home.

Auction websites

Property auction websites are another way to find vacant properties online that have been repossessed by the bank or the lender. You can check when and where these properties are going to be auctioned off and potentially scoop up a good investment property deal.

empty house

How to source vacant property leads

  • Data platforms: There are some online platforms which can be used to get leads, such as Pioneer Data Solutions. These are a convenient way to get targeted vacant property leads delivered straight to your inbox, without having to drive around and search.
  • Utilities: Places like the city water department are a good way to get vacant property leads. You can ask them to give you a list of all the houses in the area that have turned their water off, for example.
  • Rental properties: Finding rental properties that are often without tenants or currently vacant is a handy tool for getting vacant property leads. Since these are often standing vacant, so the owners may be willing to sell the property instead of continuing to rent it out.

Advantages of investing in vacant houses

  • Begin renovations right away: Due to the fact that the home has no occupants, you can usually begin repairs and renovations as soon as you take ownership of the home. Which speeds up the process if you’re planning on flipping or renting out the property.
  • Easier to spot defects: It’s typically easier to find the defects in a vacant home, which means that you’ll be prepared for the work that needs to be done, ahead of time. You can begin budgeting and finding the right contractors and then hit the ground running once the home is yours.
  • Less competition: Vacant home buying isn’t the most popular strategy for real estate investors, which means that you won’t be facing stiff competition and can make an offer without worrying about being outbid.
  • Motivated sellers: Property owners who have a vacant house are typically more motivated to sell it and these can work out to be better deals, because they will want to get rid of the house and aren’t as interested in making a lot of money on it. This can be a great option for investors to pick up good deals.
vacant home

Disadvantages of investing in vacant properties

  • More repairs and renovations needed: Vacant homes can often cost more to fix up because they may need major repairs and renovations. They’ve been left standing for a while and this means that no maintenance has been done, so there may be a lot of work to do, to get the house ready to sell or rent out.
  • Difficult to find: You may struggle to find vacant homes, and if this is your chosen strategy, be prepared to have periods of time where you can’t find any, and other periods where you come across a few options. So, finding the right deal can take longer than buying a regular house for sale.
  • Utility bills: There are some unknown factors when it comes to vacant homes, and one of the biggest is that you cannot see the utility bills because there has been nobody using utilities at the house. So, you won’t have a good idea of how much the monthly costs for the property will be.
  • Neglected landscaping: Just like the house itself, the landscaping will have been neglected too, which means that once you’ve bought a vacant house you’ll need to get the yard cleared and landscaped which will add more onto your costs, or require time and effort from you.
  • Security risk: With the home being vacant for so long, it can be a security risk as burglars often target vacant homes. Once you’ve bought the house, you may need to improve the security to make sure it doesn’t continue to be a target for burglars.

Final thoughts - Should you use this strategy?

While vacant home buying isn’t the most popular real estate investing strategy, if it’s done right, it can be a good way to find great investment property deals. The trick is to go into it with your eyes wide open about the pitfalls of this strategy, and a good idea of where to find these properties. Make sure to weigh up the pros and cons against your financial situation and investing goals, and then decide if this is the right strategy for you.