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Abandoned real estate exists. You can find it "out in the boonies" or smack in the heart of a big city. Even in the middle of a middle class neighborhood in small town America, owners sometimes simply walk away from their homes. 

Circumstances differ, as do the specifics of locating owners, buying and renovating such properties.  If you're persistent, have the dollars or are prequalified for a mortgage loan, it is worth the trouble to do some sleuthing. There are proven ways to find information and simple procedural steps to make abandoned property your own. First you must determine if clear title to the property exists; then you can try to make it your own.

Here's the recipe for success:

  • Be observant: Make note of addresses that look unused and uninhabited. Broken windows and unkempt landscape is obvious.
  • Investigate: Check Derelict.com; visit your local tax office; talk to neighbors; check online resources. Some neighborhood associations also keep lists of vacant properties. Try to find the name and contact information for the owner(s).
  • Make Contact: Sometimes an owner has let property sit vacant or deteriorate because of inability to pay taxes. Inherited property with an out-of-town heir is often neglected. But not all abandoned property is decaying. If the property has become escheated (owned by the city or municipality) contact the organization that owns the property.
  • Gain access: You will want to inspect any property you find interesting, inside and out. But, do it legally. Never try to enter a building without permission, no matter how isolated the location, nor how tempting it might be.
  • Abandoned property could require a lot of work. Be generous in your dollar estimates for rehabilitation. It always costs more than you think!
  • If you have funding and a desire to make a deal, prepare an offer. You can often negotiate a good deal prior to foreclosure, before a judgment is filed, or before an estate is probated.
  • In all cases, it is easier to deal with individuals than with institutions, say a bank or municipality, or attorneys.

Abandoned property was, and to some extent still is, a consequence of the real estate crisis that began in 2007. The percentage of abandoned properties is down today, but large numbers of empty homes and buildings still exist in many American cities. As you will see on this site, they are all over the country. Florida was hard-hit when the housing bubble burst, and it is still possible to find condos in Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach, and small homes in Melbourne-Titusville or Palm Bay, Fla., that are available on the cheap. Tucson, Ariz, is another city that still has an oversupply of abandoned property.

Sometimes, all it takes to get a great deal is a bit of luck and a lot of elbow grease.