Investing in real estate is all about the search for opportunities, and one such opportunity that’s regularly overlooked is the pursuit of vacant properties. Knowing how to find vacant properties is only going to become a more vital skill as the real estate market continues to become increasingly competitive. Investors have never been more interested in unique opportunities, and a vacant property for sale can most certainly provide that.
According to ATTOM Data Solutions, there were over 1.4 million vacant residential properties in the U.S. in 2021, representing 1.5% of all homes. This just goes to show how many chances exist for finding and securing vacant property deals. We’ve put together this blog to explain how to find a list of vacant properties, so you can expand your portfolio.
A vacant property is pretty much what it sounds like—a piece of real estate that’s totally unoccupied. This could take the form of an abandoned house, an empty commercial building, or a patch of undeveloped land. Properties become vacant for all sorts of reasons, ranging from a standard foreclosure to the death of the owner.
Some properties remain vacant for extended periods because they require masses of expensive repair work, while others can be entangled in legal issues that make it difficult for disposition to take place. However, just because no one else has snapped up a vacant property, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth investigating.
Vacant properties are considered by many real estate professionals to be hidden gems, with their value to investors borne from various reasons.
Unlike traditionally “hot” properties on the market, which attract buyers in their masses, vacant properties are generally found outside of most investors’ radars. A reduced degree of competition is considered attractive to investors, as it poses an opportunity for them to negotiate a better purchase price.
Vacant properties are often cheaper for a number of reasons. For one, the cost of maintaining an empty house can become frustrating for the owners, with property taxes, the potential for vandalism, and basic maintenance all adding up, leading owners to want to sell sooner rather than later. Secondly, even with some maintenance, a vacant home isn’t always going to be in the same top condition it was in when people were actually living in it, reducing the price. Reduced prices are great for investors, as they create more space for maximized profits in the ROI.
Many investors are looking for a chance to do something unique and creative, which is what the blank slate of a vacant property can offer. These homes can be renovated, resold, and rented out, as well as repurposed for commercial use. It can be an exciting opportunity to do something original with the space, while the flexibility also allows investors to tailor their plans to the ever-changing market trends.
Because vacant properties are so often sold for less than market price and come with the in-built potential for improvements, they can result in significant returns. After a refurbishment or repurposing, these vacant properties can be sold or rented at a rate that reflects the housing landscape, leading to hefty profits.
Knowing how to find vacant properties involves a fair bit of investigation and a willingness to take a hands-on approach. Sadly, it’s not quite as simple as getting a free list of vacant properties to work off of.
This is a good practice for any agent or investor—regularly taking a look through your local real estate listings. You might need to do some digging into off-market properties, but generally, vacant properties end up on these listings quite often. Foreclosure notices and auctions are also great to look out for, as these places are often vacant.
Plenty of websites are on the web where you can find vacant properties, including Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com. Platforms like Auction.com focus entirely on foreclosures and short sales, making them even handier for finding vacant properties.
A lot of the time, vacant properties end up being owned by branches of government due to reasons such as unpaid taxes. You can find a lot of vacant homes on local, state, and federal websites, with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development frequently listing vacant properties for sale.
Whether you’re an investor, a wholesaler, or an agent yourself, it’s good to keep some real estate agents in your books. They can be invaluable collaborators, giving you handy tips on vacant properties before they even hit the market.
At the end of the day, there’s not much better than hitting the streets and seeing things for yourself. A simple drive down a road you are interested in could reveal an obviously vacant property. Telltale signs include overgrown yards, boarded-up windows, and a general lack of maintenance.
Much like the previous tip about real estate agents, it’s important to network with other real estate professionals in the area to get the best possible access to tips. This is just as applicable to community leaders and general citizens of the local area—you never know where you’re going to find that scoop!
Direct mail campaigns should be part of everyone’s real estate marketing strategy, regardless of the field in which you operate. Sending personalized letters or postcards to the owners of vacant properties is a great way to showcase your interest in buying property, appealing to the owner in a more human way.
Finding vacant properties is no small task, requiring real time, dedication, and legwork. However, if you can pull it off, the rewards can be massive. The unique opportunity to work with a blank slate gives you the chance to express a new sense of creativity and control, with the potential profits being huge.
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