A Guide to Purchasing an Abandoned Home

A Guide to Purchasing an Abandoned Home

Abandoned homes can be described as properties with owners who relinquished their rights to their control. Sometimes, owners die, and no benefactors come forward to claim ownership, or they simply move out and never return.

Picture: Dan Meyers

In either situation, local governments can often seize unoccupied, abandoned homes if left for extended periods and begin to attract undesirable behavior. Sometimes, these properties are then put up for sale, giving members of the public a chance to purchase them for a low price and potentially return them to their former glory. 

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Due to the affordability of abandoned homes, they might be a real estate option you’ve been considering. However, before you sign on the dotted line, think about some of these crucial tasks and requirements you’ll likely need to undertake on your journey to restoring an abandoned home. 

Weed Abatement and Yard Maintenance

If a property has been sitting abandoned for some time, yard-related tasks like weed abatement, pest control, and yard maintenance can be crucial before you begin inspecting the home and putting together a renovation plan. 

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Many abandoned homes have overgrown grass, hazardous trees that require removal, and weeds that need to be cut, sprayed, and ripped out. Pests can also be a significant issue, and experts might be necessary for birds, rodents, and other animals to ensure you have a safe property to work on in the months and years to come. 

Home Foundation

You might be fortunate enough to purchase an abandoned home without foundation issues, but that’s not always the case. If the property has experienced poor drainage, significant seasonal changes, a plumbing leak, or tree roots growing too close, foundation problems can sometimes be a concern. These can present as issues like: 

  • Wall rotation
  • Cracked bricks
  • Displaced molding
  • Window, wall, and door separation
  • Blatantly cracked or broken foundations
  • Floor cracks and unevenness
  • Cracked sheetrock
  • Door and window misalignment 
Photo by Shalev Cohen on Unsplash

While foundation issues can be expensive to rectify, we have incredible technology at our disposal to be able to perform repairs with slabjacking and piering. Slabjacking involves pumping grout beneath the slab to lift the foundation to its normal elevation, while piering involves driving steel posts through the unstable ground and using hydraulic jacks to stabilize the foundation. 

It’s important to understand that house foundation issues can make it challenging to secure funding through traditional lenders. You might need to pay cash for an abandoned property in need of foundation repairs or obtain finance through private lenders. 

Plumbing

An abandoned home’s plumbing can sometimes be one of the most significant costs you encounter. When homes have sat vacant for several months or years, vandals and opportunists can sometimes reclaim old copper piping, leading to damaged fittings and blatantly missing plumbing altogether. 

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Older homes might also not have plumbing in the most appropriate places for modern living, or the systems have leaked or been damaged with a lack of care. Significant damage in other parts of the property might also be associated with a home’s plumbing, such as leaks and foundation cracks that cost money to fix alongside the plumbing network itself. 

Electrical Components

Rewiring a home can cost thousands of dollars, and it’s always possible that an abandoned house you purchase will require this critical task as soon as possible. Often, rewiring is required when vandals remove the wiring, light bulbs, and associated fixtures and appliances or when it has been damaged due to environmental exposure. 

Once you have an idea of your home’s layout and the extent of the renovations ahead, consider calling an electrician. They can advise on the costs of rewiring and what you need to do to prepare for their services. 

Dry Rot

Dry rot or wood decay is a form of fungal decay that attacks building timber, potentially affecting a property’s structural integrity. Wood can appear darkly colored and cracked, and once solid structural elements can be significantly weakened and even unsafe. Pay close attention to support beams potentially affected by dry rot and whether they put the property at risk of collapse. In this situation, an abandoned home can become condemned until it’s made habitable once more.

Mold

When mold takes hold in a well-looked-after home, homeowners or tenants typically wipe it away and stop it from spreading and causing damage. However, the same doesn’t usually happen in an abandoned house. When leaks and general moisture issues occur, mold can form and spread, leading to significant damage and potential health issues if left untreated. Many homes with mold must have porous materials like drywall, insulation, and carpets removed, which can be costly for the homeowner. 

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Understand Your Financial Situation

Buying an abandoned home can often require a far different financial position than if you were to buy a much-loved family home. If the house has significant issues, traditional lenders like banks might be unenthusiastic about lending for its purchase or subsequent repairs. 

Many people purchase abandoned homes for cash and use their savings to fund repairs, or they sometimes turn to alternative lenders with often-higher interest rates due to the level of risk. However, when the most crucial parts of a property, such as its foundation and plumbing, have been remedied, traditional lenders might be more likely to provide lending for it in the future. 

Organize the Experts

You might be a skilled builder or DIYer, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to undertake every part of the renovation and restoration project on your own. Environmental engineers, structural engineers, electricians, and plumbers, are just a few of the many experts you might require to help restore your home to its former glory. 

If you have connections, contact such experts before you purchase the property to receive helpful advice and learn their availability. By the time you buy an abandoned property, you’ll likely have all the right people available to help you complete the project. 

Purchasing an abandoned home is not a project for the faint-hearted. Some properties can sit vacant for years, leading to extensive and expensive problems that require expert intervention and tens of thousands of dollars in repairs. However, when you purchase in the right area for the right price, you might be surprised by how lucrative abandoned homes can be. Now might be the right time to begin exploring your property investment options.

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