What to do About the Vacant House Next Door

The Vacant House in Green Meadows
So we bought this house, fixed it up, and moved in. The house next door was vacant the entire 3 years we lived there.

Most neighborhoods that are older than say 10 years, probably have one of those houses that look like an abandoned vacant house. Heck, we lived in a 3-year-old subdivision for a while and we had 2 on the same street that while not abandoned, sure looked like it. No one lived there, the grass got quite high, and the outside of the house, while fairly new, looked like it was falling apart.

What Does a Vacant House Look Like

Generally, but not always you are not going to see a lot of activity around the house. Not many people coming or going. The yard will probably have overgrown bushes. The grass will be rather weedy and quite tall. And it will have an overall feel of an empty house when you look at it.

For example, there are several houses in our area where the owners have moved on and no longer live in the home, but they still do the bare minimum to keep the code violation people off their backs. They mow the yard, they pick up the trash, and they have someone stop in a couple of times a month to check on the house. But still, the yard is weedy, the bushes and trees are neglected, and the house has a lot of little issues that need to be fixed on the outside. And since we have been inside all three in our area, we understand the inside is much worse.

Why Do Homes End Up Vacant?

Generally, what we see the most often is that the person who owns the home moved to an assisted living community, planning to come back home when they get back on their feet. Months turn into years and no one ever comes back. When we found the Green Meadows House at the top of the page, the owner had moved to assisted living 4 years earlier and was still there. The house next door, the same situation . . . the family kept tabs on the house next door for over 6 years until their mom finally passed away. That was six years of electricity, heating bills, cooling bills, mowing the yard bills, and taxes. . . but I digress.

Other times the owner is in financial distress and can no longer afford the mortgage. Rather than waiting out the time for their lender to foreclose, they just move out and move on. Then the house sits vacant until such time that the lender forecloses and then sells the house. This can sometimes take years.

Just Vacant or is it Abandon?

When you first look at a house it is really hard to tell the difference between something that is abandoned and something vacant. If you are a neighbor you will probably notice that someone stops by from time to time, that the yard does get mowed by someone. You can always check public records to see where they are sending the tax bill. You might also compare notes with other neighbors to see if anyone knows.

Can the City Help?

If you are fairly sure it is abandoned, and you can’t find anyone who wants to take responsibility. You can turn to the city codes department. If no one is maintaining the yard they will mow it a few times a summer. And if the home is open, with open or broken doors and or windows, they will also board it up, to make it more secure and to keep the neighborhood kids out of the home.

If you have an interest in buying the property

  1. Start with the tax records to see where the tax bill is going and try to send them a note or go knock on their door if it is local to see if they might have an interest in selling.
  2. If the tax records point to the house in question, then you might check the tax records to see if the same person owns other property and where those tax bills are being sent.
  3. Our next step is to do a Google search of each owner’s name, the city where the house is located, and the word obituary. This will tell us if the owner is deceased and who their heirs are.
  4. Then we get busy trying to locate the owner if they are still alive or their heirs if they are not. There are many great services online that for a fee will look people up and give you all the names, phone numbers, emails, and social media accounts of a person plus all their known relatives.
  5. We then call if we have a working number or text. We send emails, although they mostly don’t work and we also try to connect with people on Facebook and LinkedIn and send them a message asking about the house.

Before Making an Offer

Always, always, inspect the home before making an offer. If it has been vacant any length of time, especially over the winter months, there could be all kinds of issues lurking in the walls that you can’t see from the outside. And many of the major components may need expensive repairs. If you don’t know what you are looking at, be sure to put an inspection clause in your contract that will give you so many days to hire an inspector to take a look and give you a report.

Getting Someone Else To Buy It

We get it, You have your house and don’t want another one. But you do get tired of looking at that vacant house or the abandoned house next door. And what about the less desirable criminal element who might just move in? And what about property values? A vacant or abandoned home next door and reduce the value of your home.

So, what can you do? Well, if it is in the greater Kansas City Metro area, you could tell us about it. We look for vacant and abandoned homes and then we get busy tracking down the owners or their heirs to see if we might be able to purchase a home.

We have bought a lot of this type of home over the years. We currently live in a home that had been vacant (not abandoned) for 4 years and we are working on the vacant home next door. We hope we can buy it in the next year.


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