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May 20, 2024 PropStream

Vacant and Abandoned Properties: What’s the Difference?

Many real estate professionals use the terms “vacant” and “abandoned” interchangeably. However, the two have notable differences, impacting how you find and invest in them (or attempt to list if you’re an agent).

In this article, we’ll explore what defines vacant and abandoned properties, how they differ, why these lead types benefit real estate professionals, and how to find them using PropStream.

Table of Contents

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Key Takeaways

  • Vacant and abandoned properties are pieces of unoccupied real estate. There are several reasons properties may be vacant or abandoned, with these reasons differentiating the two.
  • Both vacant and abandoned properties offer lead potential for real estate professionals as they suggest selling motivation and are off-market, leaving the potential for below-market deals.
  • Real estate professionals can use PropStream to find vacant and abandoned leads.

What Are Vacant Properties?

Vacant properties are real estate assets such as houses, apartments, commercial buildings, or land currently unoccupied and devoid of tenants or residents. 

These properties may be empty for various reasons, including abandonment, foreclosure, renovation, or simply being between occupants. When a property is considered “vacant,” the US Postal Service flags it as such.

What Are Abandoned Properties?

Abandoned properties are real estate assets (like those mentioned above) left vacant and neglected by their owners for an extended period. 

These properties often show signs of disrepair, neglect, or vandalism and may pose safety hazards to the surrounding community. Abandoned properties can result from various circumstances, including foreclosure, bankruptcy, or the owner's death without a clear successor. These properties may require extensive rehabilitation or redevelopment efforts to return to productive use.

How Do Vacant and Abandoned Properties Differ?

Vacant and Abandoned Properties

While vacant and abandoned properties are both vacant, both are not abandoned.

By this, we mean that a vacant property may still be in decent condition, and an owner may be tending to it. The property might just be between tenants, causing vacant status. Vacant status can suggest a variety of property conditions and reasons the property is currently unoccupied, with no true insight into how involved the owner is.

On the other hand, an abandoned property is vacant but often shows signs of neglect, suggesting that no owner actively cares for it and that no tenant or owner lives in it. As the name suggests, an abandoned property is typically “abandoned,” increasing the odds of becoming a target for illegal activities.

Pro Tip: Both vacant and abandoned properties can negatively impact the value of surrounding properties, as they can become an eye sore (if distressed). Also, if people catch onto the property’s status, it may become a hotspot for squatters, vandalism, and other illegal activities, jeopardizing the health, well-being, and quality of life of locals.

Because of this, a real estate pro who can get the property either fixed up and sold or rented to a reliable tenant is positively contributing to their communities and able to help keep property values higher.

How Abandoned and Vacant Property Data Benefits Real Estate Pros

vacant and abandoned properties

One thing that vacant and abandoned properties have in common is that they can suggest selling motivation.

For example, if a property is vacant and the owner can’t get tenants into it, they may be interested in selling depending on how strong their portfolio is to absorb a temporary loss in rental income. If they have to pay the mortgage out of pocket as they wait for new tenants, they may be willing to sell the property at a discounted price to relieve themselves of the burden, especially if the property needs work.

Abandoned properties can suggest even more selling motivation, as they typically require a significant amount of work that the owner is unwilling to do. Also, if the property attracts illegal activity, the owner may want to get rid of it so they’re not liable for any issues it creates

How to Find Abandoned and Vacant Properties: PropStream It!

PropStream makes finding abandoned and vacant properties quick and efficient with our filtering options and mobile app.

Here’s how to find them:

Find Vacant Properties With Our Quick List

PropStream has 19 Quick Lists. Vacant is one of them.

Simply choose your search region, select the “Vacant” Quick List, and apply supporting filters to narrow your search (e.g., liens, equity, ownership info).

Find Abandoned Properties By Driving for Dollars On Our Mobile App

To find specifically abandoned properties, use our mobile app to Drive for Dollars. 

What is “Driving for Dollars?”

Driving for Dollars refers to the process of recording a drive using our mobile app to target distressed or vacant properties.

There are two ways to use this feature:

  • Set Filters and Drive: You can set a radius around you to build a list. Click on any of your results to study the property’s details, run comps, get directions, skip trace, send a postcard, add to Mobile Favorites, etc. You can track your drive and save properties along the way with your drive logs saved to your app.
  • Just Drive: Like the previous setting, this function allows you to record your drive and save properties. The difference is that you are not setting filters. However, you can still pull property cards as you uncover opportunities and perform the above functions (e.g., study property details, run comps, skip trace, etc). 

Note: If you record your drive, the blue “Status” bar at the bottom will record your drive duration, stops, and distance. If you choose to “Set Filters and Drive,” you can change your filter selection during the drive. You can name your drives and access them later on in the “More” section of your app under “Mobile Activity Drive Log.”

If you’re attempting to uncover abandoned properties, you may want to apply the “Non-Owner Occupied” and “Vacant” filters with one of the Quick Lists identifying financial strain or additional selling motivation (e.g., liens, bankruptcy, divorce).

Once your filters are set and you begin analyzing the properties by driving by, you’ll want to watch for properties that are in poor condition or show obvious signs of neglect.

Try PropStream for 7 Days Free and Enjoy 50 Complimentary Vacant or Abandoned Leads!

If you’re ready to streamline your process of finding vacant and abandoned properties, let PropStream help!

With frequently updated data for 155+ million properties, convenient filtering options, built-in marketing tools, and a mobile app, you can find exactly what you need in the least amount of time.

Activate your 7-day free trial today to enjoy 50 complimentary vacant or abandoned leads!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What happens to unclaimed real estate?

The process for handling unclaimed real estate can vary depending on each case's jurisdiction and specific circumstances. However, in general, the following steps may occur:

  1. Notification: If the property is known to be abandoned or the owner cannot be located, the local government or other relevant authorities may attempt to notify the owner or their heirs through various means, such as mail or posting notices on the property.
  2. Probate Proceedings: If the property owner is deceased without a clear successor or beneficiary, the property may become part of the owner's estate and be subject to probate proceedings. During probate, the court will determine the rightful heirs to the property.
  3. Tax Foreclosure: If property taxes remain unpaid for an extended period, the property may become subject to tax foreclosure proceedings by the local government. In some cases, the government may sell the property at auction to recover the unpaid taxes.
  4. Escheatment: If efforts to locate the rightful owner or heirs are unsuccessful and no claims are made on the property, it may ultimately escheat (or revert) to the state government. The state may then take ownership of the property and either hold it in trust or sell it, using the proceeds for public purposes.

It's important to note that the specific process for handling unclaimed real estate can vary widely depending on factors such as local laws, regulations, and the nature of the property itself.

How do I find abandoned property in my area?

PropStream It! With PropStream, you can use our companion mobile app to Drive for Dollars and identify distressed properties that may be abandoned. 

How do you buy an abandoned property?

Disclaimer: PropStream doesn’t offer legal and/or financial advice regarding property acquisition. We recommend doing your due diligence and consulting with a legal professional before purchasing real estate.

Buying an abandoned property requires careful research and due diligence. Here are steps to consider:

  1. Research Local Laws and Regulations: Before pursuing an abandoned property, familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations regarding property ownership, abandonment, and foreclosure processes. Each jurisdiction may have different rules and procedures that could impact your ability to acquire the property.
  2. Find Abandoned Properties and Study Their Potential: As we discussed earlier, PropStream’s mobile app is an excellent resource for finding abandoned properties. Once you’ve identified abandoned properties, use PropStream to get the full details. If you plan on flipping it or renovating it to rent out, use our Rehab Calculator to determine your potential ROI (return on investment).
  3. Get in Touch With the Owner: With PropStream, you can perform a skip trace to uncover email addresses and phone numbers associated with the owner.
  4. Negotiate with the Owner or Lienholder: If you locate the owner or lienholder of the abandoned property, negotiate a purchase agreement that reflects the property's condition and any outstanding debts or liens. Be prepared to negotiate with multiple parties, such as mortgage lenders, tax authorities, or other lienholders. To determine a fair price for the property, run comps using PropStream.
  5. Consider Legal Options: If the abandoned property is in foreclosure or has unresolved legal issues, consider consulting with a real estate attorney to explore your legal options for acquiring the property. This may involve participating in foreclosure auctions, initiating legal proceedings to clear title issues, or negotiating with creditors.
  6. Finalize the Purchase: Once you reach an agreement with the abandoned property's owner or lienholder, finalize the purchase by signing a purchase agreement and completing the necessary paperwork to transfer ownership. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to pay off any outstanding debts or taxes associated with the property.


Published by PropStream May 20, 2024