Buying an empty property - a home unoccupied for six months or longer - is daunting, but can provide an excellent bargain and sound investment, particularly for those keen on renovations.
By Sacha Markin
There are tens of thousands of properties currently sitting empty across the country. Many could create an ideal new home, a renovation venture, or even a potential letting opportunity, but why are they empty? Perhaps a private owner just cannot sell, or a private landlord waits for a house price rise; the owner could have died and the legal ownership is unclear, or possibly it's all down to the local council. And while the number of vacant homes has dropped slightly in recent years, there are still many about.
For many people, the lack of a chain and good sale price, plus the chance to refurbish an empty dwelling, is attractive, but they are crucial points to consider. Do you have the time, inclination and energy for what may be a lengthy process? How much is the property worth now? How much would it be worth in good condition? What can you afford to spend? What can you budget for renovation? Will you live in the property or let it?
There are several websites, which specialise in advertising empty properties, or linking up prospective developers with viable buildings. As your first port of call, it's a quick and effective way to see if there is anything about which fits your criteria. You can also contact the local council, who will probably have a list of all the empty properties in their area. Some councils will be happy to let you see the information, but others may not be so open. If they won't readily offer the necessary information, you could make a written application - you've got a legal right to request it.
Estate agents obviously may not showcase a bunch of empty wrecks in their shop windows, but there is a possibility they might have a handful of vacant houses on their books, so always ask. Auction houses are also a great place to find an empty property. Auctions are a quick and significant way of disposing of property, which is why neglected homes that don't tick all the right boxes for the estate agents window are usually sent to auction.
And, of course, you should take to the streets on foot, and simply have a thorough look. If you have a clear idea of the location you're keen on, why not have a stroll and see if anything looks empty and in need of rescue. There even may be the odd commercial building with potential for an interesting conversion.
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