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How To Find Vacant Properties in Any Market

Right now, there’s a lot of vacant homes in the US.

Reports suggest that more than 16 million homes are currently vacant — even though not all of them are for sale. Many of those are vacation homes, short-term rentals, etc., and many of them are also in highly-desirable areas of the country.

There’s also been a huge spike recently in “zombie” foreclosures, or homes that went under foreclosure where the tenants moved out but the banks never actually reclaimed the title.

According to ATTOM, there are almost 1.3 million residential properties in the United States that have gone through foreclosure and then ended up left vacant — with nobody actually owning the title.

These are all prime opportunities for investors looking for great deals.

As an investor, you can typically get into these properties for far below their actual market value, making them excellent candidates for fix-and-flips.

You can also get into the properties and hold them over the medium to long-term, turning them into rental units and growing your portfolio.

And since these sellers are typically highly-motivated to move the property, you can usually expect a quick turnaround on the deal.

So if you’re interested in finding vacant properties and tracking down great deals?

This guide is going to break down 9 different ways you can start finding them now and what to do once you track down a hot opportunity that you want to capitalize on.

If you want to learn how to start flipping houses so you can capitalize one of the 16 million houses that are currently vacant, here’s some strategies you can use to start tracking them down.

How To Find Vacant Properties 101

Right now, it doesn’t matter where you are in the country — there are vacant properties to be found and opportunities to take advantage of.

Chances are, you’ve driven by them and didn’t realize they were vacant.

You may have even heard about them on the local news.

Think stories like business struggles, consumer prices skyrocketing, fires, floods, etc. Those are all prime opportunities to invest in vacant properties.

Keep an eye on your local news each day for those stories that could result in a property being left empty.

You can also check into local fire records.

Your local Building Department keeps records of properties that were damaged by fire. This list is available as public record and can be obtained by making a public records request to them.

Not all of the properties have been fully damaged, either. So if you have a strong stomach, don’t mind repairing smoke or fire damage, and know a good deal when you see one, staying up to date with your local fire records can be a hidden source of untapped potential.

You can check for foreclosures, inspections, and evictions, too.

Using databases like HUD Homes USA, you can find current records of property that are either facing foreclosure or have recently gone through foreclosure.

We’ve written a great guide on how to find & buy pre-foreclosure homes in your market.

You can also build relationships with inspectors to get turned onto properties they may have worked on that have gone vacant — or were vacant when they were last inspected.

Finally, getting connected with attorneys who deal with evictions can be a great source of off-market properties. They may be able to connect you with a list of properties that have already had the eviction process completed so you can contact the property’s owner and find out if they’re motivated to sell.

How To Find Vacant Properties in Your Local Area

When you’re looking for off-market properties with motivated sellers, there are a few more strategies you can use to find those vacant properties in your local area.

1: Driving For Dollars

Driving for dollars is probably one of the most effective ways to find off-market properties in your immediate vicinity.

You’ve probably driven by homes before that look like they could use a bit of TLC.

Things like broken or boarded up windows, unkempt lawns and driveways, failing paint, old roofs, overgrown landscaping, etc. are all signs that a home might be vacant.

When you find properties like these, start writing down the addresses so you can look up the owner’s information and work on getting in touch with them.

You can contact the owners either by door knocking, calling them, or using direct mail.

One of the most effective ways to get the owner’s attention is by leaving a door hanger with your name, number, and a quick message on it letting them know you’re ready to buy the house fast.

2: Build Local Relationships

Establishing relationships in your area with people like realtors, contractors, property management companies, and even your mailman can all become great sources of off-market vacant properties.

The relationship game is more of a long-term approach, which means you’ll want to get started connecting with people sooner than later, but it’s one that can keep your pipeline full and keep you from having to beat the streets or go driving for dollars.

All you have to do to get started is ask them if they may happen to know of any properties that have sat vacant for a while.

And, if they do know of properties that aren’t being used, ask them if they might know who owns it — or may even be able to connect you to the owner directly.

Remember, though, you never know who you’ll run into as a real estate investor, so it’s worth chatting people up and letting them know what you do and what type of properties you’re looking for.

The most random conversations can strike up some of the most profitable deals you’ll ever do.

3: Go To Estate Sales

Estate sales often lead to home sales.

To start finding them in your local area, check out websites like NESA USA or

They are some of the most reputable sources for estate sales you can find and usually contain the most up-to-date data.

Spend some time visiting them and ask whether or not the property will be included in the sale or when it will be going up for sale.

If you’re able to connect with the realtor for the property or attorney or estate sale company who is managing the liquidation, you may be able to get offers in before the property actually gets listed.

On top of that, these sales are a great way to network with people who may be able to put you in touch with other property owners in your area that are motivated to sell.

How To Find Vacant Properties Online

If you want to invest outside of your local area, learning how to find vacant properties online can open up the rest of the country for you.

Instead of beating the streets and shaking hands, though, you’ll use a few different websites to track down properties that may have recently gone vacant — or may have sat vacant for long periods of time.

1: Propstream

A tool like Propstream is critical for finding off-market vacant properties both inside and outside of your local area.

With it, you can build a list of qualified leads, research the properties, and then begin marketing to those property owners so you can get their attention and get into a conversation to buy their property.

It’s one of the most effective, time-efficient and scalable ways to quickly build a list, if you know how to use it properly.

Here’s an example:

With the software, you can navigate to the area that you’re looking to invest in, and then click on the “Vacant” button and immediately see a list of properties that are currently available and not in use.

Then, you can narrow the search down even further to help filter through the data, optimize your list, and uncover even higher motivation levels.

For instance, you can filter the data to show only homes that are vacant and where the owner has high equity. Or homes that are vacant and may be going through pre-foreclosure.

The filtering you use can help you sift through properties that may just be vacation homes and end up with a list of properties where the owners may be under pressure to sell — giving you a prime opportunity to make an offer on the home.

Once you’ve built the list of properties you want to do some research on, you can save the list to use in your marketing, like your direct mail campaigns.

2: Search Government Sites

There’s 3 government websites that are great for finding vacant properties:

Each of those sites can help you find homes that may be available. Then you can check with your local county assessor’s’ office or appraisal office to find information about the owner.

From there, you can get in touch with them by cold calling, leaving door hangers, or using direct mail to get in touch with them and start the conversation.

3: Online Ads

When you’re getting established as a new investor, running ads online may be something that you’re not quite ready for.

However, as you start getting deals flowing, you definitely want to look into pouring some of your profits into online ad campaigns that can bring fresh leads to you on a regular basis.

Platforms like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, YouTube Ads, etc. are all great for getting the attention of property owners who may be in the early stages of thinking about selling their home.

When you can get in touch with them during these early stages you can sidestep a lot of the competition and get to them before other investors do.

Many times, too, the people who reach out to you through the ads you run are incredibly motivated to sell which means you have a higher chance of getting a great deal.

What To Do When You Find Vacant Properties

Once you’ve found the properties and the property owners, the fun part begins.

Finding the properties is one thing, but getting in touch with the owners, starting conversations, and getting offers made is where the real magic happens.

And getting them to come to you first is how you ultimately set yourself up for success.

To do that, you’ll want to use strategies like direct mail campaigns to lists you’ve built or online ad campaigns to build new lists.

For direct mail, using mailers like greeting letters or door hangers is a great way to get the attention of property owners and get them to reach out to you to start the conversation.

The key, though, is making your direct mail campaigns look personalized and handwritten. If they look like mass spam, pre-printed letters the chances of getting them read (and generating calls) is pretty slim.

Then, as you’re ramping up lead flow, you’ll want to make sure you’re available to actually take the calls as they start coming in.

Since these property owners will be calling you at all hours of the day, even when you’re busy, you can use a service like Call Porter to field the calls, qualify the leads, and then book the appointments directly to your calendar.

This saves you a ton of time and lets you go on with your day without being interrupted every few minutes by a homeowner that’s interested in selling.

It also puts your calls in the hands of the experts who know what to say and do to verify that the caller is actually a quality lead and that they’re interested in meeting up with you. Call Porter helps eliminate the tire kickers so you don’t have to deal with them — which is actually pretty priceless.

Final Thoughts

Right now, there’s a ton of opportunity waiting to be capitalized. There are currently more than 16 million vacant properties in the country — all with owners who may entertain the offers you make.

All you have to do is locate the owners and make the offers.

If you’re willing to put in the work, develop the habits that the most successful investors have developed, and build the systems you can use to scale with your business as you start building momentum, you can generate a healthy flow of incoming leads from property owners who may be interested in selling.