How To Sell an Abandoned House



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Abandoned houses are residential properties left vacant for an extended period. But the longer a home is neglected by its owner, the more dangerous it becomes.

Different circumstances can lead to homes being abandoned, such as:

  • The property went into foreclosure and the owner was evicted, but the home has not sold.
  • The owner passed away, and their heirs have not attempted to sell it.
  • The house needs major repairs, was damaged in a natural disaster, or was deemed unsafe, so it has been vacated, and the owner does not have the financial means or motivation to make it livable again.

The bottom line is that abandoned buildings are bad for the neighborhood and pose many risks for which the owner could be held liable. If you own an abandoned property, selling it could be your best solution.

Key points from this article:

  • Risks and Liabilities – Abandoned houses pose various risks such as attracting criminal activity, squatters, and potential health hazards like mold and asbestos. Owners can be held liable for injuries that occur on the property, especially if they fail to maintain it in compliance with city codes.
  • Ongoing Expenses – Even when a house is abandoned, the owner is still responsible for ongoing expenses like property taxes, HOA dues, and utilities. Failure to maintain the property according to city codes can result in fines and eventually, the government may repossess the property.
  • Legal Requirements for Selling – In Texas, abandoned buildings or houses can be sold “as-is,” but the seller is required by law to disclose any known defects to the buyer in a disclosure statement. Failure to disclose accurate information can result in legal ramifications.
  • Options for Selling – Owners have three options for selling an abandoned house: using a real estate agent, selling it For Sale By Owner (FSBO), or selling to a professional house buyer. Each option has its pros and cons, but selling to a professional house buyer like AMI can provide a quick, hassle-free sale with a cash offer.

Disclaimer – The information on this page is intended for general informational purposes only and not to provide legal advice.

Why should you sell your abandoned property?

By holding onto an abandoned house, you face potential legal violations, as abandoned buildings are magnets for criminal activity. According to this study conducted in Texas, drug, property, and violent crimes are much higher on blocks with abandoned residential buildings than on comparable blocks without abandoned buildings.

Abandoned buildings pose safety hazards to neighbors and pedestrians, especially children who can venture onto the property out of curiosity and teens seeking a place to hang out with friends.

Abandoned houses also attract squatters, who can legally occupy an abandoned property if certain conditions are met. In Texas, if a squatter occupies the home and pays its property taxes for 10 consecutive years, they can gain adverse possession and take the property away from its owner. In that case, you could lose the house altogether.

When a property is not regularly maintained, it will inevitably deteriorate over time. It can be an old roof that starts to leak, pipes bursting due to the lack of heating and cooling, water damage that leads to mold, and more issues that would make the abandoned building unsafe.

In Houston, property owners are responsible for maintaining their homes in compliance with city codes, and if not, they can incur fines from the city.

As the owner of an abandoned house, it is in your best interest to sell the property so you can rid yourself of these liabilities.

Potential health issues associated with abandoned buildings

People living near or entering an abandoned house face potential health issues, including exposure to hazardous materials, sewage, carbon monoxide, rodent infestations, asbestos, gas leaks, mold, injuries from unstable property structures, etc.

Stray animals like rats, mice, raccoons, and bugs can enter the abandoned house, making people susceptible to rabies and parasites. Stagnant water in the yard can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can spread Malaria, West Nile Virus, and other diseases.

According to the US Fire Administration, over 12,000 fires in vacant structures are reported each year in the US. Additionally, while 10% of all structural fires are set intentionally, this figure jumps to 50% for fires in vacant buildings. In addition to arson issues, fires are likely in abandoned buildings because of potential faulty wiring, squatting, flammable debris, and other factors that can cause the property to go up in flames, which poses more risks to those who live near or enter the home.

Abandoned houses can also have a negative impact on mental health. No one wants to live next door to a vacant, deteriorating house with an overgrown lawn and all the other safety issues that could be present. Not only is an abandoned property depressing and unpleasant to look at, but it can cause stress to neighbors who worry about their own safety and how it could bring down the value of their own properties.

Ongoing expenses with an abandoned house

Although no one is living in the home, an abandoned property still has ongoing expenses that its owner must pay. These expenses include property taxes, HOA dues, and utilities (if turned on).

In Houston, it is a city violation for a property to have overgrown weeds, shrubs, and grass. These must stay under the legal limits, or the owner will be fined up to $1000 or $2000 for repeat violations. Other city violations are accumulating trash, stagnant water, not boarding up the windows and doors of an abandoned house, and dead trees or broken fences on the property.

Maintaining an abandoned house to comply with city codes increases your ongoing expenses. If fines and taxes are not paid, they will accumulate, and eventually, the government will repossess the property.

Liabilities of owning an abandoned house

In Texas, property owners could be liable if a trespasser is injured, but only if the “injury was caused by gross negligence or an intentional act by the property owner.” With an abandoned house, dangers are likely present. If the owner doesn’t fix these issues, an injured trespasser could have a valid claim, even if they were on the property illegally.

According to Texas' attractive nuisance laws, property owners must ensure that a child will be safe on the premises, even if the child trespasses onto the property. Therefore, if you don’t ensure the safety of your abandoned property, you would be liable if a child gets injured.

Is it legal to sell an abandoned building or house in Texas?

Yes, you can sell an abandoned building or house in Texas “as-is,” which means that any repairs or renovations do not need to be made by the seller before the sale. What the buyer sees is what they get, but you are required by law to disclose any and all known defects to the buyer in a disclosure statement.

Failure to disclose accurate information to the best of your knowledge can have legal ramifications. For instance, if the buyer discovers later that you knew about significant flaws but did not share this information, they can file a lawsuit against you.

How do you sell an abandoned house?

You have three options on how to sell your abandoned house. You can use a real estate agent, sell it for sale by owner (FSBO), or to a professional house buyer.

If you use a real estate agent to list your abandoned property on the traditional market, you'll need to pay the agent’s commission and fees. This means you'll net less money from the sale. Also, it may not be worth paying an agent to list the home on the MLS, when property investors, not typical homebuyers, are likely the only pool of potential buyers for an abandoned house.

If you decide to go the FSBO route, you may net more money from the sale, but it will cost you more in time. Even if you do find potential buyers, contracts can fall through, and you'll need to start the selling process all over again.

Another option is to sell your abandoned house quickly and hassle-free to a professional home buyer, like AMI. We can give you a cash offer, regardless of its condition. We also pay all closing costs and can finalize the sale quickly after you accept our offer. To get started, fill out our cash offer form, and we will get back to you with a no-obligation cash offer within 48 hours.

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Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman is the owner of AMI House Buyers and a seasoned real estate investor with a heavy focus on the Houston & Katy, Texas areas. She has done numerous flips, has owned multiple rental properties, and is also a licensed real estate agent in the state of Texas. She is heavily experienced in the areas of foreclosures, water damaged properties, burnouts, and inherited properties, and works with distressed homeowners in all types of situations to help them understand their options and find potential solutions.


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