An empty property can provide an excellent opportunity to redevelop an existing property which can be either rented out or later sold at a profit.

More often than not an empty property will require some work to bring it back into use. It is important that there are sufficient funds to cover such work before buying the property.

Financing A Prchase And Renovation Work

The cost to you will be the cost of the empty house plus the refurbishment costs. Like any house purchase you will need to have enough money to put down a deposit and pay for it either by providing the capital or taking out a mortgage.

Mortgages for renovating empty properties can be hard to find. The problem is that derelict (run-down) properties aren’t worth much until they are renovated. If you want to borrow money for both buying and renovating a property, you will be asking for more than it is actually worth in its run-down state. From a lender’s point of view this is high risk because, if you don’t repay the loan, the property isn't worth enough for them to get back the money they have lent you if they repossess the property.

Where to find an empty property

Estate Agents

Your local estate agent should be your first port of call. They might not have photographs of empty properties in their shop window, but that does not mean that they have not got some for sale. They may have a property which has been on their books for some time if you ask. Given it has not sold quickly you may be able to get a good discount on it.

Auction Houses

Auction catalogues are also a good place to find empty properties that are for sale. If you want to buy a property at an auction, you should be aware of the following.

  • It is up to you to find out details of the property before the auction day
  • You need to have all financial arrangements, such as a mortgage, in place before the auction
  • If your bid is successful, you must go through with the purchase within a specified number of days

Websites

The following websites specialise in empty properties:

Keep A Look Out

If you have a reasonably clear idea of the geographical location in which you want to buy a home, you could just have a wander round and see what properties are there. Don’t try and save time and drive instead, you won’t be able to look at the properties properly, or if you do you will probably crash your car. It’s amazing what you will see when you are walking; most roads have a few rather unloved looking houses on them. Some may be empty, and there may be the odd redundant commercial or agricultural building that may inspire you with its potential.

Tracing An Owner

You could fasten a notice on the door of the empty property saying that you would like to contact the owner and talk to neighbours and any neighbourhood community groups as well as local shopkeepers who may know the owner.

You could contact the planning and building control departments of your local council. If they have dealt with planning applications from the owner, they may be able to help. And they can help you to find any on-going planning applications by the owner.

If the property is in a rural area, you could contact the local parish council. The parish clerk may be able to help.

You could contact your local neighbourhood watch group – they might know something about the property. For details of your nearest neighbourhood watch group, contact your local police station.

You could search your District Land Registry which has information on all owners of registered land. If you fill in form 313, the details will be sent to you within 48 hours (cost £4). This is a useful way to find the owner's name, but the address given is often the same as the empty property address.

Most properties are registered at the Land Registry. For a small fee you can look at the register and see who the owner is. Be aware though that you may find the name of the owner of the property but the owners address may well be the same as the empty property.

If the land is not registered, the Land Registry will not have any information, but you could search the Land Charges Registry (Form K15 - cost £3). This will give you the owner's details if there are any charges against the property (for example, a second mortgage) or if bankruptcy papers have been filed. Contact Land Charges Registry on 01752 635600.

Once you know the owner's name, you could trace them using a search agency – look in your local Yellow Pages under ‘Detective Agencies’ or contact the Talking Pages. This is often the easiest way to trace an owner, but you will have to pay a fee which can range from about £20 to around £200.

If the owner of the empty home has died and the will is disputed, or the heirs do not come forward, the property can sit ‘in limbo' while the identity of the new owner is established. During this time there will be a question mark over who is responsible for it.

If you do find the owner you can approach them to see if they are willing to sell. Remember that owners may be reluctant to sell their empty homes for a whole variety of reasons.