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How To Sell an Abandoned House in Massachusetts

If you own an abandoned house in Massachusetts and are looking to sell, you likely feel overwhelmed by the process. Abandoned homes are more common than one might think — according to one estimate, one in 63 residential properties in the U.S. is vacant. But what exactly counts as abandoned property, and what’s the best way to sell one in Massachusetts?

What is abandoned property?

Abandoned property is an asset (such as a home or vehicle) that its owner has voluntarily deserted. Generally, a vacant property is considered abandoned after several years of being unoccupied. If the state can’t reach the owner after a certain period of time, they can take legal action to seize the property. 

According to the Massachusetts Abandoned Housing Initiative, their office has received over 2,200 abandoned property complaints in 140 cities across the state. If the state can’t reach the owner of an abandoned house after three years, they might ask the court system to name a “receiver” to take over the property and bring it up to code. 

What is a receiver?

A receiver is an individual or company appointed by the Massachusetts court system to revive abandoned properties. The state takes this action because abandoned properties cause harm to communities and impact public safety. According to the National Vacant Properties Campaign, neighborhoods with vacant homes experienced 3.2 times as many drug-related crime complaints.

Appointing a receiver is a last resort for the state (it prefers to work directly with the owner). However, if the property is endangering the community, the state has no choice but to intervene. If you own an abandoned property, it’s crucial to address it sooner rather than later or risk losing your home.

The role of the receiver is to inspect the home and conduct repairs to get it into a safe and habitable condition. The state might sell the house to reimburse the receiver if the owner doesn’t come forward once the repairs are finished. 

Why do people abandon homes?

People abandon homes for many reasons, including:

  • Unable or unwilling to complete necessary repairs
  • Can’t afford the mortgage payments anymore
  • Death of the owner
  • Reluctance to sell an inherited home
  • Natural disasters
  • Unsafe neighborhood
  • Needing to move quickly 

For example, let’s say someone inherited a house that needs expensive repairs before it can be sold or rented out. If the new owner can’t afford the repairs but isn’t willing to sell the home, the house will sit there and eventually be classified as abandoned if the proper actions aren’t taken.

Risks of an abandoned house 

Abandoned properties aren’t just eyesores; they pose various dangers and risks to the community.

  • Public safety: Abandoned houses are hotbeds of criminal activity. According to the Massachusetts Abandoned Housing Initiative’s 2019 annual report, an abandoned house in Worcester was frequently broken into, and drug paraphernalia was found in the home.
  • Squatters: Abandoned properties can attract uninvited occupants. One of the dangers with squatters is that they can appeal to legally take up residence in an abandoned house after a certain number of years through a process called adverse possession. In Massachusetts, a squatter can file for adverse possession after 20 years of continuous occupancy in a property.
  • Costs: Taxes, utilities, and maintenance costs continue to accrue on abandoned properties. You’re on the hook for these expenses as long as your name is still on the deed. An abandoned house will deteriorate without proper upkeep, resulting in more costs down the road. Additionally, unpaid tax bills make it more challenging to sell a home and may result in foreclosure. 
  • Property values: An abandoned property lowers its own property value and the values of the houses around it. Not many people want to buy a home next to a vacant property in a state of disrepair. When you sell the property, you likely won’t be able to fetch top dollar. 
  • Public health: Abandoned properties are public health hazards. If a property is abandoned, odds are the owner isn’t keeping up with the maintenance. They might not have cared what shape it was in when they abandoned it. For example, maybe they left trash and clutter, attracting pests. 

How to sell an abandoned house in Massachusetts

Once you’ve decided to sell the property, there are a few questions you need to answer first.

What condition is the property in?

The first thing you want to figure out is the property’s condition. If repairs are required, how extensive are they? Are they cosmetic or more serious structural issues? If the property is in a severe state of disrepair, it will be challenging to sell to a traditional buyer, which is why many owners of abandoned homes decide to sell as-is to a cash home investor.

Will you sell it yourself or hire a real estate agent?

The next question is whether you should hire a real estate listing agent to sell the property or list it for sale by the owner (FSBO). It will be more challenging to find buyers for an abandoned house, especially if it’s in bad shape. One of the benefits of working with an agent is access to their network of potential buyers.

Should you make a traditional sale or sell to an investor?

A traditional sale will be more challenging with an abandoned house. Selling the property as-is to a reputable cash house buyer can save time and get money in your pocket faster. If you decide to sell to a cash buyer, do your research and choose a company with good reviews. 

The bottom line

Though selling an abandoned home poses certain challenges and can take longer than a traditional sale, it is possible. Start by assessing the property’s condition. From there, you can decide if it’s worth it to make the needed repairs or if selling to an investor makes more sense.

We pay cash for abandoned homes in Massachusetts

If you own an abandoned property in Massachusetts and want to sell it fast, we can help. Give us a call at 781-309-7085 or get your cash home offer online today.

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