Do you dream of living in a mansion with plenty of space for you, your family, and your friends?
Have you considered finding and buying an abandoned mansion?
Your dream of living in a mansion may be more affordable than you think.
1. Can You Buy Abandoned Mansions?
Regardless of why mansions become abandoned, a deserted one is still a piece of property, and it is available for purchase.
It may be currently home to bats and feral cats and disappearing under vegetation, but someone somewhere owns that plot of land and the mansion that sits on it.
There may be no for sale sign, but it is still available for you to buy if you do some detective work and put on your negotiation hat.
2. Can You Claim an Abandoned Mansion?
Why bother with the process of buying if an abandoned mansion is just sitting there waiting for someone to claim it?
A route allows you to take over an abandoned mansion with or without the owner’s permission. The technical legal term is adverse possession – you assert a right to the property against the actual owner.
Informally this process is called squatters rights.
Depending on the property’s location, there are different rules regarding unclaimed or abandoned land or property.
Most states have an abandoned property register. A property enters State hands if:
- The owner dies, and there are no heirs.
- Property taxes are unpaid.
- The owner physically leaves and fails to maintain the property.
If you find an abandoned mansion, it is worth checking your local tax and land registry to establish the position.
The rules can be complex, and you may prefer to consult a lawyer to help you take over the property.
Typically, you need to pay the back taxes (which can be without limit and significant) and registration fees. When you start investigating, you may discover the owners are still paying their taxes, but at least this gives you a starting point for negotiation.
The alternative route is to move in and occupy the mansion. Before considering this route find out what the local rules are on adverse possession (see bottom-of-page link).
It can be as little as three years, but on average, you must successfully occupy the property for ten years or more.
The downside of squatting is that the owner can legally evict you after you’ve spent money on restoring the property and before you gain a legal title.
Claiming an abandoned mansion is never without some financial outlay and effort, but it is possible.
3. Can You Live in an Abandoned Mansion?
The ease of living in an abandoned mansion depends on legalities and physical condition.
If you move into a mansion and camp out in the rooms, you are trespassing on someone else’s property. If you intend to exert squatters’ rights, you will be moving in without permission.
If you buy the mansion, you need to assess the physical safety of moving in versus the need for restoration work before you live in the building.
An abandoned mansion is likely to be a restoration project, and although you can live on-site while working on the property, you may need to consider how to make some rooms weatherproof before you can live in the mansion.
An abandoned mansion is unlikely to be ready for comfortable occupation from day one.
The factors you need to consider are:
- Risk of parts of the structure falling.
- Clearing debris like broken glass.
- Making the roof leakproof.
- Repairing weather damage to walls and floors.
- Restoring power.
- Heating and cooling.
If you take over an abandoned mansion, be prepared to camp until completing the restoration.
4. How to Find an Abandoned Mansion
Local knowledge is the best source of information on abandoned mansions, but you can begin your search online.
Google Earth gives you a bird’s eye view of an area, and you may spot some potential places to look at properties that may class as abandoned.
Most places have a register of land and property ownership.
It’s worth meeting with local government officials to find out how they register abandoned property. These officials are likely to be helpful because it is in their interests for people to restore the property.
Abandoned mansions are a blight on the landscape as they attract bored teenagers and potential criminal activity.
You may want to employ a lawyer to do your initial searching as they can provide an assessment of the difficulties you will face in acquiring a particular property.
After some online exploration, the easiest way to find a potential abandoned mansion is through a physical search of an area.
Excellent sources of information are mail carriers, delivery guys, realtors, and dog walkers.
If you don’t want to drive or walk around an area, consider exploring by drone – but check the regulations in the area first because you intend to look at properties, and some of those properties are occupied.
A drone is excellent for finding rural mansions but not so appropriate in an urban setting.
5. How to Find the Owner of an Abandoned Mansion
Every abandoned mansion has an owner. Who owns the abandoned mansion may be a mystery, but an owner is in the background.
Your first clue will be the property taxes.
If the property taxes are in arrears, then the state may be happy to give you a legal claim to the mansion in exchange for payment of past property taxes.
Otherwise, it is reasonable to assume that whoever pays the property taxes owns the mansion or can put you in touch with the owner.
Once you find the owner, you can find out if they are willing to sell the mansion to you and what they expect as a sales price.
6. Pros and Cons of Buying an Abandoned Mansion
The reasons why buying an abandoned mansion is attractive include:
- The joy of restoration – taking on a project like an abandoned mansion appeals to the creative spirit.
- Interesting architecture – older buildings have more exciting features than newer builds.
- More house for your money – you expect to gain more living space in a mansion.
- Combination of business and home – you may want to run a small hotel or other business.
- Conversion into multiple homes means a profit from selling part of the building to pay for your home.
The cons of buying an abandoned mansion are:
- Taking on more work than you can afford or handle.
- Difficulties with gaining permission and consent.
- Dealing with a historic building.
- Unexpected structural or legal issues.
- Inconvenient location.
The most significant risk of an abandoned mansion is that it can become a money pit where the costs spiral out of control.
7. How to Buy an Abandoned Mansion
The first step in purchasing an abandoned mansion is determining how you will finance the purchase, legal fees, and restoration costs.
Unless you have plenty of cash, you may need specialist finance. It is worth checking to see if restoration grants are available in your area to bring the property back into use.
The next step is locating the owner and opening negotiations for the legal transfer of the property.
As part of the process, you will want to pay for surveys (especially a structural survey) and consider any other reasons that enable you to negotiate a lower price.
Suppose you intend to restore the property for resale. In that case, you may be able to negotiate a partnership with the owner where they contribute the building to the joint venture, and you provide the working capital.
A specialist property lawyer is an essential part of the process to protect your interests and prevent you from making a costly mistake.
8. How Much Does an Abandoned Mansion Cost?
The fair price of an abandoned mansion depends on many factors:
- Price of land.
- Historical value.
- State of repair.
- Potential market value on restoration.
The less desirable the area, the less money you will pay for the mansion, but the future marketability of the mansion also decreases.
You will pay considerably more for the property in a place where land is scarce.
You can pay as little as $1,000 but on average, expect between $50,000 and $150,000 for a dilapidated mansion. More historic buildings with a parcel of land may sell for considerably more.
9. Can You Add an Extension?
The abandoned mansion is a property, and you can add an extension to increase the size or add a sunroom, provided your proposed extension meets local planning conditions.
You may want to add an extension to:
- Increase available living space and value.
- Provide ground floor accommodation for an elderly or disabled relative.
- Provide business accommodation.
The factors to consider are:
- Do you have enough land for the extension?
- Will the extension suit or improve the appearance of the mansion?
- Will the increase in value match the additional costs?
- Are there planning restrictions?
In principle, you can include an extension into your abandoned mansion restoration project.
10. What If It Is a Historical Property?
If the abandoned mansion is listed as a historical property, you may face further restrictions on what you can do with the property.
The precise requirements will depend on the state rules and the building’s significance.
You may face:
- Increased costs because you need to keep original features or facades and use traditional materials.
- Restrictions on extending and renovating the building.
- Restrictions on potential usages.
- Community protest over your proposed development.
- Legislation challenges over remedial works cause delays and additional costs.
Sometimes the exterior of the building must be retained, but there may be requirements to keep interior features making your proposed room remodeling more challenging.
Most people who choose to restore a historical property are happy to work with the building because the wealth of architectural features attracted them to the mansion.
If you have a historical building, it is best to work with a restoration team with a sympathetic approach.
11. After the Dust Has Settled
What to do after you’ve bought and restored your abandoned mansion depends on your project goals.
If your goal was to provide a bespoke family home, you may settle back and enjoy the fruit of your labor.
If this abandoned mansion was your first restoration project, you may get bitten by the developing bug and feel that you want to take on a different building and new challenges.
It helps if you have a clear vision for your abandoned mansion before buying and restoring it.
If you plan to live in it, you may be happy to work slowly to get the details right for you and your family. If you want to profit by flipping and selling, you will have a different approach.
However, you may change your mind when the project is complete.
Depending on the housing market, it may be better to live in the mansion for a few years before selling.
Alternatively, your greatest profit may be on immediate sale after restoration.
As with most things in life, it helps to set goals but be flexible about changing your mind if the situation changes.
You can buy an abandoned mansion and breathe new life into old buildings to create a beautiful home for yourself or sell it for a profit.
For some people, the joy of restoration is an ongoing hobby; no sooner than one project finishes, the lure of the next is calling.
Only you know why you want to buy an abandoned mansion.