Why Are So Many Mansions Abandoned? (7 Curious Facts)

You might understand why a small house ends up abandoned, but a large mansion?

Who walks away from one of those?

A mansion is a large house with no agreed definition, and you’d expect more than 5000 square feet of floor space and multiple rooms.

why are mansions abandoned

Why Do Mansions Become Abandoned Buildings?

Owning a large house is no barrier to having to leave it empty.

People who own mansions end up abandoning their property for all the reasons people abandon smaller homes.

#1 Economic

A mansion costs more to heat, cool, and maintain.

If the owner needs to move for work or other reasons, there is a limited pool of available buyers who want to take on a mansion.

If a significant local employer goes bust, the impact hits mansion owners harder than others because they have more capital invested in their homes.

In a booming economy, a developer may look for mansions to convert into hotels, but there is little point if the location doesn’t provide paying customers.

#2 Restrictions

A mansion is more likely to have planning restrictions because it may be culturally significant, which may apply to who can live in the property and its potential uses.

In theory, converting a mansion into apartments for rent is an attractive and profitable project, but not if the restrictions in place make it prohibitively challenging.

#3 Environmental

Coastal erosion, volcanos, and floods don’t differentiate between the mansion and the cottage.

If there is a natural disaster or another catastrophe in an area, a mansion with higher repair costs may be one of the first buildings to be left empty for a long time.

In some countries, armed conflict and high property taxes may mean owners have little choice but to leave the mansion.

#4 Taxes and Legal Issues

Disputes over ownership, unpaid property taxes, divorce, bank foreclosure, and conflicts with neighbors can all pressure a mansion’s owner.

Unless you have bottomless pockets, it doesn’t take much to mean that it is cheaper for you to leave the mansion empty rather than throwing more money into the money pit.

#5 Unfinished Development

If you try to develop a grand house on a shoestring budget, there is a strong possibility that you will run out of money before completion.

Perhaps the developer was creating luxury apartments and discovered rising dampness as part of the project, or the housing market crashed.

A significant number of construction projects overrun their budget.

If your ambitions outstrip your pockets, then you abandon the project partway.

#6 Bad Reputation

A mansion can acquire a poor reputation that puts off a potential buyer. It may have an unsavory history.

Many mansions get a reputation for being haunted, and this idea discourages potential owners.

The surrounding area may have seen better days and declined in status.

The longer a large house remains empty, the more costly it is to raise it to acceptable living standards.

In an urban setting, the mansion may be a hub for illegal activity, and potential new owners may find the challenge of taking ownership and improving security before renovating too much effort.

#7 Ugly and Gaudy

The mansion may be a hideous building, and someone with the money to build a large house is not necessarily someone with excellent taste in architecture.

Alternatively, the structure may be quirky because the first owner made a statement with their building.

Some mansions are unattractive even to developers.

If restrictions mean you can’t demolish it, the owner may be waiting for a happy accident to befall the ugly mansion.

Why Do Celebrities and Millionaires Abandon Their Mansions?

Celebrities and millionaires abandon their mansions for reasons that revolve around financial and emotional.

For a high-net-worth individual, the mansion may not be a home, or they may spend a limited amount of time present in the mansion.

The rest of the time, it stays empty – possibly with a staff team popping in once a week to ensure everything is maintained and clean.

Living in a mansion may attract too much attention. Perhaps the retiring celebrity likes a big mansion for parties and interviews while keeping their real home hidden from public view.

Death, divorce, or scandal may result in a mansion staying empty for decades while various legal teams argue about the rights and ownership.

A millionaire may not want to live in a mansion but not feel a pressing need to sell before moving somewhere else. The mansion may be part of their property portfolio as a capital investment.

In the meantime, the mansion appears abandoned and unloved.

Why Are There So Many Abandoned Mansions in Europe?

Europe has centuries of historic buildings, and the ones most likely to survive are mansions and larger homes.

The reasons why you get so many abandoned mansions in European countries are:

  • Wrong location – mass migration from rural areas to the cities.
  • War – armed conflict displaces many people.
  • Property taxes – the impact of punitive takes on death results in mansions passing into government hands.
  • Economic – these large buildings cost too much to maintain and may have restrictions on renovation.
  • Disaster – volcanoes, floods, and pollution all render some buildings uninhabitable.
  • Confusion over ownership – inheritance laws in Europe can be complex with missing heirs.

Why Are Most Abandoned Mansions in the US?

There is no database of empty mansions, although some governments attempt to keep a local register of abandoned houses.

Abandoned mansions can become local landmarks – especially when they become ruins rather than houses.

The cities with the greatest number of vacant homes include:

  • Detroit – when the automobile factories closed, unemployment meant migration out of the area.
  • Flint, Michigan – water pollution and unemployment.
  • Baltimore – economic decline.
  • Youngstown, Ohio – pollution and compulsory purchase to create a national park.
  • Jackson, Mississippi – high taxes and a general economic decline.
  • Toledo, Ohio – foreclosure crisis.
  • Macon, Georgia – plenty of speculation ranging from haunting to economic.
  • Montgomery, Alabama – a reputation for violence and crime.
  • Petersburg, Florida – rising sea level due to climate change.
  • Saginaw, Michigan – economic decline following loss of employment.

A proportion of the vacant housing stock in these areas classes as mansions.

In some cases, local government is dealing with the issue of vacant properties blighting an area by wholesale removal of empty buildings.

Mansions have the potential for conversion into apartments or businesses, and if they are in reasonable repair, they may be left standing as a development opportunity.

Where Do You Find Abandoned Mansions in Europe?

Every country in Europe has abandoned mansions because of the move from rural to urban living and the impact of wars and natural disasters.

Italy, France, and Spain all have one euro deals on property to regenerate abandoned towns and villages, and Croatia offers a similar scheme.

These properties have restrictions on your age and living arrangements because the idea is to repopulate an area by attracting young people and families.

When it comes to finding a mansion, these may be included in the regeneration deal.

Still, it is more likely that you need to track down the original owner and negotiate independently.

Can Abandoned Mansions Live Again?

Abandoned mansions can convert into apartments that suit smaller households, offices, workshops, museums, art galleries, and attractive hotels.

Mansions typically have many larger rooms that provide pleasant living and working spaces with careful renovation.

If a mansion is culturally significant, local historical preservation groups may take an interest in restoring the mansion as a museum for future generations to enjoy.

This fate is more likely if someone famous lived in this mansion.

A recent example is Stephen King (author), who is moving to turn his mansion in Maine into an archive and writer’s retreat.

George Washington mansion at Mount Vernon is a tourist attraction that shows how mansions help carry history into the present.

Older mansions with historical significance are more likely to be subject to preservation orders, meaning restoration must preserve the original features.

This restriction contributes to the reasons why people abandon mansions.

Are Abandoned Mansions a Cheap Buy?

An abandoned mansion can be a cheap house purchase.

Strangely, you can pay less for a mansion than a new-build family home. But you will face the cost of renovation, and the mansion may not be in a desirable location.

But if you are not geographically restricted for work, have a large family, or want to set up a business with a group of partners, a mansion, may be a cost-effective solution to your needs.


Mansions are as easily abandoned as houses when living conditions in an area become difficult.

Unlike standard houses, mansions are more likely to survive as ruins because the construction is better and the materials more durable.

If you have a dream to lie in a mansion, you don’t need to build one from the ground; you can find one to restore and own a piece of history.

Become an urban explorer and find the hidden gems that need some tender loving care to shine again.