Although most cities and counties would prefer not to be in the real estate business, there are numerous reasons that a governmental entity might hold title to land or buildings.
Occasionally a city will sell its own land or outdated facilities. More often, though, property is offered for sale in an effort to recover unpaid taxes or to cover expenses associated with condemnation or abandonment. Selling cheap is often wiser than tearing a building down. In some instances, buyers can acquire property at bargain prices.
Occasionally, a city with blighted properties will offer properties that require a commitment from buyers to restore, repair, modernize, or suggest new uses for existing structures. Options might also include razing an existing building or, bringing it up to current code, restoring or replacing infrastructure, or participating in an urban greening project. Some cities see these efforts as ways to revitalize urban areas, restore community health and reduce the stress of modern life.
There are dream deals available for individuals with a pioneer spirit and no aversion to hard work. In some cases, willing participants can purchase properties for as little as a dollar and a promise to improve them. Cities in the rust belt, including Buffalo, N.Y., and Gary, Ind., have used this tactic in lieu of demolition to encourage redevelopment of certain neighborhoods. Philadelphia and Detroit, Fort Worth and St. Louis have employed some version of an incentive program to encourage community building and to act as an antidote to poverty, unemployment and crime.
Looking for Deals
Properties that are on Derelict.com are typically on city and county rolls because of tax liens, utility foreclosure or abandonment and are often the better deals, available to buyers at reasonable prices through bid, negotiation or at auction. They commonly require some work, and assessments or judgments must be cleared. There may be additional restrictions or requirements, but such properties can be prime candidates for refurbishment and offer reasonable return on investment.
This modern version of the sale on the courthouse steps, sometimes includes a bid date with a deadline for submitting offers to the governmental authority. Prospective buyers should always personally inspect such property and perform due diligence prior to submitting an offer. Whether or not there is a suggested minimum bid, know that, just as with other real estate transactions, you will be liable for specific costs associated with the sale, perhaps including legal fees.
Once in your hands, any property so obtained is yours, subject to city and county ordinances and requirements.