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Chicago, IL
121 N. LaSalle, Room 900, Chicago, Illinois, 60602

Step-by-Step Guide to Buying Chicago, Illinois, Neglected, Vacant and Abandoned Real Estate

Vacant and abandoned buildings in Chicago, IL fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Buildings.  The mission of the department is to support the safety and quality of life for Chicago residents through enforcement of the Chicago Building Code.  They are also concerned with the conservation, rehabilitation, and reuse of the city's existing buildings.

About the Properties

All vacant land parcels in Chicago listed on Derelict.com are city-owned.  The Chicago buildings and houses found on Derelict.com are reported as vacant but may not be abandoned or city owned. This does not mean that the structures are not available for purchase.  Oftentimes vacant properties are owned by absentee owners who are more than eager to sell. 

Note: We highly recommend finding a good real estate lawyer to help you through the acquisition process.

Step 1 - Check City of Chicago Sites

Start with the following sites and cross-check the property you found on Derelict.com.  If you find the property there then it makes things much easier as it means the property is city-owned.  Simply follow the instructions on the site and contact the Department of Buildings.  If you do not find your property on one of these sites, proceed to Step 2.

City-Owned Historic Buildings for Sale - Limited selection but worth a look.

City-Owned Vacant Land - Includes a program overview and application.

Step 2 - Identify the Property Owner

There are two places online that will help you find the owner of the property using just a street address. You should check them both.

Cook County Property Search - Property records online.  Will also help you get the Property Index Number (PIN) that you will need for later searches. 

Cook County Recorder of Deeds - This site will show you who currently owns the property.  You will need the PIN for this search.

If that didn't work, try PublicData.com or PeopleFinders. These are both paid services so they have access to a lot more databases.

Step 3 - Research Property Background

This step is very important to help you get a better understanding of the property's history and potential issues before you approach the owner to see if they are willing to sell. 

Cook County Treasurer's Office - Property tax information.  Shows you if taxes are past due.  These would need to be settled if you took ownership.

Cook County Assessor's Office - Current value assessment information.

Code Violations - Check here for any code violations on the property.  You will need to make any repairs to bring the property up to code.

Cook County Circuit Court - Search for court cases that may be tied to the property owner and the property.

Existing Permit Search - Sometimes the property has already begun to be rehabbed.  Check here to find out.

Department of Buildings - The Department of Buildings has jurisdiction over all vacant and abandoned property in Chicago.

Step 4 - Contact the Owner

At this point you should have enough information to be able to contact the owner to see if they are willing to sell.  If the contact information for the owner is old, you may need to do a little more digging to find them.  Again, you might need a paid service like PublicData.com or PeopleFinders. There is also a possibility that the owner is deceased and their estate is probated.  To find the will of the deceased and learn the name of the new owners you can use the following site:

Cook County Circuit Court - Search for wills and probate cases tied to the deceased owner.

If you've determined the owner is deceased and there was no will recorded, the process for acquiring the property becomes much more involved and can take years to complete.  To acquire the property you would need to have the property escheated.


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