Surplus real estate in Houston, TX falls under the jurisdiction of the General Services Department. Surplus real property is sold via auction or through specialized brokers.
Houston hope is an initiative of the Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority (LARA). LARA makes city-owned, vacant land available to builders and developers in order to promote affordable housing.
About the Properties
Most vacant land parcels in Houston listed on Derelict.com are city-owned. The Houston buildings and houses found on Derelict.com are reported as vacant or blighted but may not be abandoned or city-owned. This does not mean that the structures are not available for purchase. Oftentimes these properties are owned by absentee owners who are willing to sell when approached since they have no existing use for the building or they do not have the financial capacity to bring the properties up to code.
Note: We highly recommend finding a good real estate lawyer to help you through the acquisition process.
Step 1 - Check City of Houston 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. If you do not find your property on one of these sites, proceed to Step 2.
General Services Department - Surplus city-owned real estate.
Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority (LARA) - This site gives information about how to obtain LARA managed properties.
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.
Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector - Will give you the owner's name and information on property taxes. If taxes are past due they would need to be settled if you took ownership.
Harris County Appraisal District - This site will give you both the owner's name and the assessed value.
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.
Harris County Clerk - Search the real property section with the owner's name as both the grantor and the grantee (not both at the same time). You will need a free account to view documents.
Existing Permit Search - Sometimes the property has already begun to be rehabbed or has prior work. Check here to find out. Search for building permits sold in the last three years. Use "job address" as the search criteria and use the property street number and street.
Harris County District Court - Search for court cases that may be tied to the property owner and the property.
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:
Harris County Clerk - Search the probate courts section. You will need a free account to view documents.
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.