How to Find Out If a House Was Condemned

By Teo Spengler - Updated April 03, 2017

A house is condemned when serious code violations make it unsafe or unfit for occupancy. Find out if a particular house was condemned by talking to the department of building inspection in the city where the house is located or by reviewing online lists of condemned houses.

What Is a Condemned House?

If people talk about a house being condemned, it means one of two very different things: One involves the government taking over ownership, the other involves serious building violations.

Under its eminent domain power, the government has the right to take over ownership of property owned privately in order to use it for public projects. The government is obligated to pay the owner fair compensation for the property's value. The owner receives notice that the property is condemned, and what price the government will pay for it, which the property owner can contest in court.

Property is also called condemned if government building inspectors determine that it is unfit or unsafe for occupation because of building code violations. The owners of this type of condemned building can try to fix the code issues, but often they will sell these buildings at below-market prices.

Condemned Property Listings

Many real estate investors say that you can build up a lucrative property portfolio by buying condemned properties at low prices, fixing them up quickly and then renting or selling them. You'll find lots of articles online suggesting this as a way to acquire real estate wealth rapidly.

If you are intrigued by this type of scheme, you may be wondering how you can find out about condemned property for sale or how to determine if a particular property is condemned. The answers to both these questions lead you to the building inspection department of the city you are interested in.

One popular way to proceed is to drive around a neighborhood and look for official "condemned" or "stay out" signs that building inspectors post prominently on front doors or walls of properties. If you know what those signs look like, you'll be able to spot them easily. If you see one on a property you're interested in, the odds are that it is a condemned property. Visiting the local building department is a good alternative way to verify that a property has been condemned. Take the property address with you when you go.

Some cities post lists of condemned properties online, including Bloomington, Illinois, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. Others, like Fort Wayne, Indiana, maintain an online databank that contains not just the property address, but also the particular code violations.

About the Author

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.

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