Empty property. There are an estimated 850,000 empty homes in the UK and enough empty commercial property to create 420,000 new homes. So it is worth considering trying to find an empty property to buy and renovate. Here we will try and provide information to do just that. Remember an empty property no matter the condition will be owned by someone so it is worth finding out who owns the empty property and making them an offer to buy it. There are also other points to consider with empty properties before you decide to invest in them.

  • Make sure you can make changes that you want to the property. Maybe the current owner shares your vision to transform the property into a beautiful home but has been knocked back by the local council and decided to sell. It is always worth checking the details before making an offer no matter how keen you are to buy the empty property.
  • Old empty properties cost a lot of money to change into beautiful homes. Double check your figures and add at least another 15%. Have you considered every aspect of the build and thought of every possible financial situation? Did we all see the episode of Gran Designs were they had to pay for an Arcyologist report?
  • Choosing the right people to work with is imperative to work running smoothly so give some thought to choosing the right builder for you.
  • Make sure the builder has experience of the specific job you will be asking them to do, have they done this type of work before and will they have the knowledge to choose the correct building materials to transform your empty house, into your vision?
  • It may be worth seeing if you are eligible for a grant. Rescuing empty properties can mean some organisations are prepared to help financially.

How to find an empty property for your dream project

There are many things you can do to find an empty property and some great tips here for you. The main piece of advice for locating an empty property is to keep your eyes peeled. Have a drive around your key location. It is thought roughly one in twenty properties in the UK are empty.

You could also try

  • The council – Your local council will probably have a list of all the empty properties in their area. Some councils will be happy to let you see the information, but beware that others may not be so open. If they won’t disclose the information you could make a written request – you’ve got a legal right to request it.
  • Estate agents – Their shop windows don’t want to be cluttered with pictures of wrecks, but that doesn’t mean to say that they haven’t got some houses in need of rescuing in the back of the filing cabinet. So, make sure you ask to see what’s available.
  • Online auctions – Auction catalogues are a good place to find empty properties that are for sale. On the web look out for specialist websites that specialise in empty properties.
  • Land for sale - More often than not building land for sale has already got a house on it that the seller is inviting you to buy to demolish. Often the house is beyond saving but sometimes it’s salvageable.

Finding out who owns empty property

So now you have found an empty property, you need to know who owns the property. It may be as simple as asking the people who live nearby. If you explain to them why you want to know, they will probably be happy to tell you. You can perform a who owns property search to locate the owner. Land registry can do this for you.

Most local authorities have a register of empty properties and know who the owner is. Local authorities have different policies on disclosing this information. If your local authority won’t tell you, you could put the request in writing citing the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Most local authorities employ an empty property officer whose job it is to get empty properties back in use. The officers work by persuading owners that it’s more valuable to have a lived-in property than to have it vacant. They often have good contacts and can help to match up property owners with ready-made schemes and local housing providers. If this is unsuccessful, many have powers to compel owners to do something about the property, these include:

Mortgages

It can be more difficult to get a mortgage on an empty property as the value of empty properties is quite low until the renovations are done there are so some of the lenders offering mortgage products particularly suited to rescuing empty properties: The Ecology Building Society, Buildstore, The Co-operative Bank and the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society.  Remember to do some of your own searches too.

Owning an empty property

Once you have the keys to the property you can begin your work. Make sure you choose the right builder for the job. Make sure they have plenty of experience as working with older properties that have been empty for a long time can bring up more problems than you could imagine and it good to have a builder that has the necessary skills to help the renovation of the empty property run smoothly and without fuss.