Finding the Most Affordable Abandoned or Fixer-Upper Homes For Sale

Some abandoned, or rundown properties can be purchased affordably and renovated into livable homes. Use this guide to locate and buy bargains under $20,000.

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Search Real Estate Listings Extensively for Distressed Homes:

The first step is spending ample time scouring real estate aggregate sites like Zillow, Trulia,, and local MLS home searches looking for any listings advertising abandoned, vacant, rundown, or boarded-up homes priced under $20,000. Utilize search filters for properties listed below $20,000 and scrutinize photos for signs of neglect like overgrown landscaping, broken windows, outdated interiors, peeling paint, or obvious disrepair issues.

If structurally sound, abandoned property may show potential beyond superficial cosmetic repairs, making it a diamond in the rough bargain worth investing sweat equity into transforming into your home. Drive by any listings that look vacant or need to be addressed to inspect the overall property condition and location. Listings don’t always openly advertise disrepair, so careful analysis of all photos, description details, and neighborhood context provides insights. Evaluating many real estate listings for fixer-upper potential takes time but can uncover abandoned home gems.

Monitor Local Foreclosure Auctions for Distressed Properties:

Keep a close eye on local foreclosure and auction listings in your state which frequently include neglected or abandoned houses sold below market value by banks and lenders. Sites like Hubzu aggregate nationwide online foreclosure auctions by zip code so you can hone in on your specific area. Attend live foreclosure auctions in person, if available, in your county to preview property conditions and learn the buying process.

Review all property previews, listing details, and inspection reports before bidding to assess the extent of rehabilitation work needed. Factor in necessary repairs to determine a maximum bidding price that would still allow you to purchase the property affordably. Government sites like GSA Real Estate Auctions also list foreclosed, excess, and abandoned government-owned properties being sold “as-is,” which can present fixer-upper opportunities if priced low enough. Monitoring foreclosure listings takes diligence but gives access to some of the most neglected yet affordable houses.

Research Tax Lien Sales Through County Records:

Another avenue to potentially purchase an abandoned property at an ultra-low price is researching state or county tax lien sales and tax deed auctions. Tax-delinquent left houses may eventually get seized and sold by the county at auction to recover the homeowner’s unpaid property taxes. The sales present an opportunity to bid on and purchase the distressed home well below market value.

Use online search tools and databases like GovDeals and Bid4Assets that compile listings of upcoming government tax lien sales and auctions across different counties and states. You can browse by location to identify options in your desired area. Also, check directly with your county clerk’s office to ask about any scheduled lien sales and tax auctions on the horizon and how to participate. These transactions typically require bidding against others, but the opening bid amounts can still be shockingly low in more rural locations or for dilapidated properties. If securing the winning bid, just be prepared to take on the needed fixes and renovations.

Search Neighborhoods for Unlisted "For Sale By Owner" Signs:

Some of the most overlooked, affordable, abandoned, or severely neglected homes never get listed online or placed into foreclosure auctions by banks. These properties include old, rundown family homes where the owners moved or passed away years ago, and the house has sat vacant ever since. Finding these requires old-fashioned legwork searching rural areas or small towns for handmade “For Sale By Owner” signs posted outside rundown houses.

Look for boarded-up windows, failing foundations, collapsing porches, and other signs of long-term emptiness. Stop to retrieve the seller’s contact information from the character or neighbors and ask about the home’s condition, how long it’s been abandoned, and why they’re trying to unload it. Be prepared to make a cash offer dramatically below $20,000 contingent on being able to inspect the property thoroughly. Connecting directly with sellers can help uncover hidden fixer-upper diamonds not advertised elsewhere.


Purchasing an abandoned, distressed home priced at only a fraction of its future potential value presents an exciting opportunity for ambitious DIYers and homebuilders able to transform such a neglected property through extensive repairs and renovations. Be diligent in searching online real estate listings, monitoring foreclosure auction platforms, researching upcoming county tax sales, and driving neighborhoods searching for unadvertised “For Sale By Owner” signs on vacant homes. While it requires vision, sweat equity, and persistence, condemnable houses can be purchased affordably nationwide and rebuilt into your customized dwelling, saving huge sums versus buying a move-in ready home. An abandoned bargain property can become your revitalized dream home with the proper persistence and elbow grease.

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