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Make Money Finding Vacant Houses

Updated on August 26, 2010

I've been doing this for about six months now and to my surprise, it is a viable source of income. The basic idea is that huge real estate companies want to buy out property. They have access to listed properties for sale through real estate agents and for sale by owners, but they know there are plenty of vacant properties out there that are not listed. They want those leads and they are willing to pay for them.

There is no way for these companies to find these vacant properties without having someone physically go out into the world and look for them. This is where you, the house hunter, come in. These companies will pay you $5.00 for every vacant house you find, photograph, and upload to their website. They require 6 photographs of each property, front, back, one of each side, and photos of the neighborhood in either direction. You also must write down the condition of the house, the estimated square footage, and the address. It might seem like a lot of information for just $5.00, but it doesn't take long to take the photos and write down the information once you find a house, and those $5.00 add up quickly.

The hard part, of course, is finding the vacant properties. I have read a few articles online complaining that the rewards for going out and house hunting do not make up for the gas expenditure and ware and tear on the car. I also would add that it is likely very difficult to drive a car at the slow pace needed to spot vacant houses and find parking to get out to take photos. I absolutely agree that it makes very little sense to do this job via car. The way to make money spotting vacant houses is to do it by bicycle.

Obviously, for those who live in rural areas, house hunting for money is probably not going to get you much income, but for those of us living in large urban areas, roaming the city via bicycle looking for vacant properties can be quite lucrative. It is of course a bit shoot and miss, but on average I find about 15 houses in a 3 hour period of time. That works out to $25 an hour. Now this is not a get rich quick scheme. And it is definitely physically demanding work. But for those who would rather earn $75 biking around the city for the morning instead of for sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours, it is a great way to make money. And of course it means making your own schedule, getting great exercise, going at your own pace, and getting to explore your surroundings.  

There are a few helpful tips I'd like to offer up to those thinking of going out and doing this.

The easiest was to spot a vacant house is to look for boarded up, paper covered or plastic covered windows. If you keep your eyes peeled for nothing else but these signs, you should find a good number of houses.

Check doors for city postings. When a building has been abandoned, there will often be an official city posting on the door saying the building or condemned or does not meet building codes, or there may be a notice from the utility company stating the building's water has been shut off.

Look for no trespassing signs. Certainly many people post these on their buildings that are not abandoned, but I've found that a huge number of abandoned properties have no trespassing signs to keep squatters from breaking in and staying in the house.

Don't bother with houses that have for sale signs, whether they are professional signs or for sale by owner ones. Any property you submit that is already listed will be rejected. They are not interested in these.

Choose a route ahead of time. I usually outline a route via google maps, going up and down residential side streets in a certain neighborhood, and then along the east/ west streets in the same neighborhood the next day.

Be careful. Biking while paying close attention to each house you pass is a bit of a skill. Make sure to watch where you're going, even if this means casing each street twice so you can pay more attention to the road while you're doing it.

Don't get frustrated if you don't find very many properties when you first start or on certain days. My skills at spotting places as well as figuring out what streets to hit have only increased since I started doing this. And there are some days that I get way more properties than average and some days that I get less. It tends to even out in the end.


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    • profile image

      Kay 4 years ago

      I'd pay someone to find vacant properties in Montgomery or bucks county, pa.

    • profile image

      Alanna Davis 4 years ago

      Same as Connie

    • profile image

      Connie 5 years ago

      You stated in your article "these companies" but did not provide the information. What are the names or sites?

    • Mary Merriment profile image

      Mary Merriment 7 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

      I had no idea there was a call for gathering this kind of information. Thanks for all the information and tips.