How to Buy Abandoned Property in CA

How to Buy Abandoned Property in CA?

Purchasing abandoned property in California can be a great way to acquire real estate at a discounted price. However, the process requires understanding California real estate law and the steps involved in claiming abandoned properties. This guide will provide a comprehensive overview of buying abandoned property, land, and other properties in California.

What is Considered Abandoned Property in California?

What is Considered Abandoned Property in California

California considers a property abandoned if the owner has physically relinquished or surrendered it, indicating through words or actions that they have given up Ownership, rights, or claims to the property and taken no action to retain rights to the property.

Some common signs that a property may be abandoned include:

  • An unmaintained, dilapidated home with overgrown vegetation
  • Accumulation of trash and debris
  • Disconnected utility services
  • Tax default or delinquency
  • Mortgage default or foreclosure
  • Boarded-up windows and doors
  • No trespassing or condemnation signs

A property is not legally considered abandoned in California until diligent efforts have been made to locate the owner. The steps required to establish abandonment are outlined later in this guide.

Why Buy Abandoned Property in California?

Why Buy Abandoned Property in California?

There are several potential benefits to purchasing abandoned real estate in California:

  • Discounted Sales Price: Since abandoned properties often fall into disrepair with unpaid taxes and liens, buyers can sometimes purchase them well below market value.
  • Fixer-Upper Opportunity: Many abandoned properties provide buyers a “fixer-upper” opportunity to add value through renovations and repairs.
  • Land Value: Even deteriorated structures on abandoned land may hold inherent land value, making it a worthwhile investment.
  • Future Appreciation: After improvements, previously abandoned properties can appreciate significantly when resold.
  • Passive Income: Once fixed, abandoned homes can generate rental income from tenants.

However, there are risks to consider, such as the cost of renovations, back taxes and liens, legal complications, and adverse possession risks. Performing thorough due diligence is crucial.

Steps to Purchasing Abandoned Property in California

Steps to Purchasing Abandoned Property in California

Here is an overview of the typical process for purchasing an abandoned property in California:

1. Identify the Property

  • Research county tax records for properties with delinquent taxes. The county tax assessor’s office can provide this information.
  • Check properties going through foreclosure where the owner has vacated the home.
  • Physically scout areas for apparent signs of abandonment like those described above.
  • Search online real estate listings for fixer-uppers at bargain prices.

2. Perform Due Diligence

Conduct thorough research on any property of interest:

  • Verify property boundaries and Ownership through property records.
  • Check for any back taxes, judgments, or liens on the property’s title report.
  • Ensure there are no additional owners with an interest in the property.
  • Research zoning regulations and allowable property uses.
  • Hire a contractor to inspect the property thoroughly and estimate renovation costs.

3. Establish Legal Abandonment

To establish abandonment in California, you must make diligent efforts to locate the owner by:

  • You are sSearch public property records for owner names, addresses, or contact information.
  • We are cContact any mortgage lender to inquire about the owner.
  • She is posting a notice on the property entrance stating your intent to claim it as abandoned.
  • I am publishing a notice in the local newspaper.

If, after 30 days, the owner cannot be identified or located, the property can be legally claimed as abandoned. Consult a real estate attorney for guidance in navigating this process.

4. File a Lis Pendens

Once abandonment is established, file a lis pendens with the county recorder’s office. This gives public notice that the property is in litigation and protects your right to acquire title.

5. File a Quiet Title Action

The next step is filing a quiet title lawsuit asking the court to remove any potential competing claims on the property’s title. This will formally establish you as the legal owner. It also notifies any unknown owners of your claim on the property, allowing them to contest your takeover of Ownership in court if desired.

6. Gain Ownership

If no opposing claims arise within a set period after filing your quiet title action, the court will likely award you sole legal Ownership of the abandoned property. Congratulations!

7. Rehabilitate and Maintain the Property

As the new legal owner, you now have full authority to renovate, maintain, rent, or resell the abandoned property you have claimed. Pay any unpaid back taxes and address any code violations to avoid issues.

8. Consider Title Insurance

While rare, even after the quiet title process, there is a chance that a previous owner could appear and file a legal claim. Title insurance can protect you against any losses due to competing claims.

Tips for Identifying Good Abandoned Property Opportunities in California

Tips for Identifying Good Abandoned Property Opportunities in California

When searching for abandoned properties to purchase in California, keep these tips in mind:

  • Focus on more affluent neighborhoods – the underlying land value makes it more worthwhile to rehabilitate rundown homes.
  • Look for properties with additional potential through renovations, new ADUs, or land subdivisions.
  • Consider zoning regulations. Some commercial or industrial properties may allow more flexible redevelopment.
  • Calculate the cost to renovate. Properties requiring too much work can end up being money pits.
  • Drive by at different times to spot any signs of occupancy and assess the general area.
  • Research market rents and property values in the neighborhood to evaluate income potential.
  • Hire a knowledgeable local real estate agent who can help uncover leads.

Alternatives to Buying Abandoned Property in California

Alternatives to Buying Abandoned Property in California

Purchasing abandoned property involves many hurdles. Here are some alternative real estate investing strategies to consider in California:

Buy a Foreclosure Property – Purchasing a foreclosed home needing repair can provide similar benefits and upside potential without the legal complexity of claiming abandonment.

Tax Lien Investing – Tax liens can sometimes be purchased directly from the county on delinquent properties to earn interest and potentially obtain the property.

Wholesaling – Find distressed properties needing rehab, put them under contract below market value, and then assign the purchase contract to a fix-and-flip investor for a fee.

Rental Property Investing – Buy move-in-ready rental properties that provide ongoing passive income without extensive repairs or ownership risks.

Fixer-Upper with Owner Financing – Finance the purchase of a rundown home directly with the seller, then renovate, rent, or resell.

Hard Money Lending – Loan money at higher interest rates to other investors who flip or rehab distressed properties.


What happens when you buy an abandoned property in California?

When you legally purchase an abandoned property in California through the quiet title process, Ownership and title are transferred fully to you. You gain the right to renovate, occupy, rent, or resell the property.

How long until a property is considered legally abandoned in California?

A property is legally considered abandoned in California if the owner cannot be located after 30 days of diligent search efforts and notice. However, consult an attorney for guidance to ensure the process is followed correctly.

Can you claim adverse possession of abandoned property in California?

No, adverse possession claims are not an option for taking Ownership of abandoned properties in California. The proper process is to establish abandonment and file a quiet title lawsuit. Adverse possession claims are only valid in California when challenging a known legal property owner.

What happens to abandoned property in California with no heirs?

If no heirs of an abandoned property owner can be located in California, the property will escheat (transfer) to the state by law after some time. The state will then move to auction the property to new owners.

How long does acquiring title to an abandoned property in California take?

It typically takes a minimum of 4-6 months to complete the legal process of establishing abandonment and obtaining clean title to an abandoned property in California. However, the process can stretch longer if any complications arise.


Purchasing abandoned real estate can allow California investors to acquire properties below market value with upside potential. However, the process requires in-depth due diligence and an understanding of the laws and steps involved in taking legal Ownership of an abandoned property. Putting in an offer on a property requires careful consideration, and working with knowledgeable professionals like specialized attorneys and real estate agents is critical to properly navigating the unique challenges and risks associated with the real estate transaction. With the proper preparation and approach, rehabilitating abandoned properties can prove a rewarding real estate investment strategy in California. Just be sure to research thoroughly and consult experts to avoid costly missteps.

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Rylee McGlothin

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