200,000 empty homes in the UK - and you can cash in

Why there’s £43bn worth of empty homes in the UK, and how you can help

Urban Decay

There are over 200,000 homes lying empty in the UK, which is a scandal when so many millions of people can only dream of home ownership. So why are they empty, and how can you cash in?

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The figures, from property investment marketplace Property Partner, found that in London alone there were 19,845 homes sitting empty for over six months in 2016. Expensive Kensington and Chelsea was the worst offender - with the largest number of empty properties recorded.

Outside London, Birmingham had the most empty properties - at 4,297 - up 13% in a year. This was followed by Bradford at 3,944 and Liverpool at 3,449.

Harrow saw the biggest rise in England with an astonishing 571% climb to 651 from 97 in 2015. Blackburn has seen the biggest rise outside London with a 32% rise in a year with 1,563 vacant homes.

Over the last decade the number of long-term vacant homes in England has dropped 36.4% from 314,719 in 2006, but it has barely moved year-on-year. The estimated value of empty property in England now stands at £43.5billion.

The ten worst-affected towns and cities outside London
Birmingham 4,397 empty homes
Bradford 3,944
Liverpool 3,449
Leeds 2,574
Sheffield 1,995
Sunderland 1,758
Wakefield 1,666
Doncaster 1,614
Blackburn 1,563
Bolton 1,525


Properties end up uninhabited for a number of reasons. As someone gets older, they might move in with family members or into care, but not want to part with the family property - leaving it to stand empty. Alternatively, they may be happy to sell it on, but don' have the cash to do it up to let or sell.

After they pass away, the property can get stuck in probate, or become the subject of family arguments, so nothing can be done until those issues are ironed out.

Alternatively, they may leave it to someone who cannot afford to improve it for rental or sale - or who doesn't know what they want to do with it - so they leave it empty.

In less affluent areas, investing in a property like this can make less financial sense, because it costs so much to improve that it won't make any money. Unfortunately, leaving the property empty can attract crime to an area, and spark an exodus, so a large number of properties are left to stand empty.

In posh areas, some properties are bought-to-leave. Some owners will just buy the property and hold it - waiting for the price to rise so they can sell it on. Likewise, some developers will hang onto new builds while they wait for price to rise.

What can be done?

Councils have made major inroads into the number of empty properties over the past decade, since they have had the power to seize empty properties.

Dan Gandesha, CEO of property investment marketplace Property Partner, comments: "Councils have had the power to apply to seize empty homes since 2006 and huge advances have been made over the last ten years. Our research shows there is some great work being done in areas where the number of empty homes is coming down rapidly, such as Blackpool and Harrow. Dealing with this issue represents a fantastic opportunity to free up supply and help alleviate the scarcity of affordable housing nationally."

This has also given us a chance to cash in too. We reported last year on a website called YouSpotProperty.com. You simply submit details of an empty property to the site, and if it meets their requirements you get a £20 Amazon voucher. The company then tries to trace the owner, and persuade them to sell. If they can buy the property, the spotter gets 1% of the selling price. At the moment it only operates within the M25, but it has plans to expand, so we could all make money from spotting an empty property - and play our part in getting it put to good use too.

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