Researching City-Owned Properties

The first step to buying an old house is to determine who owns it.  For city-owned homes, there will not be a for-sale sign on the front lawn nor a listing on zillow.com or trulia.com etc.  There is usually no great way to identify a city-owned house expect by word of mouth from neighborhood residents or a little bit of research.  The City of Buffalo web site is your key resource here.  The Real Estate Department (part of the Office of Strategic Planning) puts out a small online catalogue of city-owned houses for sale, called City Buys.  The catalogue is updated only about twice and year and includes only a fraction of the available homes, but it is a start.  Effectively marketing the vacant homes of Buffalo in a way that the average human can understand and get excited about is a hugely important tool in fighting vacancy, and something I would love to see done in an even bigger way.  For those houses not included in the catalogue (like our Green Monster), the best way to determine city ownership is through the Property Information tool on the City web site.  Look for it in the links bar on the left side of the City home page.  You can search for a specific address, or browse an entire street.  City-owned houses and lots are identified by “City of Buffalo” or “City Buffalo Perfecting Title” or some variant as the owner.  There is also the option to search by owner name, but I have not had much success finding City properties with that.  So, if you spot a vacant home that you like and need to know who owns it, the Property Info tool is the place to start.

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