distressed homes

20 Properties That Are Definitely Showing Signs of Distress

Being able to identify distressed properties is one of the most effective ways to find off-market deals and an untapped supply of motivated sellers.


In this post, you will learn the 6 common signs of distress, be provide multiple examples of each, and understand how to identify them when researching your market.



1. Grass

Observing a property’s grass condition is a quick and easy way to identify a distressed property situation. If you come across a property that has tall or dead grass, it may have an absentee homeowner that is motivated to sell.



house with unkept yard

Image credit: MortgageOrb


neglected house

Image credit: Romance Bandits


country masion

Image Credit: Distressed Property Expert


2. Windows

Finding a property with broken and/or boarded up windows is certainly a sign that the property is vacant. Also, it is likely that a property with broken or boarded up windows will show other signs of distress (grass, vegetation, deferred maintenance, etc.).



boarded up house

Image Credit: Foreclosure Connections



house falling apart

Image Credit: Investopedia


house with broken window

Image Credit: postfastr



3. Overfill of mail or newspapers

The overfill of mail or newspapers are subtle signs of distress. Out of all the signs of distress listed, this is probably the most difficult to spot. It can mean one of two things: the homeowner is on vacation or the property is vacant.



stuffed mailbox

Image Credit: Canaday Group


newspapers by the road

Image Credit: KE1RI



4. Code enforcement signs

There are many types of code enforcement signs and sometimes they can be difficult to spot. The majority of the time, they are posted on the front door or front window.



condemed real estate

Image Credit: Triad City Beat


home with trash outside

Image Credit: Triad City Beat


real estate properties in distress

Image Credit: The Ann Arbor News



5. Overgrown vegetation

Overgrown vegetation is similar sign as tall or dead grass, but the property has probably been sitting for a much longer. Properties with overgrown vegetation are impossible to miss.



ruined desert home

Image Credit: NRHC


midwest real estate

Image Credit: The News-Herald


house covered in ivy


Image Credit: WPXI News


6. Deferred maintenance

The deferred maintenance referred to here is external, since you obviously won’t be able to easily see inside the property. But if the outside shows signs of wear, the inside is likely equally as bad or even worse.



Victorian real estate

Image Credit: Realtor.com


house under construction

Image Credit: Invessa Group


residential real estate with an overgrown lawn

Image Credit: Clearview Homes 360



7. Other but obviously distressed

Here are some properties that have been through a lot. These properties should be avoided at all costs, unless you are interested in knock downs.



barn fire

Image Credit: Comcate

upside down house

Image Credit: Buy Investment Property Today


condemed home

Image Credit: eHow





The 6 most common signs of distress are: 1) tall or dead grass, 2) boarded up or broken windows, 3) overfill of mail and newspapers, 4) code enforcement signs, 5) overgrown vegetation, and 6) deferred maintenance.


Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to put it into practice. Keep an eye out for signs of distress on your way to work, the gym, the grocery store, etc., record some addresses, look up the owner information on the local county’s website, and start sending out letters.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.

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Joe Fairless