At the risk of stating the obvious, data is extremely valuable. However as we all know some data is more valuable than others.
Many communities that struggle with vacant properties conduct “windshield surveys” or actual parcel by parcel inspections. The general purpose of this inventory and assessment is typically to “provide important data that will assist in identifying and prioritizing properties for rehabilitation, lead abatement, code violations, demolition and other pressing needs.”
Of course, one critical utilization of this data is as validation for state and federal funding to address the plague of vacant and abandoned properties.
However one point is always lacking from these assessments. It is a “snapshot in time”. Vacant properties are not static, they are constantly in flux due to many factors.
Vacant properties can be misidentified as vacant (i.e. exterior inspections indicates vacant however it is occupied), or if vacant they can be re-occupied. Some vacant properties can be rehabbed relatively quickly and re-occupied/sold while others languish. Some properties retain the same ownership, some are sold, often frequently.
This is demonstrated in the following quote from a report on the challenges facing Baltimore.
“Private developers demolished or rehabbed about 1,300 vacant properties last year, Ramos said, but another 1,100 became vacant.”
These assessments provide value, but if you are spending significant dollars on them, please maximize it.
A vacant property registry is a fluid tool that can can provide a more detailed overview of the inventory of vacant properties but also the ownership etc.. It can provide additional value as well. For example, some “occupied” properties are illegally occupied. Having the owner certify through a registry that the property is (and therefore should be) vacant is one way to approach the issue of squatters.
Most important of all, when its done correctly a registry is free!