How to Buy Abandoned House with Mystery Title

1 Reply

I came across a cute little house on a quiet side street marked "CONDEMNED" that struck me as someplace I'd want to buy. I figured I'd look up the owner and make a cash offer. I found the owner's name and address... and then his obituary.... So I reached out to one of his daughters on Facebook. She told me "the family doesn't own it the state owns it" and "we've been through this already with someone else". Now, all I can see on the county records, besides the deed to the now-deceased owner, is that the city filed a lien on the property for around $900 in back taxes. There doesn't seem to be any mortgage lien. When I contacted my attorney, he looked it up and said that there was no record of the property in the probate system (Massachusetts). So my question is... what is my next step to finding out who actually has the power to sell the property? Is it likely that the family actually does have a right to clear the lien and sell the property, but this daughter was uninformed? If so, is the only way to determine who owns it to convince the family to apply for the probate process and for it to work its way through the courts? They may not have the money to pay the probate court or even the $900 in back taxes, in which case (unless I can somehow make a deal to pay for that if they agree to sell me the house) will the house just sit vacant forever because no one knows what to do with it? (The city can take it but they are very, very slow to move on tax liens.)

I'm definitely not an attorney but perhaps you can offer the family a small payment in exchange for a quit claim deed.  That would transfer whatever ownership they do have to you.  You could then pay the taxes and have your attorney proceed with a Quiet Title Action.  Seems like that might work, maybe run the idea past your attorney.  Good luck.

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