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Reader Mailbag: Vacant Property Owners in Philadelphia

Photo credit: "Articsplash"

With the recent fire in Kensington that took the lives of two of our firefighters, we think this email discussion from one of our blog readers may be of interest:

 Good evening Stephanie,

I came across your blog while attempting to help a friend find commercial space for rent in Northern Liberties (specifically 710 N. 2nd St). For months, my friend has walked around the area, collected addresses, and tracked down vacant property owners but has been unsuccessful in obtaining space. The only time he was able to actually make contact with someone (200 West Girard), the developer was "unsure of what he wanted to do with the property" while it rotted away across from the brand spanking new Superfresh. I was honestly taken back when he shared his challenges with me. How can these owners be content with their abandoned structures when the Piazza is booming at the other end of the street? I know the business would be a great success in the area.

Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you so much!
Rose

Thanks for reaching out to me. I want to first say that you, I, and a whole lot of people are asking the same questions. Why are these property owners hanging on to properties that they are not maintaining or putting to best use?  I personally believe many of the owners are experiencing a mix of circumstances preventing their property from being used to the full potential.

Many owners may be holding off selling because they are waiting for "the right time" when they can sell at top dollar. Sadly, many property owners are still hanging on to sales numbers that were overly inflated during the Real Estate Boom in 2005-06.  Those people do not really put a priority on how their unused crumbling property impacts the community both on an aesthetic and economic level.

Some folks simply do not have the money right now to develop property and/or they may not know how to develop the property. Many of these owners are inexperienced Real Estate Investors or from another generation, or perhaps from out of the city or state and have an “out of sight out of mind” mentality.

Then there are the properties that are in process of being foreclosed on or are part of a sheriff sale or stuck in some other red tape of getting a home on the market and sold to a person with the means of developing it and putting it to good use.

Even when a property is finally sold, the new owner has the right to sit on the property and sell it when the market rebounds and produces higher sales comps. It is unfortunate but property owners are not obligated to do anything with their properties other than maintain them and pay taxes. But as we all see that is dust in the wind as we recall all too recently the events that led to the recent warehouse fire in Kensington and the heartbreaking loss of life as a result of a complacent property owner.

If you have money you can propose an offer to rent or buy a property if you can track them down but if they are not interested, then one or more of the above reasons may be why.

My suggestion is that your friend concentrate on what is available, become part of the business community, and help make the neighborhood great with the available resources at our disposal. Because trying to wrap our minds around the behavior of these property owners is an unrewarding task when your energy can be put to best use working with people who are actively engaged in the life and economy of the community.

What are your thoughts?

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