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Opportunity for investors? Huge value of homes lay empty across Britain

The topic of empty homes has long been a contentious one, with many pointing out that existing properties that have fallen into disrepair, aren’t being used by the owner or just can’t be sold could help to ease the UK’s housing crisis without needing to build, build, build.

Now insurance firm Admiral has analysed government data, as well as gathering data from local councils through Freedom of Information requests, to investigate where in Britain the most homes have been sitting empty and unused for the longest periods of time. 

The research highlights the sheer scale of the issue, with there currently being 341,419 homes across England, Scotland and Wales that have been sitting vacant for at least six months. In total, these homes have a value of £79.2 billion - but where are they located? And could investors take advantage of the opportunities these homes represent?


What did the research reveal? 

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of vacant homes can be found in the UK’s biggest landmass, England, where a total of 268,385 houses have remained vacant on a long-term basis. By comparison, Scotland and Wales – with much lower populations - have 47,333 and 25,701 long-term vacancies respectively.

That said, Scotland counts the highest proportion of vacant homes with 19 long-term vacant properties per 1,000 houses.

The research found that the majority of vacant houses in Britain have been empty for at least a year, with the City of London home to the highest proportion of empty houses in England, where 42.4 in every 1,000 homes have been empty for at least six months. 

Cheshire West and Chester have the highest amount of longer-term vacant houses in England, collectively valued at £349,230,000 - the highest in the country. 

Where in Britain are houses sitting empty on a long-term basis?

According to the government definition, a long-term vacant house is one that has been empty for at least six months.    

In the City of London, 42.4 in every 1,000 homes have been empty for at least six months, the highest proportion of any district in England. In Scotland, meanwhile, the Shetland Islands have proportionally more long-term empty homes than any other council area (56.7 per 1,000).

In Wales, Carmarthenshire proportionally has more long-term empty homes than any other council area (32.2 per 1,000). 

In England, the North West and North East – which have long had issues with empty properties and streets of boarded-up and neglected houses – feature heavily in the top 10 list of the places with the most vacant properties per 1,000 homes.

Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough make up the rest of the top five, while the top 10 is completed by Stoke-on-Trent, Bolsover, Isles of Scilly, North East Lincolnshire and Eden.

You can see the full breakdown for Scotland and Wales here.

Where in Britain are houses sitting empty on a longer-term basis?

Admiral also searched for the houses that have been empty much longer than the six-month minimum, and therefore deemed to be long-term vacant. 

The findings showed that as many as 42,021 houses have sat empty for two-four years in England, 13,785 houses for five-nine years and 7,580 properties for more than 10 years. 

Cheshire West and Chester has the highest number of houses that have been vacant for two-four years as well as for more than 10 years, while Manchester has the highest amount of vacant houses for five-nine years.

Proportionally, Preston has the most houses that have been vacant for two-four years, Rochdale for five-nine years and Boston for more than 10 years.

Interestingly, empty homes appear in places that have both been talked about as the left-behind towns and cities and also ones that are undergoing significant regeneration (for example Preston and Manchester) or seen as quite well-to-do (City of London, Forest of Dean and Tandridge).

This suggests there are issues with empty homes even in cities and towns which are in general seen to be doing well and thriving in normal times, as well as those that have faced many years of neglect from successive governments.

What is the value of these vacant houses?

The overall value of vacant homes in Britain is nearly £80 billion (£79.2 billion) based on six-plus month vacancies. The value of vacant houses in England is £66.8 billion, the value of vacant houses in Scotland is £8.1 billion, and the value of vacant houses in Wales stands at £4 billion.

In England specifically, houses that have been vacant between two-four years are collectively valued at £10.5 billion, while houses that have been vacant between five-nine years are collectively valued at £3.4 million and houses that have been vacant for more than 10 years are collectively valued at £1.9 billion.

Many of these homes may not be investor-friendly and may require extensive renovation or even demolition, but surely there are many that are perfectly habitable and are just being left to wither?

With a proper plan in place, and investors on board, it seems as if the government could encourage many of these homes back into use and improve their chances of easing the housing and homelessness crisis, rather than merely building hundreds of thousands of new homes that potentially encroach on the green belt and further contribute to the high levels of emissions construction and housebuilding is responsible for.

Poll: Would you consider investing in an empty home?


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    This sounds like the diatribe used by Chairman Mao's pernicious modernisers. He went one step further and executed house owners the state did not like and reallocated their, 'empty' houses as well.

    Seizing peoples' property is not something that quality governments do. It is so easy to just keep changing the criteria for seizure and have a rolling target of state theft of property.
    Besides, the councils charge full rates on empty property which are not using any council services.


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