With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Friday, October 1, 2010

"I Would Like To Purchase A Hartford Abandoned House"

In an earlier piece about Hartford's South End, one reader (a quite handy reader we will assume) expressed an interest in acquiring the pictured property on Franklin Ave and wondered how to go about it. For some reason we happen to know a little about the process and figured if one reader was curious, maybe two readers were curious. So it's time for another handy Sad City Guide.

Edit "On advice from our watchful readers, this post, nor anything on this website should be construed as legal advice. We are not lawyers, nor do we purport to be. While we hope this (and other) posts are informative and entertaining, you should always consult an attorney licensed to practice in the appropriate state before entering into any agreement to purchase real estate."

The first thing you will need is the address of the property.  Let's say our property is located at 380 Sad City Lane. To do our research we will now need to take a field trip to City Hall. Boring you say? City Hall is one of the coolest buildings in Hartford. Take time to wander around and check out the great architecture both inside and outside the building. Once finished exploring go to the Tax Assessor's Office that is on your right when you walk into City Hall.

When you walk in you will see two computers. Sit right down at one. Another bonus; no need to deal with anyone and we've never seen a line at these computers. Type in the address and search for results. The results will give you the current owner, when they bought the property, what they paid for the property, and a reference number. Let's say the property was purchased by Hakaan Loob in 2005 for $300,000. Sure seems like a bad deal now that the property is abandoned. Write down the reference number and head for the room all the way at the end of the hall.

When you reach this room the first thing you will notice is what seems like an infinite number of binders on the shelves covering the entire room. In the middle shelves there are larger books sorted by year. Go grab the 2005 book and look up the 380 Sad City Lane property owned by Hakaan Loob. When you find it, you will get another reference number that will refer to one of the thousands of binders on the wall. Once you find your binder and your page, you will see the Warranty Deed that transferred the property to Hakaan.

Let's say 380 Sad City Lane was transferred to Hakaan for $300,000 with a mortgage lien from The South End Mortgage Co. right at the height housing bubble from who?

Jumper Mckay.


You can then trace the transfer to see how Jumper acquired it. Using the same process, find your next binder. You see that Jumper acquired it mortgage free from Hopper McKay, presumably a family member for $80,000 in 1989. Seems like that crafty Jumper knows something about timing the Hartford real estate market. The reason to trace title back is to see if any outstanding liens exist that were never addressed. Lawyers will generally go back 30 40 years when doing a title search.

Next, in the same room, there is a shelf entitled tax liens. If a house is abandoned, there is a good chance the owner isn't paying property taxes on it. The liens are sorted alphabetical by owner by year. Start in 2005, the year poor Hakaan was fleeced by the insidious Jumper. If the name isn't there, no tax liability exists for that year. Carry on through the most recent year. You discover Hakaan owes a total of $6,000 taxes to the City on the property. It turns out Hakaan, so distraught over the fleecing by Jumper and the outrageously high property taxes in Hartford, lost his mind and now spends his time roaming the streets looking at pay phones.

If you decide to acquire the property, the city is going to get paid first. The City becomes the priority lien holder. (Sometimes mortgage companies will even pay the taxes to prevent this.) Next will come the mortgage company, then Hakaan will get the left over funds, if any.  Let's say 380 Sad City Lane is worth $150,000 today and you would like to purchase it. The South End Mortgage Co. still has a mortgage for $130,000 on the property. So when you buy for $150,000, the City of Hartford will get their $6,000, the mortgage company their $130,000, leaving $14,000 for poor Hakaan.

And you will be the proud owner of a Hartford abandoned.


  1. This isn't entirely accurate. First, title searchers go back 40 years. More accurately, they'll do a bring down from the last time title insurance was purchased on the property.

    Second, and more importantly, one can't buy the property from the City of Hartford. What one can buy is the City's tax liens. When one buys said liens one steps into the shoes of the city. Which is to say that if one wishes to acquire title one must institute a foreclosure action.

    This would likely result in an auction and there's no guarantee the person who bought the liens would be the high bidder at the auction.

    It's also unlikely that the mortgage company's debt will ever be satisfied or paid in full.

  2. Also, the amount owed in taxes isn't always the amount filed on the land records. Towns always have inchoate liens. One needs to check with the assessor to determine what the true amount of the outstanding tax debt on the property is. Also, it's necessary to figure out the interest on the liens that have been filed.

  3. Great info. Some of this can be done from the comfort of home.
    Existing and previous ownersearchable at http://assessor.hartford.gov/Default.asp?br=nav&vr=5

    And tax bill status (but not liens) at https://selfservice.hartford.gov/MSS/citizens/RealEstate/Default.aspx?mode=new

  4. I may be mistaken, but I think this is a HUD home. I saw this house or one very similar to it on HUD's reclaimed properties website when I was looking about three years ago. Tell your friend to start there. If this house isn't on the site at least he'll see similar options.

  5. Ryan brings up some really good points. You might want to start this post with a warning stating that this is not legal advice nor are you responsible for any mayhem people cause for themselves following your steps in this post...

  6. Ryan's and anonymous brought up valid point; while anyone would be an absolute lunatic to take legal advice from this site, you never know. Also, Ryan, I don't see where the post mentions buying the land from the city. What I was trying to say (and correct me if I am mistaken) is that when you buy the property from the landowner, a City tax lien is the priority debt i.e., it will get paid first from the sale proceeds.

  7. Ryan may be accurate but he's a killjoy. Thanks for trying to be interesting, relevant and helpful.