How Buildings Become Abandoned

Buildings grow abandoned due to several economic, environmental and social factors. Economic problems include not being able to financially maintain the property or a mass decrease in job loss, causing the population to drop and investors to pull out. Environmental issues include calamities like flooding and earthquakes but also factories  or occurrences that cause water contamination and air pollution making the area less desirable to live in. The social aspect (tied to the economic sector) is experiencing an increase in crime due to less people in the area. It may also involve homeowners not wanting to sell or rent their property for whatever reason or government policies that force homeowners to leave.

Image from 54 Still Beautiful Abandoned Buildings around the World … (

What Defines “Abandoned”?

“To be classified as abandoned, a building must typically be a hazard to the health and welfare of the community; the owner must relinquish his or her rights to the property; and the property must be vacant for a period of time.” (1)

How Does it Happen?

At a larger scale, abandoned homes can occur due to a decrease in employment, decreasing people living comfortably therefore increasing the crime rate. If the natural environment grew too polluted, say the drinking water somehow turned contaminated, this would be a factor as well.

Commercial buildings like businesses, grocery stores, retail; their abandonment issues all stem from the population of an area going down. Less people means less customers, potential employees and less eyes as surveillance for any theft. (2)

Both concepts above can be applied at a town or city’s scale. Towns would be abandoned due to a lack or depletion of natural resources, as well as a general loss of economic interest in the area. No new stakeholders would come in to invest, transportation systems will not prioritize making that place accessible, so on and so forth. (1)

So taking into consideration how all these factors of residential, commercial and societal at a city scale can affect one another, let’s break down what scenarios we may encounter as individuals to lead our buildings there.

Economical Problems

Bad investments or lending practices gone wrong, rising tax rates can deplete our financial resources as building owners. This causes us to spend more on upkeep on paper and less on physical repairs and renovations. (3)

Unattended, you’ll have layer upon layer of problems in electrical wiring, maybe some re-plumbing or even foundation repair. Not to mention that even during construction, many unexpected costs can come about. Eventually, if the trend continues and the repair cost burdens grow too high, owners are likely to abandon their property. (4)

Other financial related scenarios are great periods of economic recessions, a major industry of the area moving out, or a lack of marketability for new people and businesses to come in. (4)

Environmental Problems

Say a bad storm hit the town and the flood damages were too costly to rebuild. These problems can range from natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes to man-made calamities like a radiation spill or over polluted water or air contamination.(2)

On another note, natural disasters can cause families to evacuate the area temporarily, or migrate completely to a new location. (4)

With more knowledge on climate change, several new environmental laws have been passed. These have become costly for businesses to keep compliant with. This leads some commercial establishments to abandon their warehouse rather than rectify to modern environmental standards. (3)

These same regulations and new information on what is harmful to the environment also affects homeowners. Several old homes have piping or roofing with asbestos, non compliant septic tanks, old electrical wiring or lead-infused paint deemed unsafe. These refurbishing costs can equally weigh down a homeowner to abandon rather than rebuild. (4)

Social Problems

Highly connected to the economic realm, a mass job loss creates a population loss, leading to absentee owners that neither live in nor maintain the building. Deteriorating buildings causes respectable, desirable tenants to move out, bringing the price of rent down and inviting eventual crime. (3)

When neighborhood communities grow violent, several property owners pull out from an area, rapidly causing a mass abandonment of the area.

A stagnant neighborhood means less commercial investors as well as landlords stop investing on upgrading the amenities and infrastructure. The overall economics and aesthetic of the area just plummet into a dying community. (4)

Images from 54 Still Beautiful Abandoned Buildings around the World … (

As a homeowner, yes financial issues play a big part. However, what happens at the community and city level can snowball into skyrocketing financial problems that we need to watch out for. Policies, new zoning laws and planning restrictions can force us to leave our homes behind. Perhaps your neighborhood suddenly grew more sparse and with less people in your community, the area now being more prone to crime.

Maybe your city is under a new administration and infrastructure maintenance was not handled well. This could lead to either utility problems, having inconsistent power or accessibility problems in roads being repaired or blocked.

Other reasons for home abandonment may include:(5)

  • Someone who was meant to inherit the house could not be found
  • Owners who just don’t want to rent out the property are waiting to accumulate money or waiting on a low season and end up leaving it for longer periods of time.
  • Leasing the property with little marketing or priced incorrectly.
  • Supposed renovations that due to financial or other social constraints, stops the home mid-way construction and is left unfinished.
  • Non-compliant to modern structural safety standards (for hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.)

What about heritage homes?

The simplest occurrence is that the home stands as a family heirloom that they just can’t put out on the market. Being uninhabited for so long the building damages will worsen and cause the structure to deteriorate to abandonment. It’s also possible that the discussion of who to pass down the home to was not agreed upon before a certain death, and therefore left alone. (4)

After a few decades, your property may already be considered as “heritage” in having historical value. However, it also means it can be labeled “unusable and unsafe”, being non-compliant to new building laws or not equipped to handle modern standard energy use and electrical demand.

Older buildings were planned with a different mindset. Less power outlets not foreseeing all the gadgets we would have today, possibly fewer bathrooms and no carport! Not to mention how your home is sited and your neighbors to it. Back when it was bought, it may have been a quaint residential community. With the recent boom of population and urban development, you may find yourself now close to a factory, warehouse or junkyard that are noisy, cause vibration, smoky, polluted and just don’t make the home as pleasant for living in. This can all lead to an exorbitant amount of a renovation that homeowners would find just aren’t worth it. (3)

If communities are suddenly removed and deported or imprisoned, this would be an instant abandonment as their things are left behind. Just look at this example in America: (2)

“In 2017, 81,600 people were removed from their residences and deported from the United States. When this happens their belongings as well as their homes can become lost, or seized by the government. While there are procedures in place to collect immigrant’s belongings and return them, that isn’t always what happens.” – from What Causes Homes To Become Abandoned? – Urbex (

To Sum it All Up

Although several of these factors are out of our hands,  the best we can do is anticipate if these external factors will come into play and make a move to rectify it before it becomes too late.

All buildings require a great deal of time, effort and money put into it but no matter how well they are designed and planned, the economic, environmental and social realms dictate their longevity.

Image from 30 Stunning Abandoned Towns Around the World | Architectural Digest


  1. Kerry. (2022, April 30). How do houses become abandoned. Worldanything. Retrieved July 2022, from
  2. *. (2019, September 7). What causes homes to become abandoned? Urbex. Retrieved July 2022, from
  3. Shane, J. M. (2022, June 9). Abandoned buildings and lots. ASU Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. Retrieved July 2022, from
  4. Shore, A. (2021, December 28). Why do properties become abandoned. dronegenuity. Retrieved July 2022, from
  5. Bell, G. A. (2020, January 14). The real reasons properties become abandoned. Never Paint Again. Retrieved July 2022, from