Special Report

30 American Ghost Towns

Samuel Stebbins, Thomas C. Frohlich

Detailed Findings & Methodology

As Blomquist noted, to reach vacancy rates of 20% to 30%, an area usually needs to have endured long periods of poor economic conditions, that lead to population decline.

The populations of all but five of the 30 neighborhoods on this list declined in the last five years. Reflecting the low demand for residential homes, home values in all but five of the ZIP codes fall well below the national median of $178,600. In fact, in 24 of the 30 areas the median home is worth less than half the national figure.

Economic struggles are nothing new for many of these areas. “Many of them tend to be in the Rust Belt, in states that were already experiencing an economic malaise when the Great Recession hit and have not been able to get back on their feet since,” Blomquist said.

With respect to the population decline common among these ZIPs, Blomquist added, “In some cases this could have been exacerbated by flight to the suburbs by homeowners chasing higher quality schools and lower crime rates.”

The violent crime rate of the metro areas containing 25 of the 30 neighborhoods exceeds the national rate of 386 per 100,000 people.

In many cases, the conditions pushing long-time residents to relocate are the same conditions investors see as opportunities. Just over 75% of unoccupied homes across the country are investor properties. The percentage of investor-owned vacant homes exceeds the national share in 22 of the 30 ZIP codes.

To identify the 30 towns with the highest vacancy rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percentage of residential properties flagged as vacant by postal carriers in 26,864 ZIP codes provided by Attom Data Solutions as of the end of the third quarter of 2017. Foreclosure rates, the percentage of vacant properties with open loans, in foreclosure, and bank owned were also provided by Attom Data Solutions.

Social and economic data, including population estimates, poverty rates, median household income, and median home values are five-year averages through 2015 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). Population and home value changes were calculated using five-year averages through 2015. These are the latest and most accurate data for the zip codes reviewed.