30 American Ghost Towns

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5. ZIP 29928 (Hilton Head Island, South Carolina)
> Vacant homes: 5,227 (26.4%)
> 5 yr. population change: 11.8%
> Population: 17,103
> Median home value: $542,400

ZIP code 29928 makes up the eastern shore and southern tip of Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. It is the only vacation and resort community to rank among the ZIP codes where more than one in every four homes are unoccupied. Like other beach communities on this list, the high amount of rental properties and vacation homes likely explain the high vacancy rate in the 29928 ZIP code.

In stark contrast to inner-city communities with high vacancy rates, Hilton Head Island boasts 12 miles of beaches, two dozen golf courses, and hundreds of tennis courts and restaurants. Additionally, the local population has grown by 11.8% in the last five years, and more than half of all area homes are worth over half a million dollars.

Source: Marc Tarlock from San Francisco / Wikimedia Commons

4. ZIP 46407 (Gary, Indiana)
> Location: Central Gary,
> Vacant homes: 1,160 (28.6%)
> 5 yr. population change: -15.5%
> Population: 11,728
> Median home value: $51,000

The 46406 ZIP code, which is bisected by Route 53 and has I-94 along southern border, is one of five sections of Gary, Indiana, with a vacancy rate high enough to rank on this list. Crippled by high poverty and a high incidence of violent crimes, the 46407 ZIP code’s population fell by 15.5% in the last five years. The population decline partially explains the area’s high vacancy rate as currently, 28.6% of area homes are unoccupied. A far larger than typical share of homes have simply been abandoned as just 65% of vacant homes are considered investment properties, meaning they are owned by someone either intending or attempting to rent or sell. Nationwide, 75% of unoccupied homes are considered investment properties.

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3. ZIP 46409 (Gary, Indiana)
> Vacant homes: 1,081 (28.9%)
> 5 yr. population change: -17.0%
> Population: 8,094
> Median home value: $57,700

Over 1,000 homes in the 46409 ZIP code, bordered by Route 53, I-94, and I-65 in southern Gary, Indiana, are unoccupied. A poor neighborhood, more than one in three residents live in poverty, and three of the 22 area homes that are currently in the early stages of foreclosure are abandoned.

Like other high-vacancy inner-city ZIP codes, southern Gary is characterized by a depressed real estate market. Due in part to steep population decline — 17.0% in the last five years — the area’s median home value of $57,700 is a fraction of the $184,700 the typical American home is worth.

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2. ZIP 48505 (Flint, Michigan)
> Vacant homes: 3,220 (31.2%)
> 5 yr. population change: -17.8%
> Population: 21,231
> Median home value: $24,900

Flint’s 48505 ZIP code is in the northern part of the city and is bisected by I-475. The area’s 31.2% home vacancy rate is partially a byproduct of Flint’s long economic downward spiral, spurred by the decline of American auto manufacturing. Flint’s population peaked at nearly 200,000 in the 1960s, but the city is now home to less than 100,000 residents. In recent years, a discovery of lead in the city’s water supply has driven residents out of the area and reduced demand for homes and dragged down real estate values. In the last five years, the population of the 48505 ZIP code declined by 17.8%. The typical area home is worth just $24,900, just 13% of the median home value nationwide of $184,700.

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1. ZIP 46402 (Gary, Indiana)
> Vacant homes: 573 (31.4%)
> 5 yr. population change: -7.7%
> Population: 6,284
> Median home value: $58,600

Of the 1,824 single family homes in the 46402 ZIP code, 573, or 31.4% are abandoned, the highest vacancy rate of any ZIP code in the country. The 46402 ZIP code in Gary extends from Central Ave to the Lake Michigan shore and includes the City Methodist Church, an allegory for the decline of the city itself. The church, which was constructed in 1926 for the equivalent of about $11 million in today’s dollars and with a 3,000 person capacity is now an abandoned ruin, apocalyptic in appearance.

Currently, just 67.5% of empty homes in the ZIP code are owned by investors, well below the comparable 74.9% share nationwide. Additionally, of the nine homes in the early stages of foreclosure in the area, three are abandoned.