Special Report

30 American Ghost Towns

Source: Tim Evanson / Flickr

10. ZIP 44108 (Cleveland, Ohio)
> Vacant homes: 1,552 (18.6%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -13.0%
> Population: 22,048
> Median home value: $56,400

The 44108 ZIP code is located in northeastern Cleveland along the shore of Lake Erie. In the last five years, the number of people living in the area fell by a staggering 13.0%. The rapid population decline has led to reduced demand for housing, which has likely dragged down home values. The typical area home is worth just $56,400, down 15.3% from half a decade ago.

Like most ZIP codes on this list, 44108 is located in a city that has long suffered economically from the decline of American manufacturing. Since the industry began to decline and factories began to close in the mid-20th century, the city’s population was more than halved, from over 900,000 as of 1950 to less than 400,000 today.

Source: Paul Sableman / Flickr

9. ZIP 63113 (St. Louis, Missouri)
> Vacant homes: 863 (18.9%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -8.6%
> Population: 11,184
> Median home value: $65,800

In the last five years, the number of people living in the 63113 ZIP code — located just north of the Central West End neighborhood in St. Louis — declined by 8.6%. The area’s high vacancy rate of 18.9% is likely partially the result of long-term population decline.

As is often the case, many of the vacant properties in this part of St. Louis are investment properties — meaning they are likely either on the rental market or waiting to be sold at a profit by the owner. If recent trends are any indication, it may be a while before a real estate investment in the area pays off. The typical area home is worth just $65,800, down 1.2% from five years ago. Over the same period, the typical American home has appreciated in value by 9.5%.

Source: Veterans Health / Flickr

8. ZIP 64128 (Kansas City, Missouri)
> Vacant homes: 934 (18.9%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -2.3%
> Population: 12,056
> Median home value: $38,900

The 64128 ZIP code in Kansas City covers the Knoches Park, Oak Park Northwest, Palestine East, and Sante Fe neighborhoods, as well as Ingleside, a particularly high crime neighborhood. In Kansas City, violent crime — especially homicide — tends to be concentrated in areas with high vacant property rates.

High crime and a high vacancy rate are likely depressing home values. The typical home in the 64128 ZIP code is worth just $38,900, 22% less than it was worth five years ago.

Source: Courtesy of Cortland P. via Yelp

7. ZIP 44507 (Youngstown, Ohio)
> Vacant homes: 437 (21.5%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -8.0%
> Population: 5,093
> Median home value: $22,100

There are 437 vacant homes — more than one in every five — in the 44507 zip code, which is in the south-central part of Youngstown, Ohio. Population decline in recent years has likely exacerbated the problem. In the last five years, the number of people living in the area fell by 8.0%. As in most places reporting a population decline and a high vacancy rate, property values in the 44507 ZIP code are near rock bottom. The typical area home is worth just $22,100, about $170,000 below the value of the typical American home.

Economic problems and population decline across Youngstown began in the 1970s and ’80s, with the decline of the city’s once dominant steel industry. The lack of economic opportunity in the area remains a root cause of the high vacancy rate. Across the broader Youngstown metro area, August 2019 unemployment stands at 6.0%, well above the comparable 3.8% national unemployment rate.

Source: Shuvaev / Wikimedia Commons

6. ZIP 17976 (Shenandoah, Pennsylvania)
> Vacant homes: 759 (23.9%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -3.1%
> Population: 6,715
> Median home value: $34,700

Pennsylvania’s 17976 ZIP code comprises the borough of Shenandoah, about 140 miles west of New York City. An economically depressed area, a staggering 38.6% of residents live below the poverty line, and over half of all area homes are worth less than $35,000. Low property values and high vacancy rates tend to go hand in hand, and in Shenandoah, there are 759 vacant dwellings — nearly 25% of homes.

A coal mining town in the early 1900s, Shenandoah has long been in decline. The industry all but shut down in the area over half a century ago.

Source: Chris Pruitt / Wikimedia Commons

5. ZIP 36104 (Montgomery, Alabama)
> Vacant homes: 591 (24.0%)
> 5-yr. Population change: -10.0%
> Population: 8,040
> Median home value: $74,200

The 36104 ZIP code, located in Northern Montgomery, Alabama, along Gun Island Chute, is one of several parts of the Alabama state capital with a near nation-leading home vacancy rate. There are 591 vacant properties in the area, up from 523 a year ago. Of the vacant homes, 491 are classified as investment properties — meaning they are likely either on the rental market or waiting to be sold at a profit by the owner, but that might be a while.

Home values have not appreciated in the area in recent years. The typical home in the ZIP code is worth just $74,200, 6.9% less than it was worth five years ago.

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