Special Report

30 American Ghost Towns

With the coronavirus keeping Americans confined to their homes and mortgage rates at record lows, home sale volume this year hit the highest level in over a decade in the United States. Despite the rush to buy homes, an estimated 1.6 million houses in the United States remain unoccupied.

Most unoccupied homes in the United States are classified as investment properties, meaning they are either on the rental market, or will eventually be resold, or both. Other vacant properties are effectively abandoned. Whatever the reason, empty homes are often concentrated in specific neighborhoods in certain cities. In over a dozen U.S. ZIP codes, more than one in every five homes sit unoccupied.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the share of vacant single-family homes as of the end of the third quarter of 2020 to identify the 30 ZIP codes with the highest vacancy rates — America’s ghost towns. Vacancy rates in these areas, which were calculated by ATTOM Data Solutions using tax assessor data, range from 15.9% to 33.9% — more than 10 times the national vacancy rate. ZIP codes in popular vacation destinations, where high vacancy rates are likely seasonal, were excluded from our analysis. 

The majority of ZIP codes on this list tend to be in urban areas in the South and Midwest, including many Rust Belt cities. These areas have been hollowed out by the decline of American manufacturing and currently have little to offer in the way of economic opportunity. In fact, with only a couple of exceptions, the population declined in each of these ZIP codes in the last five years. Here is a look at the cities Americans are abandoning

With these areas often economically distressed, poverty rates tend to be high in these ZIP codes. Low incomes, in tandem with population decline and the resulting reduced demand for housing, have driven down real estate values. The average home sale price nationwide in the third quarter of 2020 was $387,000. Meanwhile, in all but five ZIP codes on this list, most homes are worth less than $70,000 — and in nearly every ZIP code on this list there are homes in foreclosure. Conversely, here is a look at the most expensive ZIP codes in the country. 

Click here to see 30 American ghost towns.
Click here to read our detailed methodology.