How To Buy a Ghost Town (Can you even do that?)

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Most of us have aspirations of owning our dream home. 

We save for a deposit, get a mortgage, and eventually own our home outright. Some want a house by the sea, some want acres and acres of land, some want a penthouse overlooking the city and some simply aspire to have 4 walls and a roof over their head. 

It is possible, however, to have bigger aspirations than your dream home. No, we are not talking about a mansion or private island but rather owning your own town!

To buy a ghost town you would firstly need the funds available to finance this as most traditional banks do not easily give a mortgage for these towns and most ghost towns on the market can cost a minimum of $1 million. If funds are not an issue you can buy these towns through a realtor or directly from the owner (company or government) that owns the lands as a straightforward transaction. 

Ghost towns are abandoned towns that still have roads, buildings, and basic infrastructure but don’t have any residents due to a cease in economic activity or as a result of natural disasters, government actions, or some other reason for residents leaving the town permanently. 

If you’ve ever wanted to own your own town then read on to see exactly how you could go about buying a ghost town. 

Thinking of starting a new hobby? Maybe Ghost hunting is for you. Check out our complete guide to this interesting and unique hobby here.

Can You Really Buy a Town

I’m sure at one point or another, it’s been a dream of many reading this to be the “Mayor” of your own town. Imagine the freedom that comes with it and the opportunity to build your desired community as though you are taking the concept of the Sims into the real world. 

You might have found yourself looking into ghost towns and while we are covering how to buy a ghost town, the question first needs to be raised as to can you actually buy or own an entire town? The answer is both yes and no as it depends on your interpretation of owning the town. 

Bodie, California
There are more abandoned towns than you might think

Each ghost town was typically once a town that was owned (or still is) by a larger corporation or the government. We are generalizing here slightly but a significant number of ghost towns were once thriving areas as a result of them being located near mining or transportation sites. 

Companies built these towns centered around mining commodities like silver or gold (as an example) but once the resources dried up, the area became less profitable and people just moved to the next locations. 

This is the most common theme for a town becoming abandoned but other factors are also the cause like natural disasters, economic crashes, generations uprooting elsewhere, government restrictions being put in place, and a range of other factors. 

For most, this is the signal of a lost cause and these abandoned towns then take on the name of a ghost town due to the lack of a human presence. What many don’t realize though is that these towns are often available to purchase on the open market and you can see them listed on occasion just as you would a regular house.  

How To Buy a Ghost Town

The first step to buying a ghost town is ensuring you have enough funds available as they are not cheap (more on this later) and not many traditional banks will be open to lending money to finance a purchase. If money is not an issue, then the first step is usually to find these towns available for purchase on the housing market. 

This is by far the most common route to take but you can also try to purchase the land from the owners directly. If the land is owned by a corporation, this can be a good option to consider as you can make direct contact with the company to enquire.

best place to ghost hunt in usa
Could you live in a haunted or abandoned town?

In some circumstances, however, the land is owned by either the government or a private individual that makes purchase and ownership a stumbling block. This will usually be a result of it not being available for sale or due to a number of restrictions that you’d face with ownership, namely around planning permission and uses of the land once owned. 

Therefore, if you are looking into buying a ghost town, the best option to take is to go through the housing market and follow the same process as you would when buying a house and do it through a realtor.

While these towns don’t come on the market often, you can see that ghost towns like Cabin Creek, Colorado have even been listed on Craigslist before. Some of these listed ghost towns will even be known locations for ghost hunters which can either add to the appeal or be one of the reasons why there are not many buyers. 

How Much Does It Cost To Buy an Abandoned Town

Buying an abandoned/ghost town will vary in terms of price depending on where in the world you are looking to purchase and how much land, infrastructure and location are factored in. 

In America for example, to even consider buying a ghost town you’d be looking at a minimum of $1 million. This is for a basic town and something like Cleator, Arizona is a good example. This listing is priced around the $1 million mark and with it, you get ownership of the land, mining rights, and existing structures (which still home a small community). 

It does not, however, come with a septic system or running electricity and these are some of the challenges you’ll find when looking to buy a ghost town. The minimum cost is going to be around $1 million but then further investment will be needed to almost every ghost town you come across. 

Therefore, a ghost town can be purchased anywhere from $1 - $10 million but depending on the size, infrastructure, and location, you could end up paying considerably more after this initial investment. 

Money aside, the video below shows that there are ghost towns that no one wants to own, regardless of the asking price!

Challenges When Buying a Ghost Town

While finding these ghost towns for sale can be relatively straightforward, we should mention that the process of buying one is not as simple or straightforward as buying a house, and below are some of the additional factors/issues to take into consideration:

  • Bank Loans - Traditional banks are less likely to support a loan application for a whole town than they are for a regular house. Even in instances when the value is the same, you’d still find it difficult to take out a loan for an entire town. Therefore, connections with private institutions are often needed to secure the finance for these types of purchases.
  • Infrastructure - The infrastructure or living conditions for these abandoned towns can often prove to be a stumbling block for potential buyers. As mentioned earlier, many of these towns could be missing water, electricity, a septic system, and even have buildings that do not meet modern-day planning requirements for a habitable house or town. 
  • Use of Land - Owning a ghost town and the land does not mean that you suddenly become the law! These towns are still subject to county or state laws, planning permissions, and even the use of land. Therefore, it’s important to check all of the uses and restrictions before making a serious offer on an abandoned town as there might be rules in place that prevent you from modernizing it or even occupying it. 

Rounding Up

Many of you will be surprised to know just how simple it can be to buy a ghost town. We’re not saying the process is easy in terms of legalities, finance, and potential planning permissions or uses when owning the land but rather the process to buy an abandoned town can be very similar to just buying a house or apartment. 

Therefore, if it’s always been a dream to own your own town then it’s very much a possibility. You’ll need to do your due diligence on whether a ghost town can even be habitable before you make an offer but provided you have the finance in place, owning your town can easily become a reality.