The City of St. Paul has a vacant building program and a list of registered vacant buildings and I Hammer-1
periodically check the list to see how many homes are on the list. In September of 2008 the were over 2031 registered vacant buildings on the list and most were single family homes. That seems to be when the number peaked. Currently there are 1470 on the list. That is still a large number and not all vacant homes need to be registered. Homes are being renovated and re-sold and they are selling.
These homes usually have multiple code violations and are expensive to renovate. If you have your eye on one and would like to buy it make sure you have a home inspection. St. Paul City inpectors do a fair job inspecting the homes and signing off on the work permits but sometimes items are missed.
Make an inspection contigent offer and then go to the property look up section on the City of St. Paul web site and print out the code complaince reprort and have the home inspector check qs many items as he or she is qualified to check. I recommend using an inspector who is approved by the city to conduct truth in housing inspections because in general they have more experience and education and they understand the registered vacant building program and the city inspectors and they know what to look for.
Have the seller repair any deficiencies before you buy and conduct a walk through before the closing to make sure that the repairs have been completed.
Buying a home that has been completely renovated and brough up to code is sometimes like buying a new home. Often they have new furnaces, roofs and upgraded plumbing and electrical and the neighbors are happy to see you after living next to a vacant house for a few years.