Homestead Eligible Properties: Buy a House in Buffalo for a Single Dollar

The Urban Homestead Program that is offered by the City of Buffalo enables qualified buyers to purchase a home that has been deemed “homestead eligible” for $1.00 and there are plenty of properties left. There are three main requirements when purchasing a homestead property; the owner must fix all code violations within 18 months, have immediate access to at least $5000, and live there for at least three years. You also have to cover the closing costs of the purchase.


54 Pershing IX 

 A complete list of homestead eligible properties and vacant lots can be found here, but it has not been updated since 2011 and many of the properties listed have been demolished or sold. I’ve taken the liberty of looking up each home on google maps and the Erie county property site to see if it’s still there and still owned by the city. All the homes that are still standing and city owned can be seen on this map I created. Many of the homes are in rough shape, but that’s in part why they are only one dollar.

194 Southampton III
194 Southampton Street has similar detailing to 54 Pershing, but is more restrained. As you can see the home next door is identical, but does not have as much of the original details


Several people have already successfully purchased dollar homes with the help of fixBuffalo blogger, David Torke. The most notable success story is that of the Lyth Cottage on Harwood Place, more on that here. Some other properties include one on East Utica Street, a small cottage on Dodge Street, and a great place on Woodlawn Avenue, which was rehabbed by a local attorney. It’s not impossible to get these old house operational again with some sweat equity and solid finances.

LC-7375
The Lyth Cottage was a $1 home and is almost fully rehabilitated


You’ll notice many of the $1 homes are located on the east side, some are in neighborhoods on the rise and others, not so much. These four homesteaders are all west of the Kensington Expressway because neighborhoods like Hamlin Park, Cold Spring, and Masten Park are either already stable or working towards it. As development heats up around the medical campus it seems like more and more properties are getting some love and investment so picking up one of these gems in the near future may prove to be a solid investment in the long term.


This home at 393 Masten Avenue (google map) is in great shape and has some wonderful original detailing inside and out. It was built between 1893 and 1899 and has two twins just up the street on the same side at 407 and 413 Masten. I was pleasantly surprised by the interior of the home, because it wasn’t packed full of the previous tenants belongings and the damage was minimal. Overall the house is very solid with a fair roof, but it does not have a basement. 

MA-3042

The neighbor on the right is a WWII veteran and a very nice gentleman, but the neighbor to the left in a vinyl clad new-build has been trying to get the city to demolish the home in recent years. Apparently a broken waterline to the home results in minor flooding in her basement, but take that with a grain of salt. If you’d like to see additional photos of the interior, check out my set on Flickr for the home here

MA-3034

One couple has chronicled the process of buying a city-owned home on their site, Unbreak my House that you may want to take a look at for some context. Their home was not a $1 house, but the acquisition process is somewhat similar. If you have an interest in any of the homes pictured in this post or on my Homestead Eligible Map please get in touch with me via mike.j.puma@gmail.com or call the Department of Real Estate directly at City Hall at 716-851-5590. 

This post originally appeared on Views of Buffalo

About the author  ⁄ Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

47 comments
TheOneInPhilly
TheOneInPhilly

Hey can someone give me all contacting info to people that i can buy one of these homes off?



JADuffy
JADuffy

please send me any information on this program ans a list of available homes

GregWWW
GregWWW

Anyone know where an updated list of houses is available?  

lockerrm
lockerrm

Can't you just feel the NFL's enthusiasm for grabbing all of this thriving economy:) 

newbuffalo
newbuffalo

Are we allowed to demo the house and build anew, or is that against the rules?

foreverbflo
foreverbflo

I'm in!!

There are some districts/communities about to see a major resurgence that are not yet public. This is is a great opp for people believing and sincere about the rebirth of these communities. Remember, most communities take aboiut 30 yrs to hit bottom and bounce back. Appx. 

Who would have been on Chippewa partying/investing 35 yrs ago? OK, I know a few of you would have... but the majority? (Although, Goldman saw it coming and invested in the Calumet) 

Fruit belt? 

Larkinville? 

Silo City/Ohio St? 

Old First Ward? 

Sycamore/Jefferson? 

It's happening! Little by little. Some before others... but it is happening. 


fiircee
fiircee

Does Anyone Know If There Are Any Programs Like This In Other States?

fiircee
fiircee

Does Anyone Know If There Are Any Programs Like This In Other States?

brownteeth
brownteeth

RE That house next to the church for sale: It was recently renovated top to bottom. They did a pretty good job but are asking $345k!!! It does have two income suites but I think there's still a lot to be desired at that asking price in regards to the curb appeal and no driveway. More power to them if he sells for that amount. Shoot me an email if you're down for a drink, 24whitneyplace@gmail.com

brownteeth
brownteeth

RE That house next to the church for sale: It was recently renovated top to bottom. They did a pretty good job but are asking $345k!!! It does have two income suites but I think there's still a lot to be desired at that asking price in regards to the curb appeal and no driveway. More power to them if he sells for that amount. Shoot me an email if you're down for a drink, 24whitneyplace@gmail.com

LouisTully
LouisTully

Thanks for the info. I drove by it the other day and, even though I regularly drive past, it never really stood out to me. I guess when I'm driving by I'm usually paying attention to those other two houses for sale next to the church on the opposite side - or maybe it's one, or maybe I'm confused altogether.

Anyway, it stood out as a great looking building.

Congrats on the new project. I like beer. Let me know, I'd be down.

LouisTully
LouisTully

Thanks for the info. I drove by it the other day and, even though I regularly drive past, it never really stood out to me. I guess when I'm driving by I'm usually paying attention to those other two houses for sale next to the church on the opposite side - or maybe it's one, or maybe I'm confused altogether.

Anyway, it stood out as a great looking building.

Congrats on the new project. I like beer. Let me know, I'd be down.

brownteeth
brownteeth

Its residential apartments. I think it may be owned by the same company that owns a few other apartment buildings in my neighborhood. They do maintain it, in fact last fall they put a new roof on it and properly replaced wood trim from what I can see on the ground.

FYI, though I still own my house on Whitney, I bought another on Ellicott that I'm rehabbing and living in. I currently rent out Whitney. We should grab a beer sometime, I like your comments on here :)

brownteeth
brownteeth

Its residential apartments. I think it may be owned by the same company that owns a few other apartment buildings in my neighborhood. They do maintain it, in fact last fall they put a new roof on it and properly replaced wood trim from what I can see on the ground.

FYI, though I still own my house on Whitney, I bought another on Ellicott that I'm rehabbing and living in. I currently rent out Whitney. We should grab a beer sometime, I like your comments on here :)

whatever
whatever

There might be good answers to that for those 32.

I don't know, so I won't assume either way.

However, there are 24 houses currently listed for sale on the city's website with photos and details:

http://companylistings.cityofbuffalo.nys.mlxchange.com/

Prices of those are pretty low -

10 of the 24 have price of under $3,000, a few as low as $1,000

another 10 between $3,000 and $5,000

1 is for $9,000

1 is for $11,00

2 are above $70,000

So, if of those 56 houses, if they concluded 24 are worth selling and 32 should be demoed, there might be good reasoning.

And those are in addition to the $1 houses Mike wrote about.

grad94
grad94

why oh why aren't these proposed demolitions posted at the city's website with pictures?

grad94
grad94

why oh why aren't these proposed demolitions posted at the city's website with pictures?

LouisTully
LouisTully

Hey, brownteeth. I've been meaning to ask since it's in your neighborhood. Do you know what's up with this building across W. Chip from the school:

https://www.google.com/maps?q=West+Chippewa+Street,+Buffalo,+NY&hl=en&ll=42.891186,-78.879161&spn=0.000001,0.0006&sll=42.746632,-75.770041&sspn=5.663325,9.832764&oq=west+chippewa&t=h&hnear=W+Chippewa+St,+Buffalo,+New+York°=180&z=21&layer=c&cbll=42.891186,-78.879161&panoid=NYIWP-4jQrvSBmwUevP7dA&cbp=12,188.17,,0,-1.31

I never really noticed it or paid much attention to it. I guess it's easily overlooked because of the buildings flanking it. Residential? Maintained?

LouisTully
LouisTully

Hey, brownteeth. I've been meaning to ask since it's in your neighborhood. Do you know what's up with this building across W. Chip from the school:

https://www.google.com/maps?q=West+Chippewa+Street,+Buffalo,+NY&hl=en&ll=42.891186,-78.879161&spn=0.000001,0.0006&sll=42.746632,-75.770041&sspn=5.663325,9.832764&oq=west+chippewa&t=h&hnear=W+Chippewa+St,+Buffalo,+New+York°=180&z=21&layer=c&cbll=42.891186,-78.879161&panoid=NYIWP-4jQrvSBmwUevP7dA&cbp=12,188.17,,0,-1.31

I never really noticed it or paid much attention to it. I guess it's easily overlooked because of the buildings flanking it. Residential? Maintained?

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

"You cannot demolish your way into economic development". Bernie Tolbert for Mayor of Buffalo.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

"You cannot demolish your way into economic development". Bernie Tolbert for Mayor of Buffalo.

r-k-tekt
r-k-tekt

There are 32 city owned properties coming before the preservation board for demolition on Thursday

r-k-tekt
r-k-tekt

There are 32 city owned properties coming before the preservation board for demolition on Thursday

brownteeth
brownteeth

Or God forbid put a "for sale" sign on it...they only just figured that out recently.

LouisTully
LouisTully

Yeah. It's too bad the city has $640k to spend on a privately owned ice cream shack but apparently can't employ an individual to update a database 2 years old - or, just as likely, properly manage the individual whose responsibility it is.

LouisTully
LouisTully

Yeah. It's too bad the city has $640k to spend on a privately owned ice cream shack but apparently can't employ an individual to update a database 2 years old - or, just as likely, properly manage the individual whose responsibility it is.

Buffalogni
Buffalogni

I love the fact that you updated the city's outdated database. This kind of citizen participation is what Buffalo needs.

Buffalogni
Buffalogni

I love the fact that you updated the city's outdated database. This kind of citizen participation is what Buffalo needs.

longgone
longgone

Just an idea....

But has anyone ever reached out to This Old House? I have been watching that show since I was a kid. Traditionally they do one home in the Boston area and another around the US.

I know for a fact that they did a community build project in DC a couple of years ago and have worked on other rehab projects like this. It's not always about restoring a massive home.

Just think of what good press that would be!

Norm Abram going to a reuse and restoring an historic fireplace. Kevin O'Connor doing a tour of the Darwin Martin house and the rest of the gems for Buffalo.

To submit your project write to us at:

pickmyhouse@timeinc.com

or

Project Proposals

This Old House Productions

PO Box 130

Concord, MA 01742-0130

longgone
longgone

Personally, I do not like the rule that you have to live in the house for 3 years. I think there are better ways to ensure these are not gobbled up by outsiders.

Looking at the map (thanks for creating that) there are several homes in clusters. Take Laurel Street as an example. The best opportunity lies in having all of these worked on at the same time for the results to work together. Not sure how this could be done but I think being open to rules that would allow for it would be nice.

longgone
longgone

Personally, I do not like the rule that you have to live in the house for 3 years. I think there are better ways to ensure these are not gobbled up by outsiders.

Looking at the map (thanks for creating that) there are several homes in clusters. Take Laurel Street as an example. The best opportunity lies in having all of these worked on at the same time for the results to work together. Not sure how this could be done but I think being open to rules that would allow for it would be nice.

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

I like the $1 property at Ellicott & Goodell. A developer friend has the $1 ready, and I believe he can access 5 thou. Let's get that one rehabbed!

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

I like the $1 property at Ellicott & Goodell. A developer friend has the $1 ready, and I believe he can access 5 thou. Let's get that one rehabbed!

mikerals
mikerals

The "18 months to get the property to code" is in the sale contract but I am not aware of the city ever following up on that. It usually does take longer than 18 months especially if this is a first renovation project for the person and they are doing a majority of the work.

mikerals
mikerals

The "18 months to get the property to code" is in the sale contract but I am not aware of the city ever following up on that. It usually does take longer than 18 months especially if this is a first renovation project for the person and they are doing a majority of the work.

KimMcH
KimMcH

I really like these incentive programs. Brings to mind when they did this in Harlem back in the late 90's. $1.00 bought you a lottery ticket that may result in owning a beautiful brownstone. The fact that you had to have the ability to fix it (loans were easily accessible to help with the beautification process) and back taxes had to be paid before taking over the property, kept out slummy landlords who would have just rented them without doing anything. Now areas like Morningside Park are one of the most beautiful and sought areas to live.

On a downside, many of the middle income residences were forced to live in the outer areas like the Bronx because of higher rents and property taxes that came with the new Upper Westside area. I hope there is a way that these much needed programs can be implemented without changing the neighborhood's demographic landscape into yuppy expat suburbaniteville... Yuck.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

I'd rather have it in the hands of someone who is "off to a good start" than in the City's. Period.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

I'd rather have it in the hands of someone who is "off to a good start" than in the City's. Period.

SenecaFire
SenecaFire

Would it be a crazy suggestion requiring purchasers to have proof of funds in relation to the work that needs to be done? $5,000 is a good start but I see properties that were acquired this way still sitting because the owners have run out of money. Anyone else's thoughts?

SenecaFire
SenecaFire

Would it be a crazy suggestion requiring purchasers to have proof of funds in relation to the work that needs to be done? $5,000 is a good start but I see properties that were acquired this way still sitting because the owners have run out of money. Anyone else's thoughts?

Rand503
Rand503

Absolutely. I wish they would advertise this all over the country. I already forwarded this to some of my friends.

grad94
grad94

good program and good article. and thanks for the captions.

i'd have tweaked the requirements a little: 3 years to bring it up to code in exchange for 5 year minimum residency. as is usually the case with an old house, setting out to fix one problem uncovers three more.

you shouldn't start certain interior projects, like redoing your kitchen, until you've finished certain exterior projects, like replacing your roof so it stops leaking into your kitchen. given that winter halts exterior work, that 18 month period is more like 14-15 months. just not enough time for sincere, honest diy homeowners.

this article needs to get to media outlets in high-rent cities, where joe and jane from buffalo now live but have little hope of owning their own home. you know where your forward and like buttons are, people.

GregWWW
GregWWW

@newbuffalo That's against the rules as I read them.   But, you can just purchase a vacant lot for $1 if you'd like.. 

TheOneInPhilly
TheOneInPhilly

@Buffalo_Resurrection 

Hey, is there a contact number that I can call?

dasiy
dasiy

Do you have the number to call. for. the $1.00 house in bluffo new york

Trackbacks

  1. […] -Buffalo, New York: “The Urban Homestead Program that is offered by the City of Buffalo enables qualified buyers to purchase a home that has been deemed ‘homestead eligible’ for $1.00 and there are plenty of properties left. There are three main requirements when purchasing a homestead property; the owner must fix all code violations within 18 months, have immediate access to at least $5000, and live there for at least three years. You also have to cover the closing costs of the purchase.” […]

  2. […] -Buffalo, New York: “The Urban Homestead Program that is offered by the City of Buffalo enables qualified buyers to purchase a home that has been deemed ‘homestead eligible’ for $1.00 and there are plenty of properties left. There are three main requirements when purchasing a homestead property; the owner must fix all code violations within 18 months, have immediate access to at least $5000, and live there for at least three years. You also have to cover the closing costs of the purchase.” […]

  3. […] -Buffalo, New York: “The Urban Homestead Program that is offered by the City of Buffalo enables qualified buyers to purchase a home that has been deemed ‘homestead eligible’ for $1.00 and there are plenty of properties left. There are three main requirements when purchasing a homestead property; the owner must fix all code violations within 18 months, have immediate access to at least $5000, and live there for at least three years. You also have to cover the closing costs of the purchase.” […]

  4. […] -Buffalo, New York: “The Urban Homestead Program that is offered by the City of Buffalo enables qualified buyers to purchase a home that has been deemed ‘homestead eligible’ for $1.00 and there are plenty of properties left. There are three main requirements when purchasing a homestead property; the owner must fix all code violations within 18 months, have immediate access to at least $5000, and live there for at least three years. You also have to cover the closing costs of the purchase.” […]

  5. […] -Buffalo, New York: “The Urban Homestead Program that is offered by the City of Buffalo enables qualified buyers to purchase a home that has been deemed ‘homestead eligible’ for $ 1.00 and there are plenty of properties left. There are three main requirements when purchasing a homestead property; the owner must fix all code violations within 18 months, have immediate access to at least $ 5000, and live there for at least three years. You also have to cover the closing costs of the purchase.” […]

  6. […] -Buffalo, New York: “The Urban Homestead Program that is offered by the City of Buffalo enables qualified buyers to purchase a home that has been deemed ‘homestead eligible’ for $1.00 and there are plenty of properties left. There are three main requirements when purchasing a homestead property; the owner must fix all code violations within 18 months, have immediate access to at least $5000, and live there for at least three years. You also have to cover the closing costs of the purchase.” […]

  7. […] -Buffalo, New York: "The Urban Homestead Program that is offered by the City of Buffalo enables qualified buyers to purchase a home that has been deemed 'homestead eligible' for $1.00 and there are plenty of properties left. There are three main requirements when purchasing a homestead property; the owner must fix all code violations within 18 months, have immediate access to at least $5000, and live there for at least three years. You also have to cover the closing costs of the purchase." […]

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