Looking for a fixer-upper or an inexpensive lot? Property owned by the City of Pittsburgh might be the answer. The city has 3,089 parcels it’s willing to sell, now searchable in a new online database.
The website from the Department of Finance, built with help from the Department of Innovation & Performance, allows interested buyers to view all available properties on a map. You can search by street name or parcel number and filter your search with criteria such as building condition, neighborhood and assessed value.
Finance Director Paul Leger has wanted to display the city’s tax and property information visually for years. The site is convenient for anyone looking to purchase city property and for city officials who need to know what the city owns, he says.
The site lists purchase prices for properties as TBD. To apply to purchase a property, simply download and complete an application and return it by mail or in person at 414 Grant St., 1st floor, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. To qualify, a buyer’s taxes, water and sewage bills must be current.
“You come in, apply to be a purchaser, and when you’re approved, it’s sent to the URA and they give us a price,” says Leger. The Urban Redevelopment Authority calculates a non-negotiable price based on recent sales, he says, and the prospective owner can then make a decision on whether to buy.
The city typically acquires and unloads tax-delinquent properties through Treasurer’s sales. On average, such sales list about 400 properties and produce about 40 sales, Leger says. Most inquiries about properties come from Community Development Corporations, individuals who want to flip properties or people who want to fix them up to live in them.
“I’d like to put them all back on the tax rolls and would like to have the city not responsible for them because we’re a bad landlord,” Leger says. “I don’t think we maintain the properties the way a private owner would.”
Buying from the city has a benefit. “You can usually get properties cheaper than the market,” says Leger. “They are properties that usually require some work, but you can do the work yourself and sell them at a substantially higher rate, or rent them.”
City Councilman Dan Gilman said the online database is an “incredible new tool” that continues the city’s technological transformation to make all services more accessible and user-friendly.
“Improving the process of city property sales helps to eliminate blight, create neighborhood stability, and allow a family to own a new home,” Gilman says.
Prior to 2015, there were no lists of city properties available for sale. The Peduto administration started to list for-sale properties but the lists were static, not regularly updated, and not user-friendly enough, says Communications Director Tim McNulty.
The map of available properties will be current, and will provide a picture, tax information and assessed value. Properties for sale are shown as dots on the map. Eventually, the site will include an online application to purchase.