The typical way to buy a home is to offer the owner money for it - so when a house is bank owned (sometimes called REO) you may be able to approach the bank and make an offer (short sale).
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A few months ago, there were several news articles in the Seattle area about persons who took over vacant houses and claim that the houses were theirs. Some of those vacant houses were worth several million dollars.
The neighbors, likely with similarly valued houses, called the police.
The persons who took over the houses shortly vacate the houses. Some were charged with some criminal law violations.
I suppose if they had taken over some less expensive houses, the neighbors might be less inclined to think that something was wrong and call the police.
The bank likely has people periodically checking on its houses. So, in the Seattle area, it likely is not going to happen that a person would occupy a house long enough to claim adverse possession before the bank notices that someone is occupying the house without authorization.
In news articles, many places (such as Detroit and Cleveland) have neighborhoods with many vacant houses. Perhaps in those place, someone can take over a house long enough without the legal owner noticing.
Tacoma's city council was discussing fixing up abandoned houses to sell. Perhaps there are neighborhoods in Tacoma where someone can take over a house.
If a person does not mind having to leave quickly or being in jail, perhaps taking over vacant houses can be a profitable job.
The time period for continuous possession required for adverse possession is either 7 or 10 years in Washington state. So, someone usually will come around and outst the possessor before the time period expires and trespass charges could be filed by the rightful owner.
Actively practicing law in Texas. Inactive licenses in Arizona and Georgia. All answers are general in nature and no attorney/client relationship exists in this forum.