A seller advertises a one acre vacant lot in Olympia, Washington and says that it's zoned as residential and then a bidding war ensues. What the buyers don't know is that it's NOT zoned for residential, and actually it's not even land; it's a creek, and 75% of the area is so steep that it would be illegal (and stupid) to build anything there.
Here's a different advertisement: A third of an acre in beautiful Boulder Creek, CA which is southwest of San Jose. It attracts Silicon Valley workers who can't afford the home prices there and they don't want to move to Gilroy or Hollister. Boulder Creek sounds like the lucky break that they've been waiting for, but in reality it's illegal to build there unless the lot is at least a certain size, and a third of an acre is not nearly big enough.
Here are more absurd deals: A twenty acre lot in northern Maine where the local government and most of the residents are secessionists who are pro-actively trying to break-away from the United States. Or this one: A twenty acre vacant lot in east Washington that turned out to be on an Indian reservation. For those who think that the Indians there are friendly to Americans, consider the fact that they currently cut off their water supply.
Blighted buildings have unexpected problems, too. For example, there was a large brick building that had retail space below and apartments upstairs and so it's clear that it should be zoned as "Mixed Use" (both commercial and residential), and the seller advertises it as such. However, the truth is that it lost that zoning status years ago. It has been zoned as "storage" which is a warehouse and the previous owner used it as such.
There's so much fraud in the real estate section of eBay that PayPal won't accept payments for those purchases anymore. eBay refuses to help resolve disputes in the real estate section. In fact, when a buyer gets duped by a seller who commits fraud, and the buyer reports it to eBay they will do absolutely nothing about it and they even allow the seller to continue to sell real estate on their website. It's as if nothing happened. A seller can even take the buyer's money and run, and that's okay with eBay.
There is a seller on eBay who has definitely been reported for misrepresenting property and he's still there. eBay is allowing him to continue to rip people off because they don't get involved in real estate disputes and they don't suspend sellers' accounts for committing fraud. The swindler's user name on eBay is dirt4youz2 and his profile says that he's located in Long Beach, CA. His real name is Dale Donnell, his company's name is Marken Enterprises, Inc. and his address is 644 N. Poplar St. #C, Orange, CA 92868. His phone number is (707) 975-4837.
Most people have heard about foreclosed houses that need extremely expensive renovations, and that they risk spending more money on renovations than the properties are worth. Those homes should be razed (bulldozed) but no one has done it, and the reason is because the market value of the real estate in those neighborhoods is so low that it would cost more money to build a new home than it will be worth. Perfect examples of this are Detroit and Flint in Michigan, but there are pockets of it all over the country.
Beware of old manufactured homes (mobile homes). They're not insurable if they were built before 1976 and also there were major building code changes in October 1995. Also, it's true that insurance companies have a depreciation schedule for manufactured homes. In other words, they lose their value over time like cars do. If an old mobile home burns down then the insurance company won't replace it, instead they'll just pay the owner what it was worth on paper.
It's common for retired couples to sell their house and move to a mobile home park for people who are over age 55. Their adult children are not allowed to live there. For example, in 2009 there was a 53 year old man who has Downs Syndrome and he lived with his mom in an age restricted park in San Jose, CA. She owned her mobile home free and clear. She got sick and went to a nursing home and the next day the owner of her mobile home park evicted her son and gave him three days to move out. Luckily he was a client of a home care agency whose owner knew an attorney who forced the landlord to back down.