How can I find out the status of the home next door to me , it has been empty since last summer and is becoming an eyesore?
Most states list the mortgage lender on public records, google your county public records site. Most have a search by name feature, and I assume you knew the name of your former neighbor. If not go to the county property appraiser website and search property by address and the owner of record will appear (a little CSI real estate style).
Now go back to public records and search by name, typically you will see the mortgage recording there (along with possible other nefarious things about your former neighbor like liens and judgments). Once you stop snooping there, look for the mortgage company of record. Sometimes the loan was originated by one company then sold to another, you want to find the most current mortgage lender of record. You may find a foreclosure action here too.
Then google the current lender for their phone number and try to reach their mortgage servicing department. If the loan is still with your former neighbor (meaning the lender has not foreclosed) then they won't tell you much. At that point tell them you are the neighborhood association crime watch person for that block (aren't we all crime watch people for our own neighborhood?) , tell them the house is an eyesore, feel free to embellish and voice your concern about possibly calling the police about possible criminal activity. You want to try to reach the asset manager of the lender or their vendor in charge of the property especially if the house is in the process of foreclosure. These guys don't want the police involved and will likely send someone out to scope the problem.
If the house has been foreclosed on and is in REO (Real Estate Owned) status, that means the bank owns the house, find out if the house the bank has an REO management company that they are using, and try to reach that group for neighborhood compliance. Remember, honey vs. vinegar but keep in mind squeaky wheel with threatening but sweet undertones will get you everywhere.
One thing you can do is go to the registry [most states] or town clerk [VT & CT] to see what liens are on that particular property. You can find out by property address and homeowner name [if known]. You can find out who the lender is. You can find out if the property has been foreclosed. You can find out what kind of loan was securing the property. And even the high balance of the loan. If it was an FHA loan [you will see the case number in a box at the top right corner of page one of the mortgage] you can look at www.homesales.gov to see if it is listed for sale.
You could always mow the lawn in conjunction with other neighbors and generally make the property less conspicuous. Some will say there is a potential liablity for doing so. But if you would rather not be looking at an eyesore, then maybe it is a risk worth taking. It might be considered akin to Neighborhood Watch. And it could prevent disappointing appraisal results if anyone is trying to refinance who lives within eyesight.
The lender will probably not give you much information, so your best bet is to get a Realtor friend involved to try to get a listing on the property. This is one of the side effects of foreclosure and abandonment of properties. Neighborhoods can suffer from the deferred maintenance. Properties can become fire hazards or targets of mischief. Or worse. So, you can wiegh your options, but starting with a property search of the land records is a good point of beginning.