I just finished viewing a vacant home that I will be listing for the bank in Sandwich. While I was there the neighbor approached me to learn more about the house. I showed her around the property and we talked about the neighborhood and the real estate market. As a listing Realtor for a vacant property - it's always nice to get to know the neighbors. They can keep an eye on things and let me know if anything weird happens. For the neighbors, I think it gives them peace of mind knowing they can call someone local if there is a problem.
Neighbors often face a lot of challenges when the house next door is vacant. Sometimes the property can become a magnet for vandalism, vagrants or just kids looking for trouble. If the property is owned by a bank - it is always managed by a property management company or Realtor. Most banks or property manangement companies will post a sign in the window stating who is manging the property and leave phone number to call. Some communities even require that a sign be posted if the property is a rental property (Chicago for example).
Most propert management companies will take care of things like major repairs & lawn maintenance. They probably aren't going to shovel the driveway in the winter. But in the summer months - someone should be cutting the grass on a weekly basis. Most villages have an ordinance in place that regulates how long the grass can grow. If it gets too long - the village will send a notice and/or fine the homeowner.
If you're interested in buying a vacant house - the property management company or bank can also help. I can tell you from experience that this is hard to do. It's out of the norm. No one wants to deal with you. Banks are not setup to sell properties. They sell through Realtors. That doesn't mean you can't get it done - but be prepared for an uphill battle. A vacant bank owned property is in between the time that foreclosure took place and the property officially being offered for sale through a Realtor. Banks will sell properties like this - but my experience has been that the people on the other phone just don't want to deal with you.
Finally, if you expect that the vacant property is being used by kids to party or by homeless people to sleep in - call the police. Immediately. This kind of situation can quickly get out of hand (especially in bigger cities)...and the house can become a real nuisance. The important thing to do is create a paper trail. Keep track of how you talked to and when. What you reported. Get copies of police reports whenever possible. Then, when you call next time - you can refer to these notes. It's much harder for someone else to dismiss you when you are well prepared!