Take a few minutes to generate a list of possible search terms before you start your research. You'll probably find that there will be a family of terms that deal specifically with the non-legal aspects of your topic, and terms that relate to the legal and planning aspects of your topic.
Let's assume we're looking for newspaper articles and other current awareness materials regarding vacant and distressed property. Think about the words that are part of your topic in terms of these categories:
As you review and evaluate your search results, you will learn which terms and combinations of terms are most effective in particular contexts/databases. You will be able to expand this list of search terms as your understanding of the subject area and the language used to describe it grows.
See also the Housingpolicy.org Glossary of housing terms.
In order to effectively search for local laws, it will be useful to search the Internet for collections of relevant local laws / model laws which have been brought together by others. Here are some search terms that are often used when describing these collections: