Let's say, with a growing family, you want to sell your home and move to a bigger place. Don't you just hate that last-minute call from your realtor: "I have people who want to come by in the next hour." You have to drop everything, run around picking up toys and doing a quick vacuum, pack the kids in the car to the local fast food joint. It would be so much easier if the house was vacant so that prospective buyers could come anytime, without the hassle, right?
A vacant property is a tough sell. It can mean:
- Up to twice as much home insurance cost than an occupied home, if you can get insurance at all.
- Longer time to sell; prospective owners cannot visualize their lifestyle as easily in empty rooms, and may see more flaws.
- Physical damage to the home due to lack of maintenance, running of furnace, A/C and the like.
- Reduced selling price resulting from the two points directly above.
Vandalism - Human and Otherwise
An empty house is susceptible to vandalism, including:
- Occupation by "squatters" (freeloaders, transients)
- Robbery of valuable building materials (such as the copper in pipes)
- Partying youth with a good place to stash their party favours
- Wildlife love a void - an unoccupied basement/crawlspace, attic or any room that shelters them from the elements and predators.
Home inspectors will be the first to warn you about the dangers of letting a home stand empty.
- An inactive AC system can result in built-up humidity, especially in the ground and basement level areas, and condensation on walls and windows - all of it leading to a likelihood of fungus and mould, which can be difficult and expensive to clean up.
- Freeze thaw problems, such as frozen pipes, if the heating system is turned off during the winter, in colder regions.
- Long-term dry spells resulting in brittleness or shrinkage of sealing devices such as gaskets and O-rings designed to be used in a wet system
Fortunately, there are some solutions to get your vacant property to move on the market. They include:
- Hiring a 'home sitter' or "home tender". RIS Media wrote last month about these temporary renters are a growing business. In some cases, in the US, there is no cost to the seller for these sitters; the nominal rent they pay goes to the professional who finds and hires these home tenders.
- Hiring home staging professionals who specialize in vacant properties. Of course, the cost will be higher than staging furnished homes. Some of these companies offer complete rental inventory of furniture and accessories for vacant home staging
- Hiring a landscaper (or local kid) to regularly trim your lawn, shrubbery, etc. to maintain your empty home's curb appeal.
If you're looking to buy, and you come across a vacant home - which could include a vacation property - don't rule it out right away, no matter how cobwebbed the rooms or ratty the front lawn.
You might get a better price if it's been sitting (empty) on the market a long time. And, of course, be sure not to skimp on hiring a home inspector in the case of an unoccupied property.
Have you ever bought a vacant property? If so, did you feel you got an good deal because of it? As the seller of a vacant property, what solutions did you come up with? We want to know; please leave your comments below.