Everything You Should Know About Selling A Vacant Home

Selling a vacant home

If you are thinking about selling a home that is vacant, there are some things you need to consider. Selling an empty home is not quite the same as selling an occupied one.

We have put together this helpful checklist of things to think about for your home's protection and also to keep it in marketable condition. During the time that it is unoccupied, your home will need to be properly insured, secured, maintained, and staged.

Insuring a Vacant Home

You should always check your homeowners' insurance policy to find out if your coverage will change when the home is vacant. Better yet, call your insurance agent to discuss the situation and to make sure that you have the correct insurance protection on the vacant home. Restrictions vary by insurer. Many insurance companies have a cap on how long they will cover your home while the property is vacant, which leaves you at risk. Most homeowners will need to buy an endorsement to their existing homeowners policy or purchase a separate vacant home insurance policy. Your insurance company will probably want to know that you have taken precautions to protect your home from damage.

Additionally, your mortgage lender will need to be notified, as they have an interest in securing your property as well.

Securing a Vacant Home

Vacant homes can be targeted by vandals, squatters, and robbers. Therefore, it is important that you take some steps to secure your home.

  1. Consider an alarm system. Some vacant home insurance policies may require it.
  2. Set lamps on timers to make the home appear to be lived in.
  3. Turn the slats of window blinds up to keep anyone passing by from seeing that the home is vacant, while allowing some light into the home, leaving a good impression on potential buyers.
  4. Consider shutting off water to exterior faucets.
  5. Leave some exterior lights on.

Maintaining a Vacant Home

The condition of your home will affect how quickly it sells and the price the buyer is willing to offer. First impressions are the most important. You will need to have a plan in place to keep the home maintained while you are away. When a vacant home is ignored, it can quickly deteriorate. 

        1. Use a programmable or smart thermostat to keep the home somewhat cool in the summer and warm enough in the winter without having to visit the home to change temperature settings. 
        2. Change the smoke detector batteries. The house may appear neglected when smoke detectors are beeping for low battery levels.
        3. Spray for pests including the perimeter of the home inside and out. You may want to consider the need for mouse traps.
        4. Run the garbage disposal to clean out all remaining food particles. 
        5. Turn the water heater to vacation settings if possible, to keep utility bills lower. 
        6. Use the irrigation system to keep the grass looking it's best. If you do not have an irrigation system, consider asking a neighbor to water the grass. 
        7. Determine how the yard will be maintained. You will need to maintain the exterior of your property to maximize the sales price of your home. You can either do this yourself, if possible, or look for some help. Asking a neighbor, hiring a yard service, or working with a property management company are all options to keep the outside of the property in its best shape. This includes regular lawn mowing, hedge or shrub trimming, regular removal of weeds, and raking leaves in the fall
        8. Consider asking a friend to stop by weekly. Determine how the friend will be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses. On a weekly basis, this friend should check for signs of potential break-ins, ensure the AC or heat is running, and pick up newspapers, deliveries, flyers on the door and in the mailbox. They should also dust, mop, and vacuum as needed, and ensure that the home smells clean. Once a month they should flush the toilets, and run the faucets, the dishwasher, and the garbage disposal.
        9. After any large storm, someone should always inspect the home for damage: Broken windows, damaged roof, leaks, water coming up drains, etc. Any damage should be taken care of right away.
        10. Before winter, properly winterize the home. Set the programmable thermostat to 58 degrees or higher to make sure that the pipes don't freeze. Turn off water to exterior faucets and disconnect hoses. If there is an irrigation system, have it winterized. It is important to keep utilities turned on until your home sells, as the inspectors will need electricity, gas, water, etc to perform inspections.
        11. When it snows, make arrangements for the home's sidewalk and driveway to be plowed or shoveled

Staging a Vacant Home

Vacant homes take longer to sell. Research shows homes that are staged, lived-in, or decorated sell faster and for more money. Consider hiring a professional stager or even placing a few key items in your home. Buyers are willing to pay more if they feel emotionally connected to a house, which is what staging can accomplish. Staged homes will sell for 5 - 10% more, on average. We have the ability to add virtual staging to any listing, if desired.

        1. Get carpets professionally cleaned once everything is moved out. Every spot will be obvious with no furniture to divert the buyers’ eyes.
        2. Touch up paint. Again, without furniture, every nick, ding, and mark are more noticeable to prospective buyers.

Other Tips

        1. Be available. We ask that you make sure that you are available to us when we need you for a question, signature, or discussion. Be sure you have a working email account that you check regularly and can access a phone to receive communication quickly from us.
        2. Price it right. There are additional expenses when a home is vacant, like utilities and maintenance. Price your home to sell, not sit. Unless you can afford the time, hassle and extra expense of multiple households, your biggest marketing plan will be strong pricing to get an offer early.
        3. Keep some essentials on hand. Potential buyers are guests, and it is courteous to leave toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels for their use. Also, consider extra light bulbs and cleaning supplies for the person maintaining your home.

Download Vacant Home Checklist

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