Tips to Sell a Vacant House

Last week, I wrote some tips for first time home buyers.  Specifically, things they should do and shouldn't do to prepare for buying a homeBut buyers are only part of the equation, sellers are another big part.  This week, I’ll talk about some tips for people who are selling a home. I’ll start with the subject of vacant homes, since there are so many homes which have been foreclosed on or whose owners got too impatient to wait for it to sell.

After years and the real estate business, I can say that the idea a home is sitting vacant while it is on the market is almost an immediate turn-off for potential buyers.  Often their imagination runs rampant with ideas of an unkempt yard, scarred walled, filthy floors, possibly even stolen wiring and copper piping.  Alas, an existing home that looks “lived in” when it is furnished and people are actually living there, it could look bare and flawed to potential home buyers when it’s unoccupied.  That can be overcome, however, as selling a vacant home isn't impossible.  If you must vacate a home before you sell it, try to follow these pointers:

  • First impressions count. Even if the house you are trying to sell is vacant, it must have some curb appeal.  Regardless of whether your home is vacant or not, make sure that the surrounding grounds are being well kept.  If you have to, pay a neighbor to mow the lawn, keep it watered, and tend to the landscaping. 
  • Spruce up landscaping before you leave. Plant some new shrubs, lay down some fresh ground cover, or brighten it up with some colorful annuals.
  • If your house is on the market in fall, be sure whoever is tending to the yard also keeps the leaves cleaned up. Likewise, if it's winter and you live in a snowy area, be sure driveways and entrances are cleared for people coming to take a tour of the home.
  • Paint or fix up the front entryway if it is looking a little shabby.
  • Go through every room of the house and touch up the paint on any walls that have been scuffed or marked up. After moving furniture out, you're sure to find a slew of such marks. You may even want to just repaint some rooms entirely if the current shades look too bright in a room with no furnishings or wall decorations.
  • Once everything is out, get all of the carpeting professionally cleaned. Without furnishings and other items to distract the eye, every stain on the floor will stand out. 
  • Clean every nook and cranny of your house thoroughly, including windows, tile grout, and fireplaces, before you let potential buyers look at it. Once again, the grime will certainly stand out in an empty room.
  • If it is at all possible, try to leave some furniture in the house. It will help to give prospective buyers a sense of size and proportion. Empty rooms appear smaller than they actually are.  Additionally, having a place to sit down encourages people to sit and observe, as well as talk about the features of the home. 
  • Don't set a vacant house up for break-ins. Invest in timers for lights both inside and outside the home.  The lights should turn on automatically when it gets dark and turn off at sunrise. Also, cancel your newspaper subscription and forward your mail, as a pile of newspapers can signify to a thief that no one has been home for a while.
  • If you have a security alarm, use it.  Just make sure you give the entrance code to your Realtor.
  • Be sure you review the provisions of your homeowners insurance. Many companies have a cap on how long coverage will last while the property is vacant.

Though some buyers balk at the idea of looking at or buying a vacant home, some like the idea that a house is already waiting for them to move in whenever the closing is finalized.  Also, with no furnishings to cloud of the view, potential owners can see exactly what they’re getting in the end.  Selling a vacant home is not an impossible task.  It can be made much easier with the right approach.

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