There are plenty of articles, blogs, and checklists a homeowner can read to learn techniques for preparing and marketing a home for sale. But generally, this information is related to the preparation, staging and showing process for occupied homes. What if the home you plan to sell is not occupied – a vacant home?
For starters, vacant or occupied, it’s a good idea to make repairs to obvious problem areas in your home before going on the market. Examples: leaky faucets, inoperable doors, and door hardware, broken light fixtures, unsafe handrails, railings, deck boards, etc. Of course, your budget will impact how much repair work you can afford to do. But know this: you’ll be paying for these types of repairs one way or the other – either upfront, as a result of a buyer’s home inspection, or by way of a reduced sale price. By doing the repairs before going on the market, your home will most likely sell faster, sell for more money and you’ll be more in control of the selling process.
Here are some tips to selling a vacant home.
- Keep all of the utilities on – electric, gas, oil, water. Prospective buyers, inspectors, and appraisers will need to know that everything is operating properly and they won’t be able to do that with the electric, water, and/or heating systems turned off.
- And if you’re selling a vacant home in cold weather, be sure to drain outside spigots to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Of course, you’ll also want to make sure the heat is on in the house to prevent interior pipes from freezing and to provide a level of comfort for any visitors.
- Consider some light staging so the empty house doesn’t appear cold and bleak. Add colorful candles and nick knacks to mantels, shelving and countertops. Bathrooms offer a great opportunity for things such as decorative towels, soap dispensers and trash cans.
- Speaking of bathrooms, be sure to have a roll of toilet paper on the dispensers with extras in the cabinet or closet. A visitor may very well decide that your bathroom is much more inviting than the Gas N Go station down the street.
- Place neat and clearly written signs inside the front door and throughout the house, as you deem necessary. The sign at the front door – call it a welcome sign – might ask visitors to remove their shoes, leave lights as they find them and to close and lock the door when they leave. Other signs might be placed to show an unusual location for a light switch, at a wall thermostat with instructions to not touch the settings, and to point out features such as the 42 inch kitchen cabinetry, the new granite countertop, the basement drainage system, or the newly remodeled bathroom.
- If there is a low hanging “head banger” light or chandelier, position a table and at least two chairs under it. This accomplishes three things – it offers a nice appearance to an otherwise vacant dining room or kitchen, it provides a place for agents, buyers, home inspectors, etc to sit; and it prevents injury to a visitor’s head and your light.
- If you have a sliding door to a deck or patio, slide the screen portion of the door all the way open. This will decrease the chance of a clumsy or careless visitor putting a hand or arm through the screen.
- Open curtains and blinds and post a sign asking that visitors keep them that way. The home is vacant, so privacy is not an issue. And a home shows best when sunlight is allowed to stream in.
- Let a couple of trusted neighbors know that your home will be vacant and ask them to let you know if they see anything out of the ordinary. Don’t forget to give them your phone number!
- Keep some extra light bulbs in a kitchen cabinet.
- And keep some cleaning supplies, a vacuum, a broom, and a trash can in a closet, the garage or the basement. You’ll want to check on your vacant home from time-to-time and if you find that some cleaning is needed, you’ll have what you need to take care of the mess.
- And when it comes to checking on your home, more often is better than less often. At the very least, someone should be swinging by later in the day after a scheduled showing appointment to make sure all is in good order.
- Lastly, don’t overlook the exterior of the home and grounds. Curb appeal does not discriminate – it applies to all homes – occupied and unoccupied. Whether it’s a family member, a landscaper, or the kid next door, make sure someone is taking care of the grass, leaves, weeds, snow, etc.
While there are many challenges to selling any type of home, one challenge that doesn’t exist with a vacant home is scheduling showing appointments. No need to give the seller advanced notice to prepare for the showing – put away dishes, tie up the dog, scoot out of the house so the buyer can view it without the uncomfortable presence of the seller. With a vacant home, assuming there’s a lock box with a key, a buyer and their agent can pretty much schedule a visit on very short notice – sometimes while standing in the property’s driveway.
Wrapping things up.
You may have already moved out of the home you’re are selling. Or your tenant has vacated your rental home that you now wish to sell. Or you’re the executor of an estate and you need to sell the deceased’s vacant home. Regardless of the circumstances, be careful to take the sale of your vacant home seriously. As seriously as you would if you were selling your own residence. It’s easy to allow an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality to creep in to the sale process. And that will likely mean a tougher time, lower price received for you, the seller and an easier time, lower price paid for the buyer.
By Rick Sheppard, September 17, 2018