Selling a Vacant Home

Great job opportunities, moving for school, finally finding the perfect property elsewhere … there are lots of reasons why homeowners move and leave behind a home to sell, whether planned or unplanned.

If this is you, take heart. You won’t be bothered by last-minute showings, keeping the house immaculate all the time and dealing with people stopping by unannounced to check out your place. Your communication with your agent will likely be done electronically, and the hassles to you are greatly reduced.

But, you will have a few things to keep in mind:

Vacant homes take longer to sell, and sell for less: People don’t simply buy houses, they buy homes and the lifestyle the home offers. Vacant houses are devoid of life and without furniture, wall art, rugs, lighting, decor, etc. the chance to make an emotional connection is lost. It’s a fact… staged, lived-in, or decorated homes sell faster, for more money. Even a few key items throughout your property can go a long way.

Sweat the small stuff. Once furniture is removed from a space, even the slightest imperfections become apparent. Spend extra time fixing up any noticeable damages, repainting and caulking, getting new carpets, pressure washing and fixing up anything in need of repair.

You need an exceptional agent: You need an agent who will go into your house at least weekly and look for signs of leaks, break-ins, to ensure the A/C or heat is running as needed … a vacant home can deteriorate quickly when it’s ignored. Vacant does not mean it should be abandoned. If you live in a rural area, or don’t have friendly or dependable neighbors, pay for a service.

Air it out. It’s amazing how quickly an empty house can begin smelling stale and musty. Before a showings your agent should throw open windows and doors to allow for fresh circulation. Some mildly scented candles may also be helpful.

Maximize curb appeal. Whether it’s your friendly neighbors, a yard service or a full-blown management company, the exterior of your property needs to be maintained. Many buyers will drive by a property first to see if it’s worth going inside. Make sure they say “yes” by having the yard maintained and mowed, leaves raked in the fall, clean-up after windstorms, garbage and weeds kept at bay, etc. The same goes for snow removal in the winter.

Be available: Since you’ll be away from the property, there won’t be any in-person meetings … be sure you have a working email account that you check regularly, can access a phone, fax/scanner and can receive communication quickly from your agent. Nothing makes an agent (or a buyer) more frustrated than having an offer available and not being able to contact a seller or to have questions answered.

Price it Right: If your home is on the market and you’re not there, there are additional expenses you’ll incur. You have to keep the utilities on, arrange for maintenance, etc., and those add to your monthly expenses. Price your home to sell, not sit. There is no such thing as pricing to, ‘see what will happen.’ Because nothing happens when a house is overpriced. Listen to your real estate agent. Unless you can afford the time, hassle and extra expense of multiple households, your biggest leg-up will be strong pricing to get a quick offer.

Consider staging. Even if you have moved all your furniture out, you may want to consider hiring a staging company that offers furniture rental. These professionals can make an empty space into a scene of warmth and comfort. Potential buyers are not just looking for a roof over their head. They are looking for a place to start a new chapter in their life. You want to show them everything your property has to offer. Since vacant homes often sell for considerably less—typically 5-10 percent less than comparable occupied properties—hiring a staging company is usually a solid investment.

Marketing strategy. Selling a home, typically the home owner’s most valuable asset, is not any different than marketing a commercial product. Location, Condition and Showcasing (or Professional Staging), Price and Promotion need to be considered together. While there is nothing you can do about the location of the property, you can influence the other marketing factors. The price is being influenced by the Location, the Condition and Showcasing (the packaging) of the home. The Promotion to bring the traffic into your house will be most effective if the Showcasing and Photographs are professionally done. (see The Importance of Real Estate Photos)

If there is no Showcasing (or Professional Staging), the promotional pictures will not stand out, so price is now your only marketing strategy.

If you’re dealing with more than one household, whether by accident or by choice, there are simple things you can do to make life more manageable until you offload one. A little prep and planning goes a long way.

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