As the real estate market continues to stabilize, sellers may find that their property remains on the market significantly longer than the days of “list today, sold tomorrow.” There is also more competition for buyers. So, it can be frustrating to put your home on the market, expecting a fast sale, only to find that after six months you’re still waiting for an offer. This is especially true if you need to move quickly and leave your unsold home vacant.
Besides creating a marketing challenge, a vacant home can also be a target for vandalism. Here are strategies you can use to hasten a sale and protect your property during the process:
- Instead of producing a spacious appearance, an empty room tends to look smaller than a furnished room. So, leave behind a few select pieces of furniture and keep the window treatments in place. A chair or lamp on a small table will confer a sense of scale and help potential buyers gauge whether their furniture will fit the space.
- If you decide to remove the furniture, have the house cleaned and painted. Furniture, rugs and decorations tend to hide or minimize imperfections. When furniture and artwork have been removed, every blemish and bruise becomes accentuated, faded paint and wallpaper become more noticeable and scratches and nicks stand out.
- Repaint brightly and boldly colored rooms to a neutral tone. What was an eye-popping room when fully-furnished may appear stark and small when empty.
- To thwart unwelcome visits, give the house a lived-in look. Set a couple of lamps on timers, and ask a neighbor or friend check on the house daily to collect mail, park a car in the driveway, and close and open drapes and windows. Continue using a gardening service or hire someone to cut the grass regularly. During the winter months, arrange to have snow shoveled from the walks and driveway.
- If available, consider employing a home manager or house sitter. At little or no cost to homeowners, the house is furnished and decorated for show-to-sell condition. Most companies require home managers to mow the lawn, shovel snow, even pay pool maintenance and utilities. Having someone living on site discourages vandalism, protects against deterioration and weather hazards and may even reduce insurance costs. (Check with your insurance carrier.)
- Leave the utilities connected. Depending on the season, make sure the thermostat in the house is set at a comfortable level. You don’t want a potential buyer to run through the home because it is too hot or cold.
- Review your homeowner’s insurance policy with your insurance agent to find out what the stipulations and coverage pertain to your vacant home.
- Find a real estate professional with experience selling vacant houses. Often, these sales professionals specialize in relocation. You want to make sure that you are comfortable with your lines of communication. If you will be residing in another town, come up with an agreement on how often your representative will check on the home and what should be done if a problem develops.
Although a vacant house presents certain challenges, it does not need to be difficult to sell.