Benefits of selling while home is vacant
Dear Heather: I am moving and want to sell my house. Is it better to show it while it's vacant or occupied? — Seller
Dear Seller: There are good and bad aspects for both scenarios. If the property is vacant a homeowner is not interrupted at inopportune times to show the home. A seller doesn't have to go out into the yard or walk around the block while buyers are looking at her home.
Also, the chances that a real estate agent will show your home are increased. That's because agents can take the path of least resistance. If they have 20 homes to show and five are occupied, they might be tempted to show the vacant homes because it's easier; they don't have to call and make an appointment. They can simply obtain the key and go over to show, or they may be out on the road with a buyer and suggest they “swing by” to visit a home the buyer may not otherwise have considered.
The seller isn't under continual pressure to keep her home in immaculate showing condition and spotless at all times. With small children and pets, this can be almost impossible to do, even if one of the parents does not hold a job outside of the home.
Drawbacks to selling a vacant home over an occupied house:
• A seller might have to stage the house and incur an additional expense for home-staging. That's because buyers typically cannot envision a space without furniture. An empty room is really just four walls and a ceiling. There is nothing attractive about that.
• The home might be vandalised. Vacant homes can attract crime. On top of the damage that can happen when a thug breaks into a vacant house, a seller might end up paying out-of-pocket to make repairs because her homeowner's insurance policy might not insure a vacant home (it's definitely worth checking).
• Vacant homes lend less emotional appeal. Buyers who fall head-over-heels in love with a home often will pay more for that home. A vacant house can feel very empty and lonely.
Reasons to stay in the home when selling:
• The home shows better when it is occupied. If you have a property (as I did recently) which was beautifully decorated and well kept, it is definitely a plus. Buyers don't have to try to second-guess whether a bed will fit against a wall or if there is room in the dining room for a table. They can instantly identify the purpose of each room in the home because it's presently being used for that purpose.
• Thieves are unlikely to break into a home that is occupied. They don't want confrontation.
• A homeowner is present to deal with emergencies, especially during inclement weather. A seller who is in residence can immediately manage any crisis. I can't count how many laundry rooms have flooded because the faucet to the washer began to leak after the washer was moved.
• The seller is paying the utilities. Sellers typically need to leave the home utilities turned on, whether the home is vacant or occupied. By living in the home while it is shown for sale, a seller does not have to pay duplicate utility bills. Buyers appreciate the utilities on, not only for showing, but for a home inspection and an appraisal. It's very hard to sell a home with an interior bathroom with no lights!
There is one big reason someone might prefer to sell a vacant home over an occupied one however: the home is simply too messy to show while the sellers live there.
Reasons for messy homes are varied. Some sellers are packrats. They might suffer from an obsessive compulsive disorder and their home reflects that behaviour — boxes are piled everywhere and rooms are stuffed to the gills with personal belongings. Sometimes, the personal belongings take the form of bags of trash or stacks of newspapers.
It's also possible that a seller might have died in the house and the heirs are left to clean out the house; this tends to happen in probate situations. If the occupant was elderly the decor can reflect that, and the house can appear to be old-fashioned, when all it really needs is a coat of paint. It is better to clear out all the personal belongings. The sellers might be unwilling to keep the home in turnkey condition for showing purposes. In all of these types of circumstances, it's better for the seller to move out before putting the home on the market.
Heather Chilvers is among Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty's leading sales representatives. She has been working in real estate for 25 years. If you have a question for Heather, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 332-1793. All questions will be treated confidentially