Today's newspaper ran a story about the high cost of insuring a vacant home. It told of the plight of homeowners who had to move before their home sold, and who were stunned when their insurance premium increased by eightfold.
The insurance companies claim the reason for such outrageous premiums is that in addition to a greater risk of vandalism, a vacant house is prone to expensive repairs resulting from no one noticing things like a water leak or a door left open in winter. And that's true. I know of a house that was completely ruined because the door had been left open in zero degree temps and the listing agent didn't come by to check on the house for about 4 months. (A whole other story!) By the time anyone noticed, the basement was flooded, the house filled with mold, basement ceilings on the floor, etc.
The case study told of a couple who found the solution by getting a tenant who would cooperate with their Realtor on showings, etc. in exchange for a reduced rent.
Now, that may be a good plan, but I can see glitches.
For one thing, a tenant who is living in a nice home at reduced rent isn't going to want the house to sell. Any of us who have ever rented a home or apartment know how difficult it is to find a good place at a reasonable price. So, while they might cooperate, they might ALSO do little things to discourage a sale.
I recall one gentleman whose (rented) house was always neat and tidy if you showed up on short notice - but if he had a day's notice the dirty dishes would be all over the kitchen, the bed unmade, the living room littered with magazines, clothes, etc. and the toilet un-flushed!
Other tenants, insisting they had to be there to guard their possessions during a showing, would give potential buyers little "tips" about what was wrong with the house, the neighbors, etc.
So while reading that newspaper story, it occurred to me that this could be an opening for an entire new industry. It would take a certain personality and lifestyle to pull it off, but with so many young people out of work right now, it just might work.
Instead of renting the house out to someone who may or may not keep it clean and ready to show, why not hire a professional to come in and "live there" one or two nights per week?
The homeowner would have to leave a minimum of furniture in the home (including a refrigerator and stove), and leave the TV cable turned on.
An ambitious entrepreneur could potentially "live in" 7 homes at a time, rotating days and times of day at the home. Perhaps a visit to the home each day or every other day would be included, with one night per week of sleeping there. Depending upon the level of service he (or she) wanted to offer, he could take care of yard maintenance, forward any mail that still shows up after the owners move, etc.
An individual, or even a couple with no pets and no children, might find this to be an interesting add-on career and could charge a reasonable fee while being freed from the cost of rent and utilities. After all, some people avoid rent by becoming house-sitters. This would just be a variation on the theme, and if marketed well, would afford the person with a "next place to be."
What would a homeowner pay to know that someone was keeping an eye on their property while reducing their insurance premiums from about $4,000 per year back down to the former premium of about $500?
I don't know, but at $100 per month they'd save $2,400 and be able to stop paying when the house sold.
My experience with insurance policies is that they're heavily weighted toward the front end. If you cancel after 8 months you might get back 10% of the premium - not 25%.
It's something to think about. If anyone you know is already doing this, write and tell me - I'm really curious.