I’ve got to move to another state to get started in my new job, or I’ve bought another house locally and it’s ready for me to move in, should I move my furniture to my new location and leave a vacant house?
The 6th in the series of 12 posts for sellers – answers to frequently asked questions
Answer - Not if you can avoid it. It’s just a lot harder to sell an empty house (here’s an article that tells you why). I know that it’s a real hassle, in addition to an extra expense to have two places, but if you can leave the house that we’re trying to sell here furnished it makes it easier to sell. It sounds cruel, but you are better off to rent an apartment in your new location and live by yourself; while your family stays behind until the place sells.
If you’ve already bought a new place in the new town, move all of that clutter junk out of the storage place into your new house – you’ll feel right at home and the clutter will still be out of the house that we’re trying to sell. Move any excess furniture to the new home, but leave the old place furnished if at all possible.
Buyers have difficulty “seeing” how the house would look with furniture. Even if they don’t like your stuff at least it helps them envision how the space is used. If you absolutely can’t avoid moving your stuff out, so be it. Try to leave at least a table and a few chairs so that your agent has someplace to sit with a buyer to discuss things and somewhere to sit if he/she holds and open house. If you do vacate the house, use that opportunity of it being empty to get the carpets and floors cleaned and maybe getting some painting done. An empty house really shows all the wear and tear spots and with nothing else to attract the eye, any dirt or scratches or picture nail holes or other defects stand out.
An empty house makes an inviting target for vandals and thieves. Copper thieves in particular like to find vacant houses that they can strip. Even if your house is in what you would consider to be a “busy neighborhood”, thieves are bold enough to go in, even in broad daylight. No one ever said that they were smart, just brazen. Nothing says “rob me” quite like a vacant home with a real estate sign out front. Even if they don’t succeed in breaking in, copper thieves have been known to just hack off air conditioner condenser units and haul them away for the copper tubing that’s in most of them.
If you are involved in a foreclosure process and trying to do a short sale there is also the likelihood that the bank has hired a company to check out your house to see if you are still living there. If they find it empty, even with a real estate sign on the lawn and a lockbox on the door, they will post notices of abandonment on it and if you don’t respond to those notices quickly enough they will seize the house and change the locks. It is very difficult to get the house back when that happens. Make sure that you inform your Realtor of any default or foreclosure notices that you receive, so that they can be on the lookout for any postings to the front door. Still, it is not your Realtor’s job to protect your house from seizure by the mortgage company.
The last thing to think about is the fact that your old homeowners insurance policy will not cover a vacant house. You should investigate getting a vacant house insurance policy. Also if you are leaving the house in the winter, make sure that you get it winterized by a professional. If something happens – a break in or pipes bursting in winter – and you have not purchased a vacant house policy, you will not be covered and will not get any damage repaired by your old insurance company. Here’s a good read on that topic from Bankrate.com.
Oh, and here’s one more thing to make your day, if you are in a foreclosure or short sale situation. The Homeowners Association (HOA) may place a lien on the property for unpaid HOA fees, if you have decided to stop paying that, too. That’s just one more thing to have to worry about. Even if you’re not involved in a distressed sale, the HOA can also get involved if you have not contracted for lawn care when you moved out. If the HOA determines that your lawn is in violation of the HOA By-Laws, they may hire someone to cut your lawn and charge you for that, too. If you don’t pay that bill; oh well, there’s another lien on the house. Have a nice day.