Tips on Marketing a Vacant Property

Home Stager with Showhomes

Lemon Aid for Lemons: Tips on marketing a vacant property.

Today, there are many vacant properties sitting on the market.  According to a two-year study by the Employee Relocation Council, these homes will take an average of 90 days longer to market and will sell for 10-15% less than a comparative owner occupied residence, typically because the seller of a vacant property loses both negotiating leverage, and the advantage of emotional or visual appeal.  While vacant property sales create a challenge to the real estate agent, seller or builder, some of these obstacles can be overcome. But before we offer some "aid" for these "lemons" let's review the various issues and challenges associated with marketing vacant properties.

Why do homes become vacant?   They become vacant for a variety of reasons including, corporate relocation, new job transfer, divorce, foreclosure and bankruptcy and when sellers take possession of their newly constructed home prior to the sale of their former home.  After the owners leave these properties empty there are many factors to be aware like insurance coverage. Most Homeowners Insurance polices include a cancellation clause of 30 - 90 days after a property becomes vacant. If the insurance companies do re- insure, it will be at a substantially increased premium. This is sometimes overlooked while owners are in the mist of moving and relocating. Therefore the first order of business is to advise the homeowner to check with their insurance agent before their property becomes vacant.

Another challenge an agent may face in a vacant property is the homes curb appeal "You never have a second chance to make a good first impression!" Sellers and agents of a vacant home need to always keep the lawn trimmed and the pool maintained. But how about adding other elements to grab a buyer's attention before they walk in the door?   You can place a couple of tropical palms in decorative planters on the front porch with a nice door mat. Outdoor lighting does wonders in the evenings--when many home buyers do drive-bys of properties.  This adds warmth and accents the outside of the home while protecting and deterring vandals. Curb appeal" is that first look at your house, so make it a good one.

Marketing the inside of an empty property is difficult.  Most buyers cannot visualize there things in a vacant property.  Ideally if you can hire someone to stage it with furniture and accessories and then manage it for you while it is on the market then you have eliminated the home looking bare and showing its "true colors". Like blemishes, nail holes left over from the previous owners, pests lying around on the floor, the air conditioner set at 90 on a steaming hot day and various other problems that come with showing empty properties.

If you must sell it without furniture and accessories remember these tips. Make certain the house remains in an immaculate condition.; this means washing the windows often, floors swept and polished, carpets cleaned, remove all nail and anchors from the walls.  Touch up the holes with filler and then repaint.  Buyers see everything when a house is bare. Provide as much "eye catchers" in the property as necessary, like greenery, rugs, air fresheners and other items that take the eyes away from blemishes.  I am in no way promoting disguising obvious defects in the home, these items should be clearly laid out in the owners property disclosure.

Remember when you are marketing a vacant listing you are acting as the owners property manager.  You will need to do some regular inspections of the property to make sure that lights were not left on, doors unlocked, and the last person that showed it did not turn the A/C down to 60.   The agent may want to flush toilets and run water occasionally, particularly if the property is on well and septic. Open windows and air it out, vacant homes often greet agents and homebuyers with a blast of stale air.

Showhomes, a nationwide company, can aid and assist you in the marketing of your vacant property.


Comments (3)

Kelly Willey
Long and Foster BEL AIR MARYLAND - Bel Air, MD
Short Sale Agent - Harford County Maryland Real Estate

Some good tips, thanks for the post. I am going to check out your web site.

Nov 12, 2008 05:09 AM
Associate Broker Falmouth MA Cape Cod Heath Coker - Falmouth, MA
Heath Coker Berkshire Hathaway HS Robert Paul Prop

I make it clear to the owners that I am not the property manager.  They still own the property and need to keep it secure, clean and neat.

Nov 12, 2008 05:40 AM
Donald Stevens

Don't forget to about your insurance.  A lot of companies will not cover a vacant home.  If you are lucky they will cancel you before anything happens.  The reason I say that is because if they don't cancel you and the home burns down, they may not pay.  A typical homeowners policies requires the home to be occupied by the owner.  If it is vacant they may be able to deny the claim.  A lot with a pile of ashes is a lot harder to sell than a vacant house.  So why do I say you will be lucky if they cancel you?  There are policies that cover a vacant home and will give you the protection you need.  Finding these policies are not easy, but are definitely worth it if there is water, fire, or any unforeseen damage to the home while you are not there.  If we can be of any help, please visit our website at

Nov 15, 2008 04:10 AM