Preparing An Empty House For Sale

When we buy a new property, usually we have a rough idea of when we’re going to move into our new investments. But for some, there may be a delay in this process, and properties may be left unoccupied for a period.

House renovation shows such as Homes Under The Hammer have helped to show that there are those who will invest time and money into bringing properties up to scratch, either to live in themselves or to sell on for a profit.

Why Leave Your Property Empty?

Properties might also be left unoccupied for some other reasons, including after death, when the property would be in the process of probate and the estate is in the process of being divided among family members.

Homes may also be going through renovation work; this can be particularly common with those who have bought older properties with the intention of bringing them back to a habitable state.

Or the homeowner may just be using the property as either a second home or as a holiday home, particularly if they are located in a coastal resort or near popular tourist attractions.

Whichever reason you have for leaving a property unattended, you still have to be aware of the risks involved with doing so, especially for properties which may be left unattended for long periods of time.

So what should we be wary of when leaving properties empty?

Keeping The Place Clean

Depending on the state of the property, to begin with, a thorough deep clean is usually advised before you can start the process of making it habitable for the next tenants. This includes emptying the cupboards of food and wardrobes of clothes to stop them from getting old and growing mould which may present a health risk.

Bear in mind that you may need to hire additional extras such as skips and steam cleaners in order to help prepare the property for the next occupant.

Keeping the property well ventilated is also important for this will help reduce the risk of damp and allow air to flow freely through the property, lowering the chances of a stale smell wafting through the place.

Uninvited Guests

Uninhabited and unprotected properties can be prime targets for vandals and squatters, who can degrade properties in such a way that extra cleaning work will be required to bring the property up to scratch.

And it’s not just humans if the house has been left in a particularly filthy way, birds and rodents may make your property their home. Calling out a pest controller will only add to your overall costs, so keeping the place clean in your absence is essential.

Keeping Warm

Ensuring that the property remains warm can help reduce the risk of damp and rot, which can be expensive to rectify should they take hold of the structure of the building.

With regards to your pipes, make sure that your water supply has been turned off to help reduce the risk of burst pipes during the winter months.

By making use of a time-controlled heating system while the property is unoccupied, you can help keep the place toasty and warm, which during cold months will help stop your water pipes freezing up and rupturing, causing more costly repairs.

With a variety of heating systems that allow you to control them remotely using a smartphone app, it’s now even easier to ensure that your property remains in a comfortable condition when you’re not there.

Make Friends With Your Neighbours

Striking up a good rapport with your neighbours can be beneficial to you while the property is unoccupied. Arrange for someone to nip in of a morning and night to open and close the curtains, flick the heating on and ensure the house is kept comfortable, even arrange for them to contact you should they spot anything untoward at the property while you’re away.

Protect Your Property

While you’re not at the property, you’ll want to make sure that no-one else has access as well, and there are some ways that you can ensure that your property is kept safe and free of damage while you take care of repairs and renovation.

Changing the locks on the doors, windows and even the garden shed when you first purchase the property can help to deter thieves, especially if you use more robust locking mechanisms which may be more up-to-date than what you had inherited before.

Make use of timers on plug sockets to light lamps and turn on radios at certain times of the day to deter thieves with the illusion of the property being occupied.

Alternatively, you could invest in a home CCTV system to help you keep a close watch on your property while you’re not there. Many systems can be remotely accessed using a smartphone app, allowing you to keep watch on your property as well as receive notifications via e-mail when motion is detected.

What About Insurance?

Even though there might be nobody currently living in the property, you’ll still need to make sure you insure it against unexpected circumstances, including weather-related forces such as floods or storm damage.

An unoccupied home insurance policy will help to cover the property in the short-term while you prepare it for sale or are making crucial repairs. Many policies will be valid for no more than 30 days, although depending on your broker, longer periods may be negotiated. This can be particularly useful if you rent out your home to holidaymakers during certain times of the year.

By making an effort to secure the property further while it’s unoccupied – either while repairs are carried out or in between periods of occupancy in the case of holiday homes – you can help to reduce the cost of your unoccupied home insurance premium.

RELATED: Home Insurance for Unoccupied Properties

Security For A Static Caravan

While we may more often than not think of caravans as being towed behind cars on the road, usually during busy Bank Holiday periods and during the school holidays, there are also static caravans which have more permanent bases (as well as plumbed in utilities).

Static caravans are usually based in holiday parks along the coast of the UK, as well as smaller campsites which may be based in more inland locations. Caravan sites will usually have a warden on site who perform daily patrols in order to ensure the safety and security of the camp’s residents.

Much like with a house, a static caravan can be filled with items which may be attractive to thieves – including electronic devices such as laptops and mobile phones – so making sure these are protected at times when you are not present at the property is essential in ensuring you don’t lose money should something go missing.

What Should I Secure?

Even though static caravans are static, it can still be worth securing them with devices that you would usually associate with a touring caravan, including:

  • Wheel clamps
  • Hitch locks
  • Corner steady leg locks
  • Hitch posts

Even if the caravan itself is not moving it can still be worth using these devices to reduce the risk of theft, but there are a number of other security features that you can add to a static caravan in order to ensure that it is protected.

Check That They Can’t Get In

Like with a house, static caravans will have two main points of entry for burglars to target – the doors and the windows – and by ensuring that both are securely protected with strong locks you can not only help to deter thieves but also help to bring down the cost of your caravan insurance policy by taking these extra steps to protect your property.

Should I Fit An Alarm?

Aside from fitting external deterrents such as those listed above, securing the interior of your static caravan using alarm systems and even small CCTV systems can help protect your belongings and bring down the cost of your static caravan insurance.

Whilst many touring caravans will come with a Thatcham-approved alarm system, static caravans may need beefing up with extra security. With the advent of digital technology and with security cameras getting much smaller, setting up a small home network with a couple of cameras can help keep an eye on the property when you are away, and get alerts sent to your mobile phone if a movement is detected.

Can Having A Safe Help?

If you’re based at the caravan for long periods of time or rent it out to friends, family members or holidaymakers, you’re likely to keep few personal possessions at the caravan for times when you are there, including documents and mobile phones.

By investing in a small, fireproof safe and keeping it hidden within the caravan, you can secure items such as vehicle documentation and personal belongings like jewellery and mobile phones and keep them safe when you’re not present at the caravan.

If you rent out your static caravan, making use of a key safe can be a good way of restricting access when you’re not there, allowing you to keep important keys and other belongings in a safe place while you have guests.

Can I Secure A Caravan On My Home Insurance?

While it may be possible to insure physical belongings at the caravan on another policy, the caravan itself needs to have its’ own specific static caravan insurance policy, even if it is stored on a secure compound with regular patrols.

However, for anything inside the caravan, it can be worth checking with your home insurance provider if it is possible to add the contents of your static caravan to any existing policies – this can include home insurance and gadget insurance policies.

What Does My Caravan Insurance Cover Then?

A caravan insurance policy will cover the caravan itself against any damage caused by weather – including storm damage – as well as those caused by fire or accidental damage by third parties.

Caravan insurance policies will usually include features such as new-for-old replacement, and relocation cover in case the site becomes inhospitable due to weather and you have to relocate your caravan and even cover for anything else on your pitch, including furniture and awnings.

Contents cover can also be added onto a policy to help cover appliances and gas bottles, but bear in mind that storing gas bottles in the caravan could help raise the risk factor and thus lead to a higher premium.

What is Excluded From a Policy?

There are few things which are excluded from a caravan insurance policy:

  • Damage caused by vermin or pets
  • Accidental damage caused by tenants
  • Damage caused by subsidence or a landslip
  • Damage caused to water pipes due to cold weather

There may be other exclusions depending on your broker, so it can be worth double checking before you commit to a policy. Caravan policies will vary in what they offer, so it can be worth shopping around until you find one that suits you.

By taking the time to further protect your static caravan from potential thieves, either using new technology or traditional methods such as deadlocks and even a small CCTV system, you can help to reduce the costs of your caravan insurance premiums.

Campervans: Not Just For Surfers

For those who grew up during the Swinging Sixties, there were two iconic vehicles of the 1960’s; the Volkswagen Beetle and the Volkswagen Westfalia camper van.

Also known as a microbus, the Westfalia was a conversion of the VW Type 2 campervan, these vehicles became synonymous with those making great journeys in the 1960s, and were often the vehicle of choice for those embarking on road trips.

Nowadays, Westfalia campervans are still popular to surfers, seasoned campers and those who like to keep a bit of historical quirk on their driveways. The vehicles are also becoming more commonplace in the world of mobile catering, with modified campers being used as food trucks popping up more frequently at festivals.

Westfalia campervans, with their forward-facing cabs and distinctive engine sound, are still very much in demand even after all these years, with enthusiasts still meeting to show off their vehicles, discuss maintenance and even making use of digital mediums such as online auction sites to source replacement parts.

So where can you look if you want to buy one of these classic campers?

Buying A Campervan

When you’re looking to get your hands on a classic campervan there are many options at your disposal, and with plenty of enthusiasts out there keeping the vehicles on the road, there are plenty of resources out there offering support as well.

As your first step, look locally either in the car listings or advertisements in the local media, you may find a vehicle for sale close to where you are, which will save on travel time and give you the chance to test-drive the vehicle.

When buying a vehicle, viewing the vehicle itself is essential, so make sure you can actually see what you’re about to buy. Auction sites can be a bit of a risk, especially if you’re buying from abroad, always be sure you have at least test-driven the vehicle before committing to a sale.

Sourcing Parts

Many enthusiasts will take on older campervans as restoration projects, and there are plenty of options when it comes to finding replacement parts as part of your project:

  • Breakers yards – with many yards having older campervans in their yards, they can be handy for finding replacement parts – including mirrors, hubcaps and even cookers – being sold for scrap
  • Auction sites – these can be a goldmine for those looking for parts – anything from replacement roofs to the kitchen sink – many of the parts will be ‘collection only’ so be prepared to travel where necessary
  • Fellow enthusiasts – there are enthusiasts out there who will have a great collection of spare parts available to sell to their fellow enthusiasts, so try seeking these out at motor shows or through your local campervan club

Making Connections

When buying a vehicle of any kind, knowledge is power, and the VW Westfalia still has quite a following of enthusiasts, so it can be worth looking into whether there’s a local campervan enthusiasts group near you.

Networking with fellow campervan enthusiasts gives you the chance to discuss the vehicles themselves, maintenance tips, buying advice and even discover new and exciting roads to travel on.

Some groups may even offer discounts on campervan insurance policies, so it could be worth having a look around and becoming part of a club.

Insuring A Campervan

When it comes to insuring these classic campers, a regular car insurance policy may not cover your vehicle due to its age and risk factor.

Because of this, there are specialised brokers that offer campervan insurance policies, so shopping around can be handy if you want to find one that’s right for you.

How Can I Reduce My Premium Price?

By keeping the vehicle in good condition and secure, you can help keep your insurance premiums low, so bear a few things in mind when owning a campervan:

  • How many miles a year do you cover?

Mileage can be a big factor when it comes to motor insurance, the further you travel in a year, the higher your premium.

If you are only going to use the van at certain times of the year, such as to attend motor shows and other special events, it could be worth seeing if you can agree a ‘limited mileage allowance’ with your broker.

A limited mileage allowance essentially sets a maximum mileage for a year, which if you don’t exceed in a year can help save you money on your premium. It can be handy if you only use the vehicle for show purposes or as an occasional runaround.

  • Where do you store the vehicle?

Vehicle location is another factor which can affect your premiums, especially when it comes to where you live. Those campers stored in secure parking areas and in garages are going to be seen as less at risk than those which are kept parked on the street.

  • What security features does it have?

Making use of additional security features, such as alarm systems, wheel locks and even in-van CCTV systems can help to reduce your premiums. By investing in some extra security you can help to reduce your campervan insurance premiums in the future.

VW campervans still hold a place in our automotive history, and there are still plenty of enthusiasts out there who are keeping the spirit of the vehicle alive and much more who are taking an interest in these iconic vehicles.

RELATED: Travelling With A Trailer Tent

Travelling With A Trailer Tent

Trailer tents are a lighter and less expensive alternative for those who are new to camping, allowing you to tow a load that is less than a caravan but still has everything you need for a camping trip.

Trailer tents essentially fold out of a trailer that you tow behind your car, and are assembled in much the same way as a tent, using poles and pegs to erect your shelter for the duration of your holiday.

What Types Of Trailer Tents Are There?

There are a number of different designs of trailer tent, all of which can be towed easily behind a car or RV:

  • Trailer Tent

Basic trailer tents are constructed of canvas, which can be folded out of the trailer and assembled much like you would in a tent. Often, they are driven to a campsite and erected on a pitch so that the outside can look like a huge tent.

Varying in size, trailer tents can be simple like a tent or have additional compartments for separate sleeping spaces inside, as well as external awnings for additional covered space for outside, perfect for when you need to dash inside if it starts raining.

  • Flip-top trailer tent

Flip-top trailers are quick and easy to set up once you get to the campsite, folding out from the trailer and providing shelter almost instantly with little need for pegging, and the trailer itself folds outwards to become part of the floor of the tent.

Extras such as awnings are available to provide more room should you need additional space during your trip.

  • Folding camper

Folding campers offer more facilities than a basic trailer tent, extending from a base unit that contains sleeping space, cooking facilities and a washroom with toilet – much like the base of a caravan.

The difference is that the unit will often be constructed of canvas, with awnings and extensions that open out to provide more internal space with no need for additional pegging.

So after deciding what kind of trailer tent will suit you, the next part before you set off on a journey is to make sure you and your vehicle are legal to tow the trailer en route to the campsite.

Checking You And Your Vehicle Is Legal To Tow

The first thing to check before you set off is whether you are allowed to tow the vehicle on your current licence, and the year you passed your test can affect your entitlement to be allowed to tow.

The combination of the weight of the vehicle and the weight of the trailer and its contents is known as the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) and is used to calculate the weight of that you’ll be travelling with as a unit.

If you passed your test before the 1st January 1997, you would automatically have C1 status on your driving licence. C1 classification allows you to drive a vehicle/trailer combination of up to 8.25 tonnes.

If you’ve passed your licence after the 1st January 1997, you’ll have B + B1 classification on your driving licence. This allows you to tow a trailer of more than 750kg, provided your MAM is less than 3.5 tonnes. If you want to tow heavier loads, you’ll have to pass an additional test to achieve C1 status on your licence.

Brakes Or No Brakes?

When selecting a trailer, there are two types to think about, those with brakes and those without. Whichever type you pick can affect not just the movement of the trailer, but also the risk factor when it comes to making your journey.

By law, trailers without brakes must not be loaded to more than half of the unladen weight of the trailer and must be driven with a degree of care. It is advisable to try not to exceed more than 85% of your total kerb weight when loading your car and trailer for a journey.

Check Your Weight

Check your vehicles’ kerb weight or ‘gross train weight’ by looking in your owners’ manual or logbook, alternatively, you can look for your vehicles’ VIN.

Look for the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate on your vehicle, usually found under the bonnet or on the inside of one of the door panels. This will give you an idea of vehicle weight and the MAM of the vehicle, allowing you to work out how much you’re able to tow.

Kerb weight, or unladen weight, is essentially the weight of the vehicle when it’s not carrying passengers or goods – including oil, coolant and a full tank of petrol.

By ensuring you’re not overloading your trailer when you travel you can ensure a safer journey for yourself and your fellow road users.

Securing Your Trailer Tent

Because of their basic nature and build materials, trailer tents are seemingly less secure than caravans and motorhomes, putting users more at risk of theft and damage from weather conditions.

Taking out some trailer tent insurance is a useful way of ensuring that, should the worst happen, your tent and equipment will be covered.

Additional security features such as hitch locks and wheel clamps can help to deter thieves by keeping your trailer tent secure while pitched.

Driving Abroad

If you’re looking to drive your trailer tent to a campsite within the EU, you must ensure you have prepared not only your trailer but also your documents for the journey. Compulsory documents include:

Much like travelling with a caravan or motorhome, the following bits of equipment are needed to drive within the EU legally:

  • GB stickers or a GB number plate
  • Extending mirrors
  • Headlight stickers or adjusted headlight beams – fit these on the ferry
  • Warning triangles and high-visibility jackets
  • First Aid Kit and Travel Pack
  • Toolkit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Spare bulbs

If you’re stopping at campsites in Europe, be sure to look into membership to services such as Camping Key Europe, which will offer discounted pitch prices at campsites throughout the EU, including at high season.

By taking the time to check all aspects of your vehicle, your trailer and your documentation before you embark on your holiday, you can ensure a safe journey to and from the campsite, which will lead to a happy holiday for you and your family.