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.
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.
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.