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

Home Insurance for Unoccupied Properties

When a house is vacated, it can be for one of the following reasons:

  • The property is undergoing refurbishment or renovation.
  • The property is up for sale or is awaiting the arrival of new tenants
  • The current occupier is absent due to being in a hospital, taken into long-term care, is currently travelling or is at a residence in a second home.
  • The property is awaiting probate, usually during the awaiting of decisions on asset division following the death of the owner.

Properties can also be vacated while they are being brought up to scratch, and safe to inhabit again – including repairing properties that have sustained damage as a result of subsidence.

Do I need insurance while no-one is living there?

While properties remain unoccupied, they are at risk of thieves and squatters, who could cause further damage to the property, in many cases decreasing not only the appeal but also the value of the property.

Many insurers may invalidate policies if the property is unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days, any claims made after this time may not pay out due to the increase in risk caused by vacating the property.

In this case, unoccupied home insurance can help to cover damage caused by the elements, flood and fire damage and damage from third parties (including vandalism) while you are not there. Unoccupied home insurance can be handy to have in order to lower the costs involved with owning an unoccupied property.

Policies can last from anything from 30-45 days in the short-term, to anything up to twelve months for longer policies. It’s worth asking your insurer about your options should you need long-term cover, either as a result of refurbishment works or during periods between rentals if you use the property as a holiday home.

Isn’t that just the same as my current home insurance?

Not so, unoccupied home insurance has a few differences between it and a regular home insurance policy, mostly because of the risk factor involved at times when the property is vacant.

Insurers will want to know the following details about your property:

  • How much is the property worth?
  • What condition is the property currently in?
  • Is there any security in place on the property?

These factors can affect the price you pay for a policy, particularly if the property is dilapidated and needs structural repairs to make the property safe.

Unoccupied properties are at a greater risk of damage from vandals if they’re not already damaged beyond repair. Those in a poor state of repair will likely need critical repairs carried out on them, and as such, may also be at risk from damage from negligent workmen, so always be sure that whoever you hire to do the job is reliable and trustworthy.

I can’t be there all the time! How can I protect the house?

Fear not, there are a number of things you can do to lessen the risk of damage to your property while you are not there:

  • Invest in some security – this can consist of a stronger set of locks, both on doors and windows in order to lessen the likelihood of a break-in while you’re not present.
  • Consider installing some sort of burglar alarm system or CCTV system in order to help deter intruders (and maybe bring down the cost of your unoccupied home insurance policy).
  • In times of cold weather, make use of a time-controlled heating system in order to stop the water pipes from freezing up during chilly times, lessening the chance of a costly rupture.
  • With today’s technology, there are now a number of companies which allow you to control your heating using a tap of your smartphone, so it can be worth looking into one of these for keeping the house’s temperature, reducing the risk of damp while the house is vacant.
  • Strike up a good rapport with your neighbours – if you get on well with your neighbours, they are more likely to help keep an eye on your property while you’re not there. Whether it’s to draw the curtains of a night-time or alert you to any untoward activity around your property, it can pay to be a good friend in order to ensure your property’s safety.

Insurers will not normally pay out on an unoccupied home insurance claim if there is evidence of unforced entry into the property, so it can be worth investing in some good locks to help save on your policy.

Whether you’ve been forced to vacate your property for reasons beyond your control or choose to leave the property vacated as a result of renting it out, make sure you have at least some level of cover as this can help save on costly repairs.