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Sell Your House Occupied or Vacant?

26 Mar 2019 0

Selling a home is stressful enough. But if you could do just a few things to make it just a little easier, wouldn’t you? One way some people try to combat the stress of selling is by waiting until moving out before listing their house for sale.  But is this the right move?  Can you get top dollar selling a vacant home? What are the implications of selling vacant vs occupied?  There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages to both. Let’s explore.

Selling a House Occupied

For a lot of people,selling while living in the house is simply the only option financially.  Without knowing how long it will take to sell your house, the idea of floating two mortgages, or a rental payment AND a mortgage is simply too much. But it’s not such a bad thing otherwise.

The Advantages

1) Occupied homes often show better. It gives buyers an idea of what the place will look like with furnishings.  It feels just a little bit more ‘homey’. Keeping a clean house, and having neutral, appropriate furnishings for the space are the keys to taking advantage of selling an occupied home. If the furnishings are bad and/or you don’t keep the place clean, this might not be in your best interest.

2) Safety and emergencies. Vacant homes can sometimes attract criminals, and no one wants to deal with that on a house they are trying to sell. Additionally, home maintenance doesn’t stop because you’ve moved out. For example, if a pipes starts leaking when nobody is home, the damage will be far greater than if you are around to handle it right away.

3) Imperfections might not be as noticeable. Nicely furnished home can detract from small blemishes on walls, or carpets. There is a lot more to digest visually when viewing a furnished home, so buyers sometimes turn a blind eye to smaller imperfections.  Don’t confuse that with HIDING issues from buyers (that’s a no-no!) This goes hand and hand with buyers often look and judge the seller furnishings, also a big no – no (unless the property is being sold furnished)

The Disadvantages

Keeping a house clean for showings is important, but can be stressful!

1) Keeping your house clean is imperative to attracting buyers. It can be hard while you are living in the house to keep it sparkling clean for a showing at a moment’s notice.  It’s well worth it in the long run, but definitely a pain in the interim.

2) Scheduling can be more difficult when

you are living in a property and need to show it. Most showings occur on evening and weekends, just when you’d like to be resting at home the most.  Depending on your personal schedule and situation, scheduling can be a burden.  Not having a home available to buyers on their schedule can be detrimental.  If a buyer can’t get in when they want, they may never have a second chance to come back and see it.

3) Valuables and fragile items can be at risk.  If you don’t have children your home might not be set up to be toddler friendly.  Speaking first hand, I know kids will get their hands on just about anything within reach. Can you imagine coming home to a broken vase with an apology on a sticky note?  Fun times!

Selling a House Vacant


The Advantages

1) Clean it up one time, and don’t worry about it again. It should stay clean for a long time without needing touch ups if no one is living in it.  Not to say if you don’t sell the house 6 months down the road it might need a once over, especially if it’s been raining or buyers have tracked dirt into the home.

2) Scheduling is now a breeze. Buyers can look any time, at their leisure, and stay as long as they need.  They won’t feel rushed if a seller is sitting in their car in the driveway.

3) Some buyers want to see a completely clean slate. It’s different for everybody, but  some people just can’t imagine their furniture in place of yours.  Having your furnishings gone will allow this type of buyer to visualize themselves living in your house just a little bit better.

The Disadvantages

1) Well to some people, a vacant home just feels….vacant. The echo, the blank walls, and a stale smell – it doesn’t feel like a home.  Again, it really just depends on the individual buyer. This is why people stage empty homes many times.  Nice, matching, high end and clean furniture is always better than nothing, it’s really the best of both worlds.

2) Imperfections start to show up. Rather than looking at a furnished living room, we now see a big patch of discolored carpet where a rug used to be, or a drywall repair that sticks out on the blank wall where a picture one hung.

Your Insurance may not cover a vacant property.

3) Since vacant homes are subject to higher rates of vandalism and crime, your insurance may not actually cover a home that’s been sitting vacant for a long time.  Special insurance may be required to continue the same level of coverage in the event of a claim while your house is sitting vacant on the market.

Which way yields more money?   It’s hard to say.  There are just too many other variables to know for sure.  My suggestion? Go with what works for you and be realistic and honest to yourself about your situation, we are all different and in different situations.  Follow the best practices in preparing and selling your house, and trust in the process!


Jon Knutson REALTOR

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