According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of every nine housing units in the United States is now vacant. That comes out to more than 14 million empty homes.
This isn’t good news for anybody. An empty home often develops into a neighborhood eyesore. They often become “attractive nuisances,” seeming to attract trouble.
The Empty Home Challenge
For sellers, an empty home is an even bigger challenge. In today’s slumping housing market — home sales dropped 5.9 percent in the fourth quarter of this year from the same period one year earlier, according to the National Association of REALTORS — it’s difficult to sell any home. But an empty home, one that sellers often view as cold and impersonal because of its lack of furnishings or artwork, is an especially tough sell.
Unfortunately, homeowners often have no other choice but to sell a vacant home. A job may have sent the family to another part of the country. Perhaps the family found the perfect new home, but wasn’t able to unload its current home before closing date.
Whatever the reason, homeowners can take some steps to make selling a vacant home at least a little easier.
Get it Staged
Real estate agents often recommend that their clients hire a home stager to give an empty home some personality. Stagers, usually for a flat fee paid by the homeowner, will fill a home with furniture and art, and will do so in a way that maximizes a home’s positive features and obscures its negative ones.
Many stagers use homeowners’ existing furniture, but others will bring in their own sofas, beds, props and artwork. This is especially important for homeowners who have already moved on from a home. It’s rare that these owners will have two complete sets of furniture.
Homeowners not willing to commit to a home stager can take less costly steps to make their vacant homes look warmer. One way is to spend the time and energy to give living room, bedroom and kitchen walls fresh coats of paint. When a home is empty, there is no furniture to distract from faded, chipped or dirty paint. Fresh paint can instantly rejuvenate a gloomy home.
Curb Appeal is Key
Homeowners should also pay special attention to an empty home’s outside. They should make sure lawns are kept neat and gardens are weeded. Trees should be trimmed, and sidewalks and driveways should be kept free of trash and litter. When a vacant house has an unkempt exterior, it instantly makes a bad impression on potential buyers.
Selling a vacant home will almost always take time and energy. But homeowners who do the little things to make an empty home feel warm and inviting will be rewarded with a quicker sale.