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Selling your home is often marked by a mix of emotions and logistical challenges. While most of the homes we sell are occupied by homeowners or their tenants, there are certain unique situations when sellers should seriously consider listing their home while it’s vacant. In this article, we delve into those situations and explore the advantages of selling a vacant home. 

What’s a ‘vacant home’?

While many homeowners choose to reduce the inconveniences of selling by temporarily moving out while their home it’s listed for sale (an ‘empty home’), we use the term ‘vacant home’ to refer to situations when the residents have permanently moved out and taken most or all of their personal belongings with them. 

Unique Situations Where a Vacant Sale Makes Sense 

For homeowners in unique situations, selling a property when it’s vacant can prove to be a smart and strategic move. We often list homes vacant for our clients who are:

  • Downsizing – You’re moving to a smaller space and need to purge and downsize your belongings already, so why not do it all at once? Avoid having to declutter for the sale and then again when you move and reap the benefits of selling a vacant property. 
  • Moving to a Seniors’ Residence – Transitioning to an assisted living residence or nursing home is undeniably stressful for the resident and their family. Choosing to sell vacant alleviates compounding that stress with the inconvenience of preparing the home for market, home inspections, showing it to prospective buyers and more.  
  • Relocating and Short Timeline Moves– If you’re relocating to another city, listing your home for sale while it’s vacant will save you the worries of juggling your belongings with uncertain timelines. We love when clients simply hand us the keys as they drive away with the moving truck, leaving the home prep, cleaning and staging to us!
  • Divorcing Couples – Selling a home in the midst of a divorce can be especially emotional, and many of our divorcing sellers choose to completely move out before listing their home for sale. 
  • Tenanted Properties – Waiting until the current tenants have fully moved out allows sellers to repair, clean, stage and show their home at its best. You can read more about Selling Tenanted Properties here. 

Advantages to Selling a Vacant Home

Easier Home Prep, Cleaning and Staging

Moving out before you list your home for sale doesn’t mean you have to forego the benefits of staging. In fact, it can make it much easier to:

  • Paint, repair, and make updates – Painters and contractors are more efficient in vacant homes. They can come and go at their convenience instead of working around your family’s schedule and won’t have to move furniture and clear rooms as they work. That means quicker turnaround times, fewer disruptions and sometimes, lower costs. 
  •  Deep clean – Potential buyers value a clean home and a vacant house allows your cleaners to focus on cleaning baseboards, light fixtures, inside kitchen cupboards and all the nooks and crannies, instead of being distracted by your furniture and everyday items. Don’t underestimate the importance of a squeaky clean home!
  • Tell a story – Stagers love a blank canvas that allows them to fully plan and customize furnishings and accessories to tell one story.

No Showing Inconveniences

Showing your home to prospective buyers is disruptive, especially because most buyers will view it in the evenings and on weekends But when your home is vacant, you won’t be interrupted and will eliminate scheduling conflicts. By being completely flexible with showing times, you’ll also widen the pool of potential buyers. (You’d never believe how many people can only view homes before 8 am or after 9 pm). 

Make the Selling Process Less Emotional

Selling your home is emotional and it can be challenging to see strangers evaluating your personal space, scrutinizing your style and questioning your choices. But when you’re not living in the home while it’s listed for sale, you gain emotional distance. Feeling detached from the home will help you focus on the ultimate goal: a successful sale. 

Flexible Pricing Strategies

Selling a vacant property gives you full flexibility to implement whichever pricing strategy makes sense for the market you’re selling in. In a hot market, it’ll allow you to price competitively to attract multiple offers and not have to deal with the swarms of buyers who’ll descend on your home. In a slower market, you’ll be able to be more patient if you don’t have to make your bed everyday and make sure your home is show-ready. 

More Negotiating Power

If you’ve already moved out, you’ll likely be flexible when it comes to negotiating a closing date with the buyer, allowing you to focus your negotiation efforts on price and other sale terms that are important to you. 

No Open House Stress

While the first weekend of open houses is the most important, some properties and markets benefit from more open houses. If you’re home is vacant, you won’t have to worry about finding somewhere to go from 2-4 on the weekend. 

Reduce the Chances of Damage

When a buyer gets possession of a home in Ontario, they are entitled to receive it in the same condition it was in when they made the offer to purchase it. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to deal with and pay for home repairs AFTER someone has agreed to buy your home. If your home is vacant, you’ll greatly reduce the likelihood of things breaking happening between the sale and closing dates. 

Lower Stress Levels

With fewer disruptions, a streamlined selling process and the ability to focus on the next phase of your life, a vacant sale helps reduce stress.

Important Tips When Selling a Vacant Home

If you’re considering selling your home vacant, make sure to:

  1. Talk to your REALTOR before you make any decisions. They’ll be able to help you identify the pros and cons of a vacant sale for your specific situation.
  2. Keep your home insurance active. While your belongings might be insured elsewhere, you’ll still need to maintain your home and liability insurance until the ownership is transferred to the buyers.
  3. Make sure someone is checking on the home weekly (or more often if required by your insurance company). Work with your agent to make sure the home is being regularly monitored.
  4. Seriously consider staging. Many buyers aren’t able to picture themselves living in a home if it isn’t furnished; we consider professional staging a must in almost every sale. Many Toronto REALTORS include staging in their commission (including us!)
  5. Do what you can to make your home appear lived-in, to avoid break-ins. Put some of your lights on timers, keep up the yard maintenance and snow removal and make sure the mail is being picked up. 
  6. Keep your power and water on. You can’t buy what you can’t see or test.
  7. Mimic normal internal temperatures. As tempting as it might be to turn off your furnace or air conditioning, you want potential buyers to be comfortable while touring your home (and you don’t want your pipes to freeze if you’re selling in the winter). Invest in a Nest thermostat to have full control of the heating and cooling remotely. 
  8. Keep a roll of toilet paper in each bathroom. Yes, it’s possible that a buyer or their agent uses your bathroom during a showing. 

So yes, it’s possible to sell your home vacant – and in some situations there are big advantages that make it the best way to achieve a successful sale.

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