There are all sorts of personal situations that give rise to the action of putting a home on the market for sale. In some cases, folks are still living in those homes, but in others the property is vacant. Well, I’m here to tell you that, from the perspective of a Listing Agent, there are certainly some challenges associated with selling vacant homes in Guelph (or anywhere, for that matter.)
Why? Well, let’s start with the reality that vacancy is one of the flags that a property may be distressed. Yes, just by virtue of being vacant, a home for sale in Guelph could be perceived by buyers as in “trouble” of some sort.
I work with a lot of investor clients who are always on the hunt for a deal… incredibly hard to come by in Guelph, by the way. So, we focus our time and attention on distressed, bank-owned, or otherwise under-valued homes in the city. And, when I’m searching for properties on their behalf, one of the criteria I often include is “vacant.” Are all vacant homes in Guelph distressed? Of course not. It’s just that a vacant home can, in some cases, be a sign that a property is distressed. So, there’s our first challenge. Buyer perceptions become a home seller’s reality.
Challenges of Showing a Vacant Home
Next up, a vacant home will never show optimally. It might be logical to assume that, once you take all of the furniture out of a home, that it looks larger. The opposite is in fact the case. Without furniture and items to provide scale and context, vacant homes tend to look smaller. On top of that, every minor flaw in a home jumps out when there is nothing for a buyer’s eye to focus on, other than “problems.”
And finally, a challenge comes by way of the fact that buyers rarely form emotional connections to vacant homes. More commonly, they walk through the property with a heightened level of emotional detachment. They’ll appreciate aspects of the home, sure, but will they be emotionally invested? Likely not. Offers will probably reflect a “by the numbers” approach, verses an offer put forth in earnest by buyers who truly don’t want to lose out on a property.
Still, as a Seller, there may be circumstances under which you simply have to vacate a property before you sell it. Then what?
At least part of the answer could lie in Staging. Guelph Home Stager Lorraine Merkley believes that virtually any vacant home will benefit from this service. “Most buyers are unable to visualize how they’ll use the space, if it’s empty to begin with. Furniture placement helps to illustrate each room’s flow and function,” she says.
Setting the Stage
Is the process of renting furniture and accessories a huge hassle – or expense? Not necessarily, says Merkley. “I have a smooth system in place for this kind of scenario, and it’s not as expensive as some might think. Certainly, it’s likely to be a lot less than the decrease in market value that can come if a vacant home has trouble selling.” Fair point – and don’t forget that some Listing Agents will pay for a Staging consultation and even furniture rental. If you’re interviewing Listing Agents, be sure to ask them whether or not they believe your home would benefit from these services, and if they’ll help you on this front.
Staging isn’t the only thing needed for a vacant home to perform well on the market. After it’s properly Staged, it’s time to bring in the pros and get the property absolutely spic and span. Vacant properties must look (and smell!) their absolute best. If not, trust me those dust bunnies or lingering odours will practically jump out and bite buyers. “A clean home is a statement that says the home has been cared for and well-maintained,” says Merkley. “Items like lighting fixtures, windows panes and sills, and floors and baseboards are commonly overlooked by Sellers – but never by discerning Buyers.”
Will prospective buyers look through kitchen drawers and coat closets and figure out that the home has been Staged? Most likely. But that shouldn’t deter you. The point of Staging isn’t trying to “trick” people. “Staging creates appealing, inviting spaces that help buyers appreciate a home enough to envision themselves living in it,” says Merkley. By the time visitors figure out that your home has been Staged, the hard work will have paid off and they’ll already feel positive about the home.
Can you list and sell a vacant home with no furnishings? Of course. I sold two vacant and empty homes last year. It’s done all the time. But, if you’re looking to shorten days on market, or stretch to earn top dollar for your home, Staging a vacant home simply makes good sense.