Q. We recently inherited a property. We don’t want to rent it out, but there doesn’t seem a lot of point trying to sell it at the moment. Meanwhile, it is unoccupied. What should we do?
A. First and foremost, I would take issue with your basic assumption about the state of the market. There is growing evidence that things have started to turn the corner. Indeed, at the moment there is something of a shortage of homes for sale – so much so, in fact, that there is even talk in some places of multiple bids being made on properties by competing buyers. So, I would urge you to give serious thought to putting your property on the market now, rather than sitting on it. You could be pleasantly surprised!
In any case, the fact is that looking after a vacant property for any length of time can be quite troublesome, and involve a certain amount of expense. The alternative is simply to shut it up and let it deteriorate - which hardly makes sense.
Nevertheless, if you do decide to sell, you’re still faced with the question of looking after the place in the meantime. The sad fact is that an obviously empty house is easy prey for vandals – so you have to try and create the impression that it is still occupied. At the very least, this will mean putting one or two lights and even a radio on timer switches.
You will also need to visit the property regularly – or arrange for someone else to do so, if it’s too far away – in order to open it up and give it an airing, to clean the windows and exterior paintwork, to keep the garden in trim, and to clear away the accumulated junk mail.
In addition, regular visits mean that if anything has gone wrong, or any damage has been done - either accidentally or otherwise - it can be rectified sooner rather than later. In this connection, it’s worth noting that most insurance companies will actually expect an empty property to be visited at least once a month. And talking of insurance, it’s also a good idea to let them know that the property is empty, and inform them of the steps you have taken to look after it.