Q. We have just inherited a property which we will probably put on the market next spring. Meanwhile, it is unoccupied. What should we do?
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A. If you are leaving a property empty for any length of time, it’s tempting to have all the services switched off in order to save on “unnecessary” bills. If you decide to do this – particularly at this time of year - then it’s vitally important to ensure that both the water and central heating tanks are properly drained down. The last thing you want is walk in there in March and find the whole place ankle deep in water from a burst pipe.
However, even without burst pipes, completely mothballing a property in this way can be a false saving. The sad fact is, an obviously empty house is easy prey for vandals. Besides, even if it is perfectly clean and tidy at the outset, a house that is shut up for months over the winter will always feel cold, damp and unwelcoming when you eventually come to show people round.
So, my advice is: bite the bullet and keep all the mains services connected, so you can set the heating to come on low for a couple of hours each night and morning. This will not only help protect against frozen pipes, but will ensure that the property is just that little bit warmer and more welcoming. It also allows you to have a couple of lamps and even a radio on timer switches, which will help deter intruders.
In addition, you should try to visit the property regularly – or arrange for someone else to do so – in order to give the place a bit of an airing and to clear away the mountain of junk mail that will inevitably accumulate. This also means 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 finally, 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.