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You can end up with an empty property for many reasons. Perhaps you recently inherited a house, or maybe you held onto your old property with thoughts about renting it out sometime later. Of course, it can be very useful to own property that you don't live in. In particular, extra properties can be appreciating assets, boosting your financial position. However, so too can properties be a financial burden - especially if they're derelict rather than merely empty. You can end up paying huge amounts for their upkeep. 

In this article, we'll look at how to make sensible decisions about your properties, with an emphasis on how to figure out whether to sell. We'll explore how common empty properties actually are, consider the downsides, and work through the options you have when it comes to a sale. While there's the possibility of making a lucrative sale, it may ultimately be smartest to get rid of the property via a quick cash property buyer.

What Is Classed As An Empty Property, Or Empty Home?

Firstly, what exactly are empty houses? Properties are classed as empty homes or unoccupied homes when they are "unoccupied and substantially unfurnished."

People often ask for more precise conditions, but the definition is left slightly ambiguous. For example, regarding the amount of furniture, there is no hard and fast rule about what you can have - but an empty property typically won't contain enough furniture for anyone to live a normal, day-to-day life. This means empty houses vary dramatically in condition - from beautiful and well-maintained properties that just don't currently house anyone, to truly derelict property that may be very difficult to shift on the property market.

The Wider Issues About Empty Houses Or Derelict Properties

Before we move on to decision-making advice, it's helpful to build up a clearer picture of the current situation regarding unoccupied homes and derelict property in the UK. We know that are more empty houses than ever before, but what does that mean in statistical terms? And what do the relevant statistics about an empty property mean for your potential success on the market? Let's take a closer look.

How Many Empty Houses Are There In The UK?

According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), as of 2019 there were over 648,000 empty homes in England alone - and this figure increased by 2.2% in just a year. This is the highest figure in recent memory.

What Happens When A House Sits Empty?

You can end up with all kinds of different problems when a house sits empty for months or years. The following are some of the most common problems encountered by those who end up needing to leave a property uninhabited for more than a few weeks.

  • Costs - You may need to be a significant amount to keep an extra property in good condition. Relevant costs include the mortgage, any bills, and just general upkeep as well as repairs.
  • Leasehold -- If there are leasehold complications around your property, you can end up with extra stress. Leasehold is a kind of tenure where the right to occupy land is only for a given length of time.
  • Inheritance -- Inheritance can leave you sitting with a property that you neither want nor expect, and this is not only financially demanding (as per above) but also potentially emotionally affecting.
  • Taxes -- Ongoing council tax charges can have a serious impact on your income, especially when combined with the tax you pay on your own property.
  • Uninhabitable -- Over time, properties can become downright uninhabitable if you can't afford their upkeep, or if something integral (such as the floors or the roof) becomes damaged in a way that is too expensive for you to fix in a timely manner.

Disadvantages Of Owning Empty Houses 

The above list already gives you a sense of how much of a headache empty homes can cause you, but there are yet more issues that can accumulate. All of the following can be extremely stressful and increase your expenses even further.

  • Council Tax -- Council tax is rising, and it's the council's right to increase council tax on properties by up to 50% if properties are empty. This may even end up even higher, with suggestions of hiking it another 50% if your property has been empty for more than two years.
  • Squatters -- Without careful and constant observation, a property can end up hosting squatters. It is then your responsibility to pay any legal fees required to force them to exit.
  • Vandalism -- Whether people are squatting in your property or just know it's empty, unoccupied homes are targets for vandalism and graffiti - adding to the costs you pay to keep the property in decent condition.
  • Loss Of Value -- Without regular upkeep, you could lose thousands of pounds per year as your home slowly begins to fall into poorer condition. Its value can drop significantly after a couple of years.
  • Loss Of Rent -- Consider all the rent you could be making on your property, and you'll see just how much you're losing out on receiving every year. You can figure this out by looking at similarly sized rental properties in your area.
  • Local Council -- Your local council will want your house to be inhabited, and may contact you repeatedly to try and make this happen. Even if they don't, they will likely still want to speak to you about keeping the house and grounds in good shape.

How To Sell An Empty House

Now that you've considered all the negatives associated with keeping an empty house, you may well be thinking that it's time to consider selling. You've noted all the potential costs, and you've seen how they keep mounting up over time, so it can seem appealing to put that property behind you so that you don't have to worry about it anymore. Let’s now turn to figuring out what might happen if you try to put your recently unoccupied house on the market.

Is It Better To Sell An Empty House? Or Will It Be Too Difficult?

Selling an empty house can be a daunting prospect - there is a lot more to think about than you'd normally face during a property sale. Even if you're almost certain that you want to get rid of the house, selling on the open market may not be the best choice. To make the correct decision for you, reflect on the following challenges you're likely to face.

  • Empty Rooms Look Smaller -- Without furniture and signs of life, rooms can look small and depressing. Buyers will find it harder to imagine themselves living there, and may look for somewhere that does a better job of sparking their imagination.
  • Buyers Will Assume You Are In A Rush -- Buyers can read the situation you're in, and will try to offer you low prices due to their awareness of your need to shift your property. Empty houses signal desperation, though of course you can always do your best to appear like you're not in a hurry.
  • Imperfections And Flaws Will be More Visible -- Without furniture, the home is laid bare - every dent, scrape and scratch. All of these imperfections are normal parts of wear and tear, but they draw the eye when a house is empty and can be enough to leave buyers with a negative impression. 
  • First Impressions Count -- Think about what you can do to obscure some of the flaws mentioned above, and strategize about ways to make the property seems as welcoming as possible. Buyers may otherwise get an impression of little more than a shell in poor repair, even if that's not a fair assessment.
  • Keep Some Furnishings -- If you can hold onto even a few furnishings - or even briefly import some in, this can go a long way toward creating that cozy feeling that helps buyers imagine themselves being happy in your home. You don't need to fill every room, but key objects (e.g., a sofa and table in the living room) can make a world of difference.
  • Ensure All Utilities Work  -- Buyers are suspicious of the water supply and the energy setup in an empty property, so make sure everything is in working order and be prepared to show people this when they come to view the house. Make sure lights and electricity work, and if possible that the house is a comfortable temperature before viewings.
  • Keep It Clean -- This may sound obvious, but again cleanliness is easier to judge in an empty place. Buyers will notice dirty, mold, and so on, so if you're going to put your empty place on the market then subject it to a deep clean beforehand.
  • Let Some Fresh Air In -- Open windows before a viewing (and during regular visits), to stop the building from feeling stale inside. This will also reduce the likelihood of any nasty smells becoming trapped in the property.
  • At All Costs - Keep The Property Secure -- As noted above, squatters and vandals are attracted to empty houses like magnets, so it pays to have a security system that deters would-be interlopers. This can be expensive, but it's less pricey than all the repairs you may need to make or the legal fees you'd have to pay to eject squatters.

Understanding Your Options Selling An Empty House

You now know just about everything you need to know in order to prepare for selling your empty property. However, what still remains is giving due consideration to the specific options you have on the table. Finally, then, let's look at the four main ways you can shift your unwanted home - by turning it into a rental, by selling it on the open market, by arranging a property auction or by selling to a quick cash buyer. 

Turn Your Empty House Into A Rental Property

Renting a house is quick, and you get income from rental properties regularly. However, this option is one that requires a lot of careful planning, and consistent upkeep of the home. You need it to be in good condition before it goes on the rental market - and even if you have that box checked, there are still other problems that may arise. For example, it's common for tenants to assume you will deal with all their repairs - and not just major appliance failures, but sometimes small things like lightbulb changes and minor fixes. You will also be liable if anything goes wrong with the property's utilities, or if there are water leaks. Meanwhile, safety has to be your top priority, so that your tenants don't get injured. And this is all to say nothing of tenants who won't pay on time, or tenants who cause problems in the neighbourhood with rowdy parties or arguments.

Putting Your Empty House On The Market With An Estate Agent

The main option you've probably been considering is the traditional approach - putting your empty property on the market, with the assistance of an estate agent. However, it's not as simple as you might think - especially not if you've had no one living in the property for years. You also can't count on a quick sale, which is a real problem if you need quick access to money or don't want to have to deal with continually thinking about your extra property. Sadly, sales through an estate agent can be extremely lengthy. Plus, you're under pressure to find the right person - someone who is experienced and understands the local market, but who is also affordable. And when estate agents aren't too affordable, they may have the reputation required to make them a safe choice.

Listing Your Empty House In A Property Auction

Property auctions can seem like an appealing alternative to estate agents because they look quicker. That said, they're often not as fast as you'd hope, with many sellers waiting a long time for auction dates to be set. Plus, when the auction is over, it takes on average about a month to actually complete the sale. Another pitfall associated with choosing the auction route is that there will likely be a low reserve price - much lower than you'd anticipate. And then there's the possibility of not selling at all, which is a common outcome at auctions. Taken together, all these aspects of auctioning add up to make your experience unpredictable - not ideal if you want or need to get your sale finished as soon as possible.

Sell Your Empty House Quickly To A Cash House Buyer

Finally, you might choose to go with a cash buyer company like Property Buyer for a quick sale. This option takes away a lot of the stress and waiting associated with average sales pursued with estate agents or at auction. In addition, in contrast to pursuing the rent route, going with a cash buyer means you never really have to think about that old property again. There are no requirements that the property be in any particular condition, as your cash buyer will take care of everything. It's a simple process that takes just around a week, beginning with a quick call where you pass on some key details about the property. A valuation process will compare it to others in the area and make you a conditional offer - if you like the sound of it, you can proceed with a full valuation and quickly get the paperwork in place. Plus, you're entitled to independent legal advice at no additional cost.

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