Pros and Cons of Selling an Empty House in 2023

Whether you've found yourself mindlessly scrolling through Zillow or actively searching for a new home, chances are you've noticed a common trend: we're all drawn to furnished properties more than vacant ones. There's something about a space that feels lived-in, that tells a story and sparks our imagination.

However, it's not just a subjective preference; the numbers back it up. According to Bank of America’s 2023 Homebuyer Insights Report, as many as 32% of hopeful buyers spend precious hours scrolling through real estate listings specifically to see how others have decorated their spaces. 

Unfortunately, empty houses usually can’t produce the same effect, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their benefits. In this article, we'll delve into the advantages and potential drawbacks of selling an empty house. Additionally, we'll provide you with some valuable tips to consider when navigating the process of selling a vacant property.

Here is an overview of the topics we'll cover in this article:

Pros of Selling an Empty House

An image of an empty bedroom

Selling an empty house can offer a range of advantages that may entice both sellers and potential buyers alike. Some of the most common pros of selling a vacant property are:

  1. Easy Scheduling for Showings

With no need to navigate the complexities of coordinating buyers' and sellers' schedules, realtors can breathe a sigh of relief. This newfound flexibility translates into more showings for the house, ultimately boosting the chances of receiving enticing offers and successfully selling the property.

  1. Say Goodbye to Constant Cleaning

One of the major perks is that you no longer have to keep the space impeccably clean for each showing. Without the presence of furniture and personal belongings, the need for daily cleanings is greatly reduced, providing sellers with a welcome break from the stress and disruption that often comes with selling a home. However, it is still highly recommended to regularly maintain the property even when it is vacant.

  1. An Empty House is a Perfect Blank Slate

The visual appeal of a property plays a crucial role in attracting potential buyers. If the overall look of the interior is lacking, it can discourage them from considering the property further. This can be caused by a multitude of factors, including outdated furniture, an awkward and impractical layout, a cluttered space, or a design style that fails to captivate prospective buyers.

In such scenarios, selling an empty house is undoubtedly advantageous. It enables potential buyers to envision their own lives without the distractions and limitations of someone else's design choices. With a blank canvas before them, they are free to imagine and create a living space that perfectly aligns with their personal preferences and aspirations.

  1. The Selling Process Can Be Streamlined

When it comes to an empty house, putting your home on the market and closing escrow can be accomplished swiftly. With no need to coordinate moving out or removing furniture, valuable time is saved. This speedy process is particularly beneficial for sellers looking for a quick sale and buyers who have a tight timeline and are eager to move into their new home promptly.

  1. Potential Homebuyers Might Feel More at Ease

Empty houses may offer potential buyers a chance to explore the property more freely without feeling like they are intruding. This freedom allows them to envision their own belongings and design elements within the home, fostering a stronger connection and emotional attachment. 

Cons of Selling an Empty House

An image of a virtually staged primary bedroom
This bedroom has been virtually staged

While there are undeniable advantages to selling a vacant house, it's important to acknowledge that there are also certain disadvantages to consider. Here are a few of the most common drawbacks associated with selling an unfurnished property:

  1. Longer Time on the Market, Lower Sale Prices for Empty Houses

A 2019 Redfin study revealed that empty houses tend to sell for an average of $11,306 less and remain on the market for an additional 6 days compared to comparable occupied homes.

  1. Homebuyers Struggle to Connect to Vacant Houses

Potential homebuyers rely on furniture and decor as reference points to help them imagine empty properties as their future homes. As visual creatures, humans often struggle to create a mental picture of a space without these visual cues. 

If prospective buyers are unable to envision their lives within a house, it becomes challenging to establish an emotional connection. This emotional connection is a crucial factor in selling a house successfully. Without it, potential buyers may struggle to see the house as their own and may be less likely to make an offer.

  1. Vacant House Can Be a Magnet for Crime

Vacant properties tend to attract criminals. Without residents or active security measures, these properties can become prime targets for burglars, vandals, and squatters. In these cases, you must rely on others to report suspicious behavior. 

  1. Buyers Might Solely Focus on the Negatives

In the absence of any notable features inside the house, buyers may be susceptible to negativity bias, causing them to predominantly notice and fixate on the imperfections of a home. 

  1. Empty Houses Seem Smaller

Empty houses often give the illusion of appearing smaller than they actually are. Without furniture and decor to provide context and scale, the empty rooms can feel claustrophobic and cramped to potential buyers. 

  1. Unfurnished Houses Blend in with Competition

Without furniture and decor to differentiate them, empty properties can easily get lost in a sea of similar listings. Potential buyers may have difficulty distinguishing one unfurnished house from another, making it challenging for sellers to make their property stand out. 

Tips for Selling an Empty House

Fortunately, there are actionable steps you can take to streamline the sales process for your empty house. Here are some valuable tips to guide you along the way:

  1. Keep the Empty House Well-Maintained

It is important to avoid giving the impression that your house is abandoned, as it could attract criminals. Additionally, you want to make a favorable first impression on potential buyers by maintaining the property's appearance. 

As you prepare your empty house for sale, it is important to stay on top of essential maintenance tasks. This includes regular cleanings to keep the property looking its best, picking up mail to avoid an appearance of neglect, and adjusting the thermostat to create a welcoming atmosphere for potential buyers, especially during open house viewings.

  1. Make Security a Priority

To safeguard against attracting unwanted attention from criminals, it is wise to avoid using words like "vacant" or "empty" when describing your listings.

In addition to this, there are multiple actionable steps you can take that can significantly enhance the security of your property. One effective measure is to install motion-activated floodlights, which act as a deterrent to potential burglars while ensuring your property remains well-lit. 

Additionally, investing in new, affordable home security systems that integrate with your Alexa or Google Home smart hubs enables you to receive real-time notifications on your phone in case of any suspicious activity. Furthermore, informing and involving your neighbors, who can play a key role in assisting with vigilance and reporting any unusual behavior, is another valuable step to consider. Implementing these strategies collectively can provide a robust security framework for your property.

  1. Improve the Curb Appeal

When it comes to attracting potential buyers, focusing on curb appeal is crucial as it creates the first impression. You don't want their initial view of the house to be marred by an unkempt exterior, patchy overgrown grass, and clutter in sight. Such a sight not only impacts the buyer's perception of the property but also signals to potential criminals that the house may be unoccupied. 

  1. Consider Staging/Virtual Staging
A before and after image of a home office that has been virtually staged

Staging is an excellent strategy to breathe life into an empty house and provide potential buyers with a vision of the property's potential. However, this option is usually time-consuming and costly.

Fortunately, unfurnished spaces offer a perfect opportunity for virtual staging, which digitally incorporates furniture and decor into the property. With virtual staging, you can showcase both the current state of the space and its potential, all at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional staging.

Virtual staging is gaining momentum as an invaluable tool for buyers, with 49% of buyers’ agents in the NAR® 's 2023 Profile of Home Staging emphasizing its importance. Of this group, 18% considered it more important than other listing presentation methods, while 31% regarded it on par with other approaches. The increasing popularity of virtual staging highlights its significant value in assisting buyers and as a marketing tool.

  1. Optimize Listing Marketing

Ensure your listing receives maximum exposure by implementing effective advertising strategies. Start by capturing high-quality photos of the property, which can even be accomplished using just your smartphone. Take the time to identify and highlight the key features that make your listing unique and appealing.

To make your listing stand out from the competition, consider utilizing virtual staging or offering a virtual tour of the property. These innovative approaches allow potential buyers to visualize the space and create an immersive experience. Providing detailed information about the property helps filter out non-serious buyers, leaving those who are genuinely interested.

Take advantage of the power of social media and real estate marketing platforms to share and promote your listing. Share it across various social media channels, real estate groups, and platforms to expand its reach. Engage with potential buyers, respond to inquiries promptly, and utilize targeted ads to increase visibility.

FAQs on Selling an Empty House

Should I move out when selling the house?

Moving out allows your agent to schedule more showings, increasing the chance of a sale. However, note that empty houses tend to sell for less and stay on the market longer, as per a 2019 Redfin study. If feasible, consider moving out but leaving some furniture or utilizing physical/virtual staging to enhance the presentation of your home.

Does an empty house sell faster?

Empty houses typically stay on the market six days longer, based on a 2019 Redfin study. However, the selling process can be streamlined when selling an empty house in terms of a quicker listing process and smoother escrow proceedings.

Is it better to sell a house empty or staged?

Staged houses tend to sell for 1-5% more than comparable houses on the market that are not staged, according to NAR’s 2023 Profile of Home Staging. However, traditional physical staging requires a considerable investment of both time and money, which may exceed the seller's budget. A practical alternative is virtual staging, offering all the benefits of real staging at a fraction of the cost.

Should I empty my house before selling?

In general, empty houses tend to sell for less money. However, if you are not planning to stage or virtually stage the property, leaving some furniture can help buyers in envisioning the scale and layout of the space. However, it is essential to remove any clutter or personal belongings to ensure a clean and neutral presentation of the home.

Final Thoughts on Selling an Empty House

Selling an empty house offers undeniable logistical advantages, including increased opportunities for showings, reduced cleaning responsibilities, and a smoother escrow process. However, without furniture and personal touches, it may be challenging for potential buyers to develop an emotional connection to the property, which can impact its marketability.

Fortunately, there are effective strategies to address this issue. Virtual staging emerges as an excellent solution, allowing prospective buyers to envision the home's possibilities and forge an emotional connection with it. By staging your home digitally, you can still retain all the advantages of selling an empty house while effectively addressing its primary challenges.

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