Should I buy a vacant home?

Advantages and Considerations for Vacant Homes

In a blazing hot real estate market, a vacant home that’s not newly constructed can raise some questions. How long has the property been vacant? Has it been properly maintained so that there are no weather issues? Are there pests? Are there ghosts? At RealtyHive, we feature many types of properties, both vacant and occupied, from all types of sellers. This is what you should know.

Vacant Home Advantages

You can see it on your schedule

Unlike an occupied home where you have to coordinate schedules with current owners or tenants, vacant homes are often able to be shown at any time of the day. While the convenience factor is one benefit, there’s another reason this is so beneficial for a prospective buyer. 

Imagine you’re looking to buy a home in an unfamiliar area. Maybe you don’t know the area or the neighborhood well or only pass by during a certain part of the day. Depending on your location, the character of the neighborhood may change from day to night. Knowing there’s a loud and rowdy bar down the street or a school-induced traffic jam every afternoon may change the price you’re willing to offer. It’s not just properties in the city center that can be affected. What about a property that should have a wonderful view of the night sky, but instead has industrial lights coming from the nearby farm?

Viewing a vacant house multiple times allows you to see these details — the kind you normally find out about after the fact — ahead of time and without inconveniencing the seller.

It’s easier to picture yourself in

When looking for real estate, you should make it a point to look past the current tenant/owners personal items. Sure, you might fall in love with the current furniture and design, but more likely you’ll find yourself thinking “Why would you chose that couch?” or “How do you live in this mess?” 

When you look at a vacant home, you don’t run into this issue. Instead, you get to see a room with it’s permanent features. While some sellers use staging to create a more “homey” feel, the majority of the “stuff” is typcially removed allowing you to see how much space you have to work with and how the rooms flow without much distraction.

The sellers are probably motivated

The biggest advantage of buying a vacant home tends to be the sellers. From mortgages to maintenance, an unoccupied property costs the owner each and every month they hold on to it. Even if the property doesn’t have the mortgage, taxes, maintenance, and in some locations, required utility payments, that all need to be paid.

These holding costs, in addition to the labor and stress of having an additional property, can add up. For this reason, sellers of vacant homes are often highly motivated and more open to discussing all offers. One of the ways you can find motivated sellers is to check out the properties in upcoming RealtyHive Time-Limited Events. These sellers have committed to competitively pricing their properties and are willing to entertain all reasonable offers.

Vacant Home Considerations

How long has the property been vacant?

When a home is occupied issues are noticed quickly. Leaks in the basement or roof are addressed, heating or cooling systems are being used, and the property is often more or less maintained simply by being occupied. None of this applies to vacant homes. In the southern US, homes that sit vacant too long can attract unwanted guests like spiders, snakes, and scorpions, while homes to the north run the risk of freeze damage if homes are not property winterized.

Can the property serve its current use?

This one gets into the weeds of real estate law a bit, but if you’re looking at buying a vacant property, you should know about non-conforming use laws. In regard to a vacant home, this could mean that what appears to be a multifamily home or duplex would be allowed to be used as such.

Is buying a vacant home a good idea?

As with all real estate purchases, it’s important to do your homework. Vacant homes offer buyers the ability to see the property without any distractions, but may come with some unique considerations or challenges. Choose a great agent (find one who offers incentives to buyers here!) to assist you and help you through the process.

vacant land with wide open spaces

Buy Beware! 5 Things to Consider When Buying Vacant Land

Vacant land seems like it would be a very straightforward deal when it comes to real estate. Without an established structure you don’t have to worry about the condition of a foundation, what a home inspector will find, and you get to make all design choices yourself, but whether you’re looking for a spot to build your dream home home, you want acres of hunting land, or you have dreams of harvesting lumber from an established forest there are a variety of considerations that need to be made.

1. Zoning

Depending on where the land you’re interested in is located, you may run into issues with zoning. While some zoning laws are pretty laissez-faire (Houston, we’re looking at you!) there are others that are very strict as to what can be done on the land. If you have dreams of having a dog kennel or in-home daycare or any other home-based business, you’ll want to make sure that unexpected issues won’t arise from this after you close. Keep in mind that both the county and the city may have zoning rules in place.

2. Plot Lines

If you’re interested in a vacant parcel because of a certain feature– water frontage, mature fruit trees, anything– you’ll want to make sure it’s actually on your property. Without houses, fences, or a well-staked property, it can be hard to determine what would be yours and what would be your neighbors and that’s not something you want to learn after putting in an offer.

3. Land Type

When you think you’ve found the perfect piece of land, you can develop a blind spot over the weaknesses of the property. Sure, it seems perfect to tuck your home back from the road, but will the driveway cross through protected wetlands? Your dreams of a cozy basement can easily be derailed by silty or sandy soil, would you be okay if it doesn’t work out?

4. Weather/Seasonal/Nature Factors

If you’ve lived in the area where you’re planning to buy, you may know some things to look out for. While most things can be fixed with proper grading or covered with the right insurance, if you’re not planning (or budgeted) to make changes, you may need to pick a new spot. For the Midwest, you’ll want to watch out for what drainage will look like after the snow melts. For the coasts you’ll want to consider the floodplain and in the mountains you should watch the topography.

5. Accessibility

You’ll want to know exactly what you can expect for buying this particular piece of land. Is it already prepped for sewer/water/electric? Can you drill a well if need be? Do you have a plan and/or budget for any of the above if the answer is no? You’ll also want to be sure that you can access the land you purchase. Believe it or not, there are thousands of properties across the U.S. that have no road access whatsoever because they are completely landlocked by other private properties. In cases like this, you can generally legally establish an easement, meaning a neighbor will grant you access to your property through theirs (usually via access road or driveway), but it’s something that you may have to pay extra for and will definitely want in writing.

Keep in mind, these are just some of the considerations when purchasing vacant property. To protect yourself you should always do your due diligence and start with a clear vision of what you’re looking for. It also may be a good idea seek out a licensed real estate agent for help if you need advice.