Beware the Pitfalls of Listing a Vacant Home

Beware the Pitfalls of Listing a Vacant Home

A new study gives weight to the value of staging a home to be listed on the market. Redfin found that nationwide, vacant homes sell for $11,306 less and are on the market for six more days than comparable occupied homes.

Redfin’s analysis of homes that were listed and sold in 2018 compared the sale prices and time spent on the market for home listings that were marked ‘vacant’ at the time they were sold with those that were not flagged as vacant. Only metro areas where the listings for at least 70 percent of homes sold in 2018 were clearly marked as either vacant or not vacant were included in this report.

Less than 3 percent of homes included in this analysis started out occupied and became vacant while on the market, which makes it unlikely that the findings are skewed by homes whose sellers were unable to find a buyer before they needed to move out.

“Although vacant homes are easy for buyers to tour at their convenience, the fact that the sellers have already moved on is often a signal to buyers that they can take their time making an offer,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “It’s also likely that sellers who are in a comfortable enough financial situation to own a property that’s sitting empty aren’t as motivated to get the highest possible price for their home as sellers who need the cash from their first home in order to buy the next one.”

Though vacant homes sell for less money in every metro area included in this analysis, the amount varies by location. Vacant homes come with the biggest discount compared with occupied homes in relatively affordable inland areas. Vacant homes still sell for less than occupied homes in expensive West Coast metros, but the price differential is smaller.

In both Omaha, Neb., and Greenville, S.C., where vacant homes are associated with the biggest discount, vacant homes sell for 7.2 percent, or about $15,000, less on average than occupied homes. Next comes El Paso, Texas, where the average vacant home sells for 6.6 percent—about $10,000—less than comparable occupied homes.

In San Jose, buyers get the smallest discount on vacant homes, which sell for just 0.9 percent less than homes that aren’t vacant, followed by Las Vegas (-1.5%) and Orange County (-2.3%).

In dollars, the difference in San Jose equates to about an $11,000 discount compared with occupied homes, about on par with El Paso. But in San Jose, where the typical home sells for more than $1 million (versus $160,000 in El Paso), $11,000 isn’t as meaningful a difference.

Vacant homes take longer to go under contract in every metro except San Jose, where they spend an average of one and a half fewer days on the market than occupied homes.

“When the Bay Area real estate market is ultra competitive like it was in 2018, vacant homes tend to sell faster than the ones occupied by their owners or tenants,” said local Redfin agent Chad Eng. “Vacant homes are accessible 24/7, which means homebuyers can see them and put in an offer quickly in hopes of beating out other potential buyers.”

In Greenville, vacant homes spend an average of 14.3 more days on the market than occupied homes, making it the metro where vacant homes linger on the market the longest relative to occupied homes, followed by Austin (11.8 more days) and Kansas City (11.2 more days).