As the market potentially stands to cool off a bit with the weather in the coming months, it is important to consider the benefits and risks of leaving your home vacant. Some sellers find it easier to accommodate showings and remove personal belongings if they can move into a new home before listing their old one.

However, during nonpeak real estate months this can lead to extended periods of time when a listing may sit vacant. Vacant homes may experience maintenance challenges to take into account when considering this course of action.

Lainie Ramsey with Homes By Lainie Real Estate Group explained vacant homes cannot only pose a maintenance problem, but also a security issue.

“When a property is vacant there is usually a higher risk of break-ins,” Ramsey said. “A property just seems to go downhill quickly if somebody is not there managing regular, everyday things. They seem to deteriorate quicker. If no one is there to take care of the house on a daily basis bugs seem to invade. In winter months pipes can freeze, and a lot of stuff like that seems to go wrong.”

Ramsey went on to explain that the benefit of a vacant house is that it is easier to show. Because there is no one in the house that would be bothered by buyers viewing the home, there are often no appointments required. This means more people are likely to view it and potentially buy it.

Michelle McCullough with ERA Steve Cook & Co. Realtors says another benefit of leaving a house vacant is that it is easier to stage.

“It is good to stage a home because then buyers can imagine where the furniture would go and see how much furniture would fit in a given room,” McCullough said. “But if you have too many personal items in a home, buyers are unable to see past that to envision themselves and their belongings in the home.”

McCullough also cautions the importance of maintaining the vacant home or hiring someone to help you maintain it.

“If it’s vacant for a while, you need to keep the yard mowed,” McCullough said. “Ant piles, cobwebs and dust tend to accumulate. Even though no one may be living there, someone needs to come in and clean. Usually if you have it listed with a Realtor they can help keep up with that.”

Sellers whose homes have remained vacant for a while may be tempted to lease it out to help combat these issues and bring in additional income. Ramsey explained this may end up delaying the actual sale of the property.

“If you have a tenant, it is typical that they don’t have a desire for the house to sell,” Ramsey said. “Often times the house isn’t as clean or easy to show. You are going to have a longer time on the market than if you didn’t have a tenant. During this time you are going to continue paying taxes, insurance and your house payment if you have one. So even though the lease may be providing some rent, it may just be better to hold out and sell the house quicker.”

For those that do choose to leave their listing vacant, McCullough reminds sellers to pay attention to the thermostat.

“A lot of people don’t want to leave the A/C or heater on high or low, but they need to remember to bump the heater up to protect pipes,” McCullough said. “If it’s an older home you may want to turn the water off at the meter so you don’t have those worries and unhook water hoses.”

On the positive side, McCullough continued that by vacating the property owners are able to take pets with them. She explained many buyers have a hard time viewing properties with pets present.