Real estate study finds vacant homes sell for less

Photo (c) doranjclark - Getty Images

Occupied homes sell for $11,000 more on average

Homes sell faster than they did three years ago, but an industry analysis suggests there is a way to give your home an edge: don’t move out until you have a contract.

Researchers at Redfin, a real estate brokerage, analyzed home sales from 2018 and discovered that furnished homes not only sold faster than vacant ones but sold for more money. The analysis compared the sale price and time spent on the market for homes that were listed as vacant and those that weren’t.

Occupied homes -- at least those that had the appearance of being occupied -- spent six fewer days on the market and sold for an average of $11,306 more than empty homes.

"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 that buyers can take their time making an offer," said Redfin’s 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."

Other possible factors

The results could have been affected by homes in foreclosure. Foreclosures are most likely to be vacant when they go on the market and may be in need of renovation. The owners -- often a bank -- are sometimes willing to accept less than the market value, which could have skewed the numbers.

The market also makes a difference. The analysis found that vacant homes in low-priced markets sold at a bigger discount when compared to occupied homes in more expensive markets.

In Omaha, Nebraska and Greenville, South Carolina -- two affordable housing markets --  vacant homes sold for 7.2 percent, or about $15,000, less on average than occupied homes. It’s not the case in hot housing markets like San Jose, where a vacant home is likely to bring less than 1 percent less than an occupied one.

Sometimes, a vacant house is better

In some cases, selling your home without furnishing could have an advantage, if your furnishings aren’t that great.

"If a home is occupied and the furniture is modern, up to date and fits the space, it has a positive impact on a potential buyer's perception of the home and they may pay more than if the home were vacant,” said Billie Jean Hemerson, a Redfin agent in Orange County, Calif. “But if a seller's furnishings are dated, dark or too large for the space, buyers may offer less."

If you have to sell your home in a vacant state, there are some things you can do to make it more attractive. Hiring a company to stage your home by bringing in a minimal amount of furnishings can give prospective buyers a better idea of how it will look when they move in.

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