Should I Wait to Move Out Until After I Sell My Home?
Written by Dana Olsen on May 17, 2019
Nationwide, vacant homes sell for $11,306 less and spend six more days on the market than comparable occupied homes.
This is according to a Redfin analysis of homes that were listed and sold in 2018. The analysis compares 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, Nebraska and Greenville, South Carolina, 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 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).
Here’s a look at the metro-level selling stats for vacant versus occupied homes, in order of largest discount to smallest:
“Whether occupied homes sell faster and for more money depends on a lot of factors, as everyone’s tastes and preferences are different,” said Billie Jean Hemerson, a Redfin agent in Orange County. “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. But if a seller’s furnishings are dated, dark or too large for the space, buyers may offer less.”
Staging Vacant Homes
Although vacant homes tend to sell for less money and spend more time on the market before going under contract, staging or virtual staging may help make a good impression with buyers. Staging involves hiring a company to bring and arrange furniture in your home to showcase its potential to buyers. Staging can be particularly impactful for homes with open spaces or unusual layouts, where we find buyers most often need help to see how the furniture could be arranged. Professional staging can cost several thousand dollars, depending on the number of rooms staged and the length of time.
“Staging a property can have a profound effect on both the sale price and days on the market, but the main challenge of physical staging is that it’s cumbersome, costly and offers no flexibility to showcase various aesthetic stylings,” said Pieter Aarts, CEO and co-founder of roOomy, a leading virtual staging, CGI and 3D modeling platform.
“Virtual staging is a cost-efficient option that gives homebuyers an ultra-realistic view of what the vacant home will look like at its full potential,” Aarts added. “It caters to today’s homebuyers who are increasingly demanding immersive services and mobile augmented and virtual reality tools that allow them to evaluate a property, often times without needing to physically set foot in the home.”
RedfinNow has partnered with roOomy to virtually stage many of the homes it has listed for sale in Southern California. We’ve included one example below.
Before virtual staging:
After virtual staging:
Every home is different and every home seller has different priorities. Talk to your real estate agent about the pros and cons of putting your home on the market while it’s vacant versus occupied and whether staging or virtual staging is a good option for you.
For this report, we used linear regression to predict the sale price of homes sold in 2018 in each U.S. metro area tracked by Redfin for which information on vacancy is available. We determined whether a home was vacant based on whether real estate agents indicated if the home was vacant or occupied on their local MLS. Vacant homes listed for sale can vary in degree of furnishings from completely empty, to some furniture left behind by the seller, to professionally staged. To be considered vacant, a home must not have been occupied at the time the time it went off the market; less than 3 percent of homes in this analysis were occupied at the time of listing and vacant at the time of sale. To be included in this analysis, at least 10 percent of the sales in a given metro area must have been of vacant listings and at least 70 percent of homes sold in 2018 must have had MLS listings that contained information on whether a home was vacant or not. We broke out the data by metro area and controlled for many features of the homes, including location, size of the home and Walk ScoreⓇ. We determined the percent increase in the sale price correlated with listing a vacant home relative to listing an occupied home. Only metros where the results are statistically significant in terms of both percentage difference and days on market are included in this report.
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