Special Considerations for Vacant Homes

Problems are much more likely to occur in homes that are left unoccupied for any extended period of time. With a large inventory of foreclosed and vacant houses on the market today, home buyers should be aware of issues that often arise when a home is not maintained regularly. While these homes can often be purchased at a bargain, anyone considering a house which has been vacant for a while should pay close attention to their condition. Here are a few things to be aware of when buying a vacant property.
  • One of the obvious things that can happen to a vacant home is vandalism. From broken windows and spray paint to the theft of copper pipes and wires, it does happen. This means that you may end up having to make some repairs yourself. Sellers may also make sub par repairs themselves to save money, which may mean even more work.
  • Fluctuating temperatures in vacant homes as the weather changes unpredictably can lead to cracks around windows and in weather stripping. Moisture and temperature changes in wood can also cause cracks in plaster and drywall.
  • If the furnace has been shut off for a long time, ensure to have them checked for leaks or rust build up. Heating systems usually dry moisture which may be in the home. Without heat, the moisture can create rust, or worse, mold. Air conditioning systems may also need to be inspected and possibly recharged to work properly.
  • Plumbing problems can arise with unused drain pipes. Some are more susceptible to waste blockages and solidifications, while others may be at risk for sediment buildup. Additionally, washers and gaskets may shrink, which may cause pipes and fixtures to leak.
  • Sediment buildup from stagnant water in an unused water heater can impair its function. Turning the water heater on improperly after a time spent in disuse can cause thermal shock, leading to leaks and even failure.
  • Appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, clothes driers, and garbage disposal motors can freeze up. Also, as with the plumbing, their seals can dry out and leak after a period of disuse.
  • There are the obvious problems that can occur with dust and dirt! Without the ventilation systems running to move air and filter pollutants, dust, dirt, and cobwebs can settle throughout the home.
  • This is Minnesota, a land full of 10,000 lakes and an abundance of wildlife. Beyond small rodents, there may be a raccoon, possum, or other animal setting up shop in a vacant home.
  • When roof and drains are not properly maintained and cleared of debris, roof leakage may occur due to water buildup. Deferred maintenance of flashings can be another source of leaks.
  • Soil expansion can also occur after the dry yard of a vacant property is properly watered by a new homeowner. This could have unexpected affects on the home’s foundation.

If you plan to purchase one of these homes, have it inspected carefully by a professional. Based on the results of the inspector’s report, a buyer considering a vacant home should rely on the expertise of a real estate professional to assist in negotiations for repairs or price adjustments. Even then, it may help to set aside some cash in the event an unforeseen problem presents itself after you’ve move into the house.

Trying to sell a vacant home? Check out our Tips for Selling a Vacant Home.

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