Have you seen a house in your neighborhood or one you pass by regularly that is obviously vacant? We see them everywhere; in fact, we look for them.
There are many reasons for a vacant home to remain so for a long time. The most common is the death of the owner. Heirs often don’t know what to do or where to begin when a loved one passes. Unfortunately, they allow the home to decay and lose most of its value. When no one takes responsibility for paying the taxes, homeowner’s insurance is not maintained and regular maintenance is not done, a once-loved asset can become nearly worthless.
Other times, maintenance and repairs become too much of a burden and the owner may simply give up. We have purchased homes when the owner had spent thousands of dollars on the property taxes and insurance for many years, yet the owner cost themselves more in decreased value by allowing maintenance to go undone or trying to make repairs they were not qualified to tackle.
Loss of value and expenses are examples of the cost of a vacant home. There are some more hidden issues that may concern you as a neighbor or community member.
Vacant homes, especially with visible signs of disrepair, can have a dramatic effect on property value in the surrounding area. Homes for sale in the area will not look as attractive to potential buyers with junky, vacant homes nearby. They not only cost the owner money, but could possibly cost surrounding owners thousands as well.
Consider pests and infestations. Without any activity, rodents, snakes, feral cats and dogs, bees, roaches or worse can occupy a vacant house for years without anyone knowing it. The worst we have seen was a beehive that had been built inside the entire wall of a bedroom and a snake den with hundreds of dry snake skins throughout the home. In both cases, the owner had no idea, they hadn’t seen the homes in years.
The most worrisome of issues with vacant homes can be unwelcome human “occupants.” Vagrants, drug dealing, homelessness and even prostitution can be the hardest and most unsafe situations to deal with. In cold months, vagrants and the homeless are desperate to find warmth and shelter and will take it wherever they can find it. Don’t be foolish enough to think this is only an inner-city problem. It can happen in your neighborhood too. We have seen homes burned to the ground by people just trying to stay warm. Candles, small fires, lighters and household debris make for a dangerous combination.
It may not be a noble cause bringing some others into a vacant house. Walking into a vacant house with worn mattresses on the floor in every room, hundreds of used condoms everywhere and a smell you won’t soon forget is an experience you pray you never have, yet it happens all the time. Vacant homes host drugs and prostitution at an alarming rate.
Another costly issue can arise when someone occupies a vacant property as their own. Someone could take possession of a vacant home, making it necessary for the owner to evict them before having them removed. This can be costly and time-consuming for the owner, in addition to any damage they may do.
What if illegal activity is taking place in the property? Vacant homes are a convenient place for drug dealers and users to set up shop. Could the owner be liable for not properly securing the dwelling and “allowing” this activity to continue?
What happens when someone gets hurt at a vacant home? They sue the owner! With or without proper insurance, the owner may be liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Even if you win, you will still have lost thousands of dollars in legal fees defending yourself. You don’t get a refund for the money spent or your time.
The cost and spectrum of problems arising from a vacant home can be overwhelming, and by the time you realize the potential worst-case scenario, it’s too late. If someone you know or you yourself own a vacant home, you have options to protect yourself. Correct posting of the property, making sure it is secured, and proper insurance is the best way to start if you are not ready to sell.
Would you like to learn more?
Ross Pittman Asset Group, LLC is located in Charlotte, NC and maintains a growing rental portfolio. We are always looking for ways to improve and love to share information with other investors.
If you have a home you would like to sell, give Jared Dullum, our Acquisitions Manager a call at 704-464-8424 or visit our web site at www.rosspittman.com.