It’s not always possible to maintain 100 percent occupancy of investment properties. Sometimes it takes longer to find tenants. In the case of vacation homes, seasonal vacancies last for months. Just because the home is unoccupied doesn’t mean it can be ignored. Learn the top risks of leaving a property vacant.
Leaks and Water Damage
When there’s no tenant present to notice the roof is leaking or a pipe has burst, and inform the property owner right away, damage can soar into the thousands. Even if you’ve asked a neighbor to keep an eye on the place, they may not notice a problem until it’s too late. If a property must remain vacant for an extended time, shut the water off and drain the pipes to avoid freezing. Keep the heat on to at least 55 degrees to protect pipes you can’t, or don’t want to, drain. In the summer, keep the AC on and use dehumidifiers to make interior conditions less conducive to mold.
Theft and Vandalism
Even if the property is well maintained on the outside, bad actors notice when nobody’s home. Kids will break windows just to hear the glass shatter, while thieves will rip fixtures out of the walls. There’s a lot of valuable stuff in an unoccupied home, including appliances and copper pipes that are at risk when no one’s watching.
Faulty wiring, a poorly maintained heating system with old, dirty filters, and even arson is among the top risks to vacant properties. Property owners should maintain smoke alarms and use a system that alerts them in the event an alarm triggers.
A vacant home is an invitation for people who can’t afford rent or find another place to stay. They’ll move right in, ignoring secured entrances and despite exterior lighting. Without utilities, squatters will improvise, using fireplaces to cook or candles for lighting. Food scraps and uncollected garbage will attract pests. Whether the house is in livable condition or not, squatters are difficult to evict. Getting squatters out of a home often requires a costly legal fight.
Lost Income and High Insurance Costs
The longer a home is unoccupied, the more income the property owner loses. Moreover, insurance companies understand the risks of vacant homes, and hike prices, if they’ll provide coverage at all. Insurance-covering investment properties may have clauses defining when coverage lapses, if a property is unoccupied, or vacant for longer than a set period of time. Property owners may have to purchase expensive separate policies to cover vacant homes.
Real estate investors can mitigate the risks associated with vacant properties with professional property management. Property managers help real estate investors keep their occupancy rates high with marketing, tenant screening, and maintenance services. They also provide advice on setting rental rates. Property management companies in Atlanta, Georgia, provide expertise on how to attract tenants to properties in the city’s many vibrant neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs.