Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Should sellers turn off the utilities in an empty house for sale? NEVER!


In yesterday’s blog (Unpaid Utility Bills Can Be a Big Problem for Sellers and Buyers Alike) I discussed all of the problems that can occur due to unpaid utilities in a home that is being sold. This is not to say, however, that a home for sale should not have electricity even if it is vacant during the time that it is for sale on the market. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Many times sellers that are vacating a home for sale will turn off all utilities before moving to a new location. This can cause a myriad of problems and it is always better to leave all utilities in service even if the property will be unoccupied for a long period of time. Here are some of the reasons that sellers should not have the utilities turned off during this time.

Security and Safety
Whether a home has a functioning security system or not even a few lights with timers are a good idea in a vacant home. Unoccupied homes are a definite target for burglars and a dark home night after night is a welcome sign for thieves. There is also the question of safety for agents and buyers alike. The last thing a seller needs is for someone to fall down a dark flight of steps in their unlit home, right?

Maintaining the Home
Extreme heat or cold can severely damage any home. It’s not only frozen water pipes bursting that can cause damage. The expansion and contraction of wooden door frames, window frames and even hardwood floors can cause a lot of damage as well and it’s best to keep the temperature within a home at a moderate level to prevent this from occurring. The cost of repairing these types of problems is much greater than the low monthly utility costs to prevent them.

Showing the Home
How long would you spend inside of an unheated home in the middle of February or a stifling hot residence in August? Not very long I would imagine and that’s how interested buyers will feel during a showing of your empty house. If you are selling your home it needs to be comfortable enough for interested parties to tour the home in reasonable comfort and safety.

Appraisals and Inspections
If the buyer is financing the purchase of your home with a lender an appraisal will be necessary in order for them to obtain the loan. Without utilities the appraiser cannot verify that everything is in working order and the loan could be denied. A home inspector will face the same challenges and if unable to verify proper water pressure, working outlets and many other things the inspector will not be able to complete their task.

Finally, there is the final walk through in which the buyer verifies that the home is in the same condition as it was when they first viewed it. Again, that’s not possible without working utilities. In the end the sale of a home can be stopped dead in its tracks due to these types of situations.

But what about the added expense?
Many sellers are concerned with the additional cost of paying utilities in 2 separate homes at the same time and rightly so.  It’s important for agents showing the home to be sensitive to this fact and to help in keeping the utility costs as low as possible during this period of time.

It’s a simple matter to make sure that all of the lights are turned off after a showing, to close all drapes and blinds, lower the thermostat and ensure that all water valves are turned off as well. Simple courtesy and cooperation between all involved will guarantee that the expenses associated with leaving the utilities active will be quite minimal.

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