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Should You Perform Maintainance on the Empty House in Your Neighborhood?

Filed in Real Estate 2 comments

Over the weekend, the couple at the end of the street informed me they were finally moving away to take new jobs.  It really wasn’t much of a surprise considering their house had been up for sale since April, so naturally, I congratulated them on selling their home and had already began planning the going away party in my mind while we were standing at the door.

After all, its summertime and everyone loves a good excuse to throw a party.  Nothing like an old fashioned southern barbecue to say goodbye to good friends.  (Plus, the guy across the street makes the best BBQ ribs outside of Memphis!)

However, as I was thinking about ribs, they interrupted me by saying they had not been able to sell their home after having it listed for three months.  Instead, they were going to leave their home on the market — empty and unsold — until they could get a more reasonable offer.  Ouch!

What happens to my property value?

After making a few quick plans about how we should celebrate their moving onto bigger and better things, I began to get a little nervous when it comes to property values of every home on the street.  Most importantly — mine!

Later in the evening, I struck up a conversation with my other neighbors and they voiced similar concerns.

On a positive note, we live in an area where the real estate bubble was a nonevent.  So it’s not like I have to worry about being underwater since most of us have been here for some time.  Plus, made a sizable down payment so it’s a non issue for me.

On the other hand, we were rather shell-shocked to learn that they only received three bids on their home.  Two of the bids were 5% to 10% lower than what they were looking for, and the third was a blatant low ball offer by a real estate investor hardly worth the paper it was written on.

After a few minutes of rambling, we stumbled across the obvious questions that I was reluctant to bring up to the group because I already knew the answers:

  1. How long can their home remain vacant without hurting our property values?
  2. What, if anything, can we do to help lure in buyers while their home remains empty with a big For Sale sign hanging

The answer to question #1 isn’t all that simple.  It depends if my former neighbors are forced to sell at a lower price, if others in the neighborhood decide to sell this summer, or if lending standards become so tight that only those with above average credit and a sizable down payment can afford to buy.  Plus, about a million other variables I’ve yet to consider.

What can you do to expedite the sale of a empty home?

Being true southerners (or transplants pretending to be southerners), we all decided to pitch in and do what we can to expedite the sale of their home.  Since after all, it’s in all of our interests that they sell their home as soon as possible.

  1. Lawn maintenance and general upkeep.  I’m always looking for an extra excuse to break out the lawnmower or play in the dirt, so I don’t mind mowing their lawn twice a month (I halved the duties with another neighbor) to keep things looking as neat and tidy as possible.  Plus, doing the extra legwork is just another easy way to live a healthier lifestyle while helping out a friend.
  2. Free marketing & networking.  We’ve decided to put the word out to all of our friends/colleagues/family that a home is up for sale in our little neighborhood.  Hopefully, the foreign cars and manicured lawns won’t scare off that many people.
  3. Hiring the most annoying Realtor on the planet.  When I came to this area, I happened to meet the Realtor my neighbors just signed and he is, without a doubt, the most annoying salesman I’ve ever met in my entire life.  I generally hate sales people of all types, but in this case, we’re glad to have someone pounding the pavement who will publicize the heck out of the open, and empty, house on our block.

Other than these common sense ideas to help out our neighbor, we’re out of ideas.  We can always suggest they could lower the asking price (we’re hoping the Realtor will do that if necessary), but from a good neighbors vantage point, I think we’re out of ideas.

Got any other ideas for us?  Anything that we’re missing?

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Posted by CJ   @   15 June 2009 2 comments


Jun 16, 2009
3:11 pm
#1 Mike :

I wish I had you as a neighbor. It’s very generous of you to voluntarily cut their lawn, but is there a reason why your neighbors couldn’t hire someone to do it, or do it themselves?

Are they moving far away? If so, in hindsight, they should have taken the best offer and ate the loss. In the long run, it may just cost them more than they would have initially lost selling underwater. Believe me, I’ve learned this myself the hard way.

I guess that if you’re expecting to sell your home in the near future, concern about property values would be important. But, if you plan on living in your home for a long time (or forever) it shouldn’t matter. IMO, it’s your home, not an investment. But, if you’re planning on selling soon, what the markets do are out of your control and you’ll have to play the hand you were dealt.

Although you would like to be a good neighbor and help preserve home values in your neighborhood, it sounds like you are taking on more responsibility than is warranted. If it was me, I wouldn’t let their problem become my problem. I’d let them handle it on their own, in their own way. Too much intervention on your part may create ill will and make matters worse.

Jun 16, 2009
5:03 pm
#2 Matt :

@ Mike,

Hey that’s just southern hospitality!

The ill will factor is certainly a possibility, which is why I delicately hinted they hire a Realtor who knows the market instead of trying to sell it themselves to save cash. Can’t fault them for trying, but I just don’t think they did enough advertising.

Personally, I don’t think they priced their home as competitively as they should have considering their time frame. Then again, no one wants to hear their home is actually worth versus what they think it “should be” worth.

They’re moving 500+ miles away, so doing the exterior upkeep on their property isn’t feasible. They were going to hire a landscaping crew to come in, but myself and another neighbor volunteered to do it for free. No real reason why we stepped up, but just seemed like the neighborly thing to do.

It might cost me 20 minutes of work twice a month, but I consider it a good karma investment.

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