Quick guide on buying an unoccupied property

When it comes to buying an unoccupied property, there are many potential issues buyers should consider, even before putting in an offer. Although buying any home can be a daunting prospect, unoccupied properties can come with additional problems such as damp, pests, structural damage and more.

Below, we have listed some obstacles and issues that buyers should query/research before purchasing any unoccupied property.

Probate

Before you make an offer on an unoccupied property, do your research! Try and find out from the solicitors why the property is vacant and how long it has been empty, as depending on the reason, it could complicate the buying/selling process.

Properties going through probate will on average take between four and eight months, but could take even longer. You may find probate takes half the time in a case where there is no inheritance tax payable. Factors which may impact time-scales are; the size of estate, the kind of assets included, when multiple parties are involved, and if a will is not in place.

Condition of the property

It’s always a good idea to visit the unoccupied property and have it checked over by a qualified surveyor, so you have a better understanding of the potential work involved in making the property habitable again.

Remember, an unoccupied property might look fine from the outside, but what is lurking on the inside? Is it damp? Is the roof intact or does it need replacing? 

Are the electrics safe? Does the plumbing and heating work? What is the state of the garden? Are there any unwanted pests that have caused damage?

These are just some of the potential issues any buyer should consider before purchasing an unoccupied property. And with the help of specialist surveyors, buyers will have a better understanding of the work needed and the associated costs involved.

Squatters and vandalism

Because unoccupied properties are vacant, they can be more at risk of vandalism or squatters, so if you are purchasing an unoccupied property, it is worth considering the following:

  • Has this unoccupied property experienced vandalism or had/currently have squatters?
  • If the unoccupied property currently has squatters, you will need to consider all legal proceedings when it comes to removing them. Once you buy an unoccupied property with squatters illegally living inside, it does not mean they can or will automatically leave. There are appropriate legal channels you must go through to have squatters removed.
  • If you plan on keeping the unoccupied property vacant for a while longer, consider taking measures to keep the property secure. Such as installing CCTV and flood lights, securing all access points whether that is simply locking the windows and doors or installing protective board panels. Even if the property has not experienced any criminal damage, it is still worth taking extra precautions to prevent any destructive activity from taking place.

Council tax

Depending on the area the property is located within, will depend on whether you need to pay council tax for your unoccupied property. However, depending on your council, you may be eligible for discounted council tax on the property. You will have to contact your local council to find out if you can apply for a discounted rate, as it is often down to their discretion.

Properties that are derelict or that are undergoing major renovations may also be exempt from having to pay council tax. More information on the requirements can be found here.

Insurance

Many home insurance providers will only cover an unoccupied property for up to 30 or 60 consecutive days, however, it is possible to buy specialist unoccupied property insurance that will offer protection for a longer period of time. There may be conditions attached with the insurance policy, such as you must visit the property on a regular basis or keep heating on at a minimum.

If you do not plan on living in your new property or will not have it ready for habitation for a while, consider researching what insurance is available for you and your unoccupied property, and what exactly it covers you for, to ensure it’s right for your needs.

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