Tag Archives: FSBO

Squatters in Vacant Homes

You may have recently heard the story of the family in Idaho who had a renter move into their home they were selling and wasn’t renting from them.  The renter saw an ad for the house, signed a lease and paid some guy to rent it. But it doesn’t belong to that guy, they never authorized a renter and now the owners can’t evict her.

Apparently this has been happening to other homeowners around the country, too. They’ve moved and left their home vacant waiting for a buyer or waiting for the closing date on a pending contract.  Each state has laws pertaining to squatter’s rights and acquiring ownership of property through a process called “adverse possession” which all homeowners should know about. Be sure to read about these.

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Creative Commons image

Not to scare you, but sellers…you need to be aware of this. FSBO sellers usually don’t have anyone watching their house when they leave and move into their new home.  There are several houses, that I know of, which are FBSO homes and they are vacant.  I hear crazy stories of how they let people in to view it, hoping these are qualified buyers.  Maybe the FSBO has neighbors watching, maybe not.  Not all neighbors will take on the “watchdog” role for liability reasons.  They don’t want to be liable for not reporting a problem.  But please be aware that your vacant house needs to be watched or you could get a squatter.

Having a real estate agent for your vacant home doesn’t necessarily mean your house is protected from squatters, vandals or bursting pipes either. However, a house on the MLS is more likely to have regular showings. If you have to move away and leave your house vacant, list it with an agent arrange with him or her to make regular trips to the house to keep an eye on it.

A squatter could let themselves in. Watching the vacant house regularly and finding there is little-to-no activity there, a would-be squatter could pose as a qualified buyer to see the house with an agent and unlock a window to get back in. Land owners could be the victim of property taken over by hunters, claiming rights because the land was vacated.

The other issue with vacant homes is insurance.  A vacant house is a liability. Most insurance companies will charge homeowners a vacant-house premium after 30 or 60 days. If you have a contract on the house and move before closing, most insurance companies won’t bother with this premium because the house will soon be occupied.  However, a long-term vacancy means the house is unwatched. Vandals, fires, storm damage, water leaks left unchecked can happen more often when a property is not occupied.

Just because your house is vacant doesn’t mean you can’t make it look occupied. Utilities should be left on for showings. So, leave your blinds closed and use programmable light bulbs or light switches in various rooms to go on both in the evenings and on cloudy days. Install a doorbell that notifies you on your cellphone when someone rings it. Make sure your real estate agent goes by regularly, and not at a regular time, to rid both the driveway of newspapers and your door of marketing door hangers.

These incidents of squatters is unfortunate but real.  Take precautions to make sure you don’t become a victim.

Disclaimer: I am not an affiliate of or have a relationship with any types of products mentioned in this article. I am a REALTOR which means I am a member of the National Association of REALTORS.

Eileen Saunders, REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors, 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford MS 38655 662-404-0816/662-234-5344. Equal Housing.

Real Life House Hunting

According to my Pinterest, I need a house with 14 bedrooms, 20 bathrooms, 11 kitchens, 5 bonus rooms, 6 garden areas, 32 screened porches, 100 closets …

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My husband and I enjoy watching the home shows on television such as Beach Front Bargain Hunting and International House Hunting.  If you are not familiar with these shows, I’ll explain. A couple or family decides to move overseas or to the coast. A Realtor shows them 3 options, some within the budget and almost always there is one above the budget.  After seeing 3 homes, the couple makes a decision. Meanwhile, they critique the home’s livability, outdoor space, bathrooms and need for repair.  One home definitely gets the “X” and they pick between the 2 left over. Rarely do they have to wait and find something unscripted, which ends up on the “update” at the end of the show.

While it is fun to see what they picked, also it is fun to see what is available around the world. However, this type of home-buying experience is not the real world.

When shopping for a home your Realtor should have a great selection in your budget to show you.  It should not be unusual for him or her to show you a house that is more than your budget; remember, you can always make an offer lower than the asking price.  However, if the inventory in the area is low, you may only have 3 choices.  If none fit your needs, wait if you can because there is always tomorrow and something to your liking will pop up.  Ask your Realtor to investigate FSBO homeowners that will work with Realtors.  But beware: if you are working with a Realtor and have signed State-required papers that essentially exclusively hire that Realtor, do not go to a For Sale By Owner home seller on your own. You may end up having to pay the broker’s commission if you purchase the house.

The rules may differ from state to state but they are made to protect the consumer, so pay attention to what you sign and let your Realtor do your work for you. Remember this, the seller always pays the commission, unless you go behind your Realtor’s back and find something on your own.  Then in most cases you will pay it.

Working with a Realtor benefits  you in the following way:

As the buyer:

  • Realtors can save you time by searching for your specifications and making the appointments for you to view houses
  • Realtors are professional negotiators
  • Realtors have access to the local MLS containing accurate information about what is for sale in your price range
  • When you work with a Realtor, other Realtors will leave you alone
  • When you work exclusively with a Realtor, the seller pays the commission

As the seller:

  • National statistics show that Realtors can get more for homes than homeowners
  • Realtors are familiar with the necessary paperwork
  • Realtors can pre-qualify prospective buyers and know what similar homes in your neighborhood sold for
  • Realtors can market your house more effectively
  • You reach more home buyers with a Realtor lock box on your front door.

If you go it alone, be sure you have an attorney to help you out with the contract, the contingencies, the disclosures, inspections…your rights.

Happy house hunting!

Eileen P. Saunders, Realtor
Tommy Morgan, Inc., Realtors
2092 Old Taylor Rd., Suite 101
Oxford, MS 38655
662-234-5344, 662-404-0816