What to know if you’re moving and you have to leave your home vacant

So, you’re moving and you’re trying to sell your house. In fact, you have a new place that you’ve already bought, and you’re going to pack up and hire some moving company trucks. But what about your current house? You’ll have to leave it vacant while you’re still trying to sell it. But…how does your home insurance work in this situation? You’re not living in the house and all of your stuff is going to be gone. Of course, that house is still valuable, and it’s still an investment. You still need it to be protected from loss. But will your home insurance still cover the house that you’ve moved out of? We’ll explain.

Check your home insurance policy.

You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the home insurance policy of the house you’re moving out of. Most home insurance policies will give you a little bit of leeway as far as how long you can leave the home vacant before you forfeit your coverage. (Typically it’ll be something like 30 days.)

Wait – there’s a limit on how long your home can be vacant?

Indeed, most of the time there is. Many home insurance policies will have conditions about vacancy. Why? Because vacant homes are risky to insure. There’s no one living in the house to deter burglars, vandals, and trespassers. And there’s no one to notice fire hazards and fix them, and there’s no one around to raise the alarm about a fire. (Well, there might be neighbors, but it could take longer for them to notice something’s wrong and dial 911.) So, that’s why your standard home insurance companies aren’t really crazy about insuring vacant homes.

It’s important to be aware of what your policy says because if your home is vacant for more than the specified amount of time, the home insurance company could deny a claim that happens.

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So, there’s that, but there’s also something else you need to consider.

If the home insurance company were to find out that your home has been vacant for more time than is allowed, they can cancel or drop the policy. And that doesn’t look good on your insurance track record. It can be tricky to get new home insurance after you’ve been canceled.

At any rate: don’t leave your home vacant without letting the home insurance company know. It’s important to be up-front with them and let them know about your situation.

What to do if you’re selling your house and have to leave it vacant.

Okay. If you’re selling your house and you have to leave it vacant because you’ve moved into your new home, reach out to your home insurance company. They can help you go over your policy and find out what your next step should be. If you know that you’ve got someone moving into the house within the next week or so, you might be fine to leave things be. Your agent can help you figure out a plan of action based on your policy.

However, if it looks like it’s going to take a while to sell the home (real estate can be tough), you might need to seek out a vacant home insurance policy. Keep in mind that this probably won’t be through one of the big-name standard carriers out there. You might have to go through a different carrier than the one who wrote your original home insurance policy. Certain carriers specialize in writing “riskier” homes, so they’re okay with issuing vacant home policies.

Getting a vacant home policy.

Now, if you’re selling a home, you’re probably not planning on the house being vacant forever. So, what happens if you buy a vacant home insurance policy and then someone buys the house? Well, insurance carriers had the same thought, and fortunately, they’ve come up with a few solutions.

First of all, you might be able to get a three-month, a six-month, or even a monthly policy. That way you’re not paying for an entire year’s worth of insurance at once. You may be able to get a shorter-term policy so that you can take things a few months at a time.

Second of all, you can probably get a prorated refund if someone does buy the house within the policy period. For example, if you buy a policy with a three-month period and someone buys the home after a month, you should be able to get a refund for the insurance you didn’t end up needing. It’s a good idea to bring that up when you’re getting a vacant home policy. Find out how the refund works if, all of a sudden, someone buys the house and it’s not your problem anymore. If you’re happy with how the refund would work, you won’t have to worry that you’ll end up buying too much insurance.

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So, that’s the deal with leaving your home vacant if you’re moving. It’s important to understand your policy and to be upfront with your home insurance carrier. If you need to, seek out vacant home insurance. Moving is stressful enough, and you don’t want to add to that if you encounter a hiccup after it’s too late to get the proper coverage.

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