Vacant Houses

Savannah is a tourism rich southern treasure with university and military influences.  What this means is that there are more than a few vacant houses at any given time in Savannah.  Some are vacant because the Savannah family can’t bring themselves to give up the family house even though they don’t live here.  Others are situational, deployed to Iraq or home for the summer from SCAD, but nonetheless vacant.  The overwhelming number of vacant homes are fully furnished second or third homes.

This is important to Savannah because although we have seen a boom in housing, including many condominium conversions and in-fill projects, our population has not increased at the same rate.  Second home buyers usually keep their residency in their first home, and students normally keep their home address, not their school address.  Even most military don’t become residents because they will likely be moved within months, not years.  Home ownership then, as a non-resident, means that the city and county benefit from the property taxes not subject to homestead exemption and more importantly not subject to our Stephens-Day law which holds the property taxes to small increases every year as opposed to re-assessment.  This keeps the coffers of the local government filled and the squares and parks beautiful.

Vacant houses also affect the Real Estate market, in that, homes that are vacant usually sell for less money, and that means good business for professional staging companies.  Many times I will ask my clients to stage the home after a showing goes poorly and many times they agree and that makes a big difference, even if it is just for pictures.

Lastly, I want to mention security for vacant homes.  I recently experienced a security breach at a vacant listing where an alarm was present but not activated for ease of showings.  The side door was compromised and a new stove was taken.  This is not a new occurrence, and in fact I have heard of a couple cases of this in Atlanta, GA from new homes that are vacant.  My suggestions:  1. If the home has an alarm, set it, every time;  and 2. Have someone check the home once a week if it is not being shown very often.

Vacant homes are just part of Savannah and residents keep an eye on things, so go ahead and get a second home here.  Maybe in the future, more of those second homes will become primary residences and Savannah will continue to grow.  Savannah is a gem of a city and partially vacant, but never abandoned.


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