Although you'd want to sell your current home around the time you're ready to move into the new one, this doesn't always work out, which could mean the old property will be vacant for some time.

Once you've packed up all your belongings and moved to a new property, there can be many challenges, especially if you're moving out of state. One issue you have to consider is property damage caused by thieves or vandals. If the home appears empty, it can become a target for these groups.

When you do find potential buyers, you don't want them to be deterred by broken windows or spray-painted walls. Also, thieves could steal valuable materials from the home, such as copper wiring, and these missing parts may be noted when buyers schedule a building inspection. As a result, you may have to funnel more money into the house to repair it.

To avoid these risks, check out the following tips:

  • Notify neighbors and local police. Before you move, give others in the community a heads up. If they know your old house is empty, they may keep an eye on it for you. Contact your local police department, as well. In the event a neighbor spots a rowdy bunch of teenagers or other vandals breaking into the property, law enforcement will know the property should be empty and can more quickly address the situation.
  • Leave a light on. A key deterrent to vandalism and theft in a vacant home is to create the illusion someone is still living there. One way to accomplish this goal is to leave a few inexpensive lights in the home. Pair the lights with timers or photosensors so they automatically turn on during the evening. Photosensors can be better than timers, as the latter can reveal the house is empty by alerting thieves and vandals the lights come on at the same time each day. Don't forget to automate the exterior lights, as well.
  • Forward your mail. A ton of letters stuffed in your old mailbox is a dead giveaway that nobody's home. Set up mail forwarding at your local post office so all your mail is rerouted to your new address until you can update your contact information. Also, update your address if you have a newspaper delivered to the residence.
  • Keep up with lawn care and snow removal. Unkempt home exteriors signal a home is vacant. In warmer weather, be sure to mow the lawn at the old house. In winter, clear snow from the walkway and driveway. If you're a long distance from your previous house, enlist the help of friends, family and neighbors if possible.
  • Take care of repairs. In the same vein of maintaining the exterior of the house, check that the property doesn't have any noticeable exterior damage every so often. If you notice repairs are needed, attend to these issues. Properties that appear to be falling to pieces tend to also appear vacant.
  • Consider leaving window treatments. Blinds and curtains can be a pricey item to leave behind but can work to your advantage for the goal of protecting your vacant house. There is some debate regarding whether it is better to leave window treatments open or closed to created the appearance that someone is home. A happy medium would be to close the ones on the ground level while leaving the ones on the upper level open. As a result, no one can look in from the first floor and see the house is empty, but passersby will get the impression the property is occupied when they see the open blinds or curtains on the upper floors.