A vacant home sells more slowly and for 5 to 10 percent less than a well-furnished property, said Kay Deitz, who sells homes through the Harford County office of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty.
"When the furnishings and draperies are gone, even big expensive homes look like big generic boxes," Ms. Deitz said.
Even worse, a vacant home makes the seller look desperate -- encouraging low-ball offers, real estate specialists say. "The buyer feels that everything is in his court -- that maybe the seller is desperate because he's carrying two mortgages," Ms. Deitz said.
And renting out the house while it sits on the market is usually a bad idea. Most renters will not keep the home in good enough condition to show to buyers, and a lease may prevent a sale when an offer comes in.
Here are some tips if you must leave a house vacant:
* Clean and paint the interior.
"When houses are vacated, every nick and scratch shows up. That means you should definitely go in to clean and repaint," said Carolyn Janik, author of "How to Sell Your Home in the '90s," a Penguin paperback.
Cleaning and painting yield the greatest possible return on the sale of a property, Ms. Janik said. You can get as much as a tenfold payback on the cost of a can of paint when you sell, she said.
* Leave draperies on the windows.
One unappealing feature of a vacant home is that the sound echoes through -- especially if furniture and draperies are removed.
* Leave some light fixtures in your former home.
"Lighting does a lot for the atmosphere of a home," said Lou Occhionero, sales manager for the Charles Street office of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty in Baltimore County.
* Leave a few items of furniture in your home.
Strangely, real estate experts say that the absence of furniture tends to make rooms look smaller, rather than larger. Lacking furniture as a measure of the scale of a room, many potential homebuyers worry that his furniture won't fit.
* Consider renting furniture if you have none of your own to leave behind.
Not everyone can supply furniture to two houses at a time. And there's no point in leaving Salvation Army-style items at your house to make it seem more appealing.