Insurance for empty homes can get expensive. We’ve uncovered the policies that offer the best bang for your buck.
There are a number of reasons your home could be empty. We’ll get into them below. The important thing to understand up front is that if no one’s living in your house for 60 days, many insurance providers will consider it vacant. When that happens, the homeowners policy you own might not cover your property.
As with everything in the world of home insurance, there’s a method to the madness. In the case of vacant homes, insurance providers steer away from them because they’re at higher risk of theft, vandalism, and damage, which, we have to admit, makes sense. A leaky pipe is one thing. A leaky pipe left alone in a house for six months is quite another.
So, if it’s time to bite the bullet and consider protecting a property you’re not living in at the moment, try not to think of your vacant home insurance as an extra financial burden. Instead, treat it like a guarantee that your home — just bought or up for sale, vacation or rental — will be safe and sound when it’s time to dust off the sheets and open the doors.
Did You Know: If you’re on active duty in the military and you want to rent out your home safely, USAA homeowners insurance has special home sharing coverage to protect you.
Insurers with explicit vacant home policies are few and far between. Usually, you’ll have to check with your current provider and make a special arrangement, like adding extra coverage (a.k.a. an endorsement) to an existing policy or paying a surcharge. That said, we did find a few top home insurance providers with special coverage for unoccupied property. When we made our final selection, here’s the key criteria we were looking at.
Like Nationwide’s home insurance policies, State Farm’s homeowners plans offer thorough coverage at reasonable rates, so it’s no surprise that they would offer options for homeowners with a vacant property.
State Farm has been “a good neighbor” for over 100 years. Their HO-3 policies are generous in the sense that they provide premium possessions coverage and weather damage insurance at no extra cost.
That extra coverage is the real deal. State Farm doesn’t inflate their base rates to make it seem like you’re getting something on the cheap that you’re actually paying for. Check out our State Farm rates and coverage guide for the full story.
We weren’t thrilled with our experience getting our online quote with State Farm. The rates themselves were great, but the quote generator felt a little 1.0 compared to the rest of the website, which is pretty outstanding.
However, our experience wasn’t indicative of State Farm’s overall customer experience. State Farm ranked second in the nation for customer satisfaction in 20211, with nearly 20,000 agents to help with thorny home insurance questions, like those about vacant home insurance.
Speaking of which…
State Farm doesn’t sell vacant home insurance plans per se. (Very few top providers do.) Instead, if your home is going to be empty for more than 30 days, you can purchase an endorsement or vacancy permit. The details will be in your contract, but the conversation itself is one you’ll have to have with your agent.
FYI: We said State Farm was second in customer satisfaction in 2021. Wondering who was first? Lemonade. Read more about the cool, pink rebel in our Lemonade pricing and protections guide.
Farmers’ policies for homeowners come stacked with protections, but their pricing can be prohibitive. If you’re looking for vacant home experts, however, Farmers is worth exploring because they’re one of the only insurers we found with a bona fide vacant home insurance policy.
We’ll get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Farmers is not a discount homeowners insurance company. They make home insurance simple by segmenting their plans into three levels, but even the cheapest Farmers policy (the “standard”) is probably going to put your wallet on some form of a diet. Of course, it goes without saying that that was our experience when we reported on Farmers. It might not be yours.
In either case, you can count on Farmers for rock-solid protection that goes above and beyond. Like their declining deductible, which is just what it sounds like. Every year you go claims-free, Farmers knocks $50 of your peril payout without raising your premium.
It’s that well-roundedness that makes Farmers a natural choice to provide a niche protection like vacant home insurance. Farmers’ plans for your empty home cover vandalism and malicious mischief. (Think spray paint and worse.) Remember, if you’re not living in your house, your homeowners coverage would be void.
Farmers also offers prorated cancellation, which will come in handy for a lot of homeowners who are either moving into a new home or waiting for an old one to sell. If you need only three months of insurance, in other words, Farmers will give you the rest of your money back.
Homeowner's Tip: If you own two homes you regularly spend time in, some insurance providers will cover both properties under standard insurance policies.
Progressive is a wild card in terms of pricing and protections. But that’s one reason it could be a good choice for your vacant home insurance. Progressive cooperates with 13 other top home insurance underwriters, so your chances of landing a solid deal on vacant home insurance are higher.
Progressive insures just about anything, including second homes, with stand-alone policies for vacation homes, vacant homes, and rentals. (They also have insurance for landlords in case your extra house fits the bill.) Not only that, Progressive’s vacant home policies cover a few things you may not get with an endorsement or vacancy permit: personal possessions and liability.
If you own a home you use every summer, but don’t want to clear out your 60-inch TV, bikes, and Google Nest every time you head north, this is very good news. Ditto if you have a maintenance crew on the payroll. You’re covered if there’s an accident.
Could there be a little too much? Maybe. There were moments when we were wondering how many plans and companies we’d actually be dealing with. Things are definitely simpler with a provider like Nationwide (one of Progressive’s most affordable partners, by the way). Check out our Nationwide review for a closer look.
But if you’re looking for complete vacant home insurance at a discount, Progressive is worth checking out.
Important: If you’re moving, you may need to take out separate insurance for the move. For example, some states require moving companies to cover just 60 cents per pound of damage. (Imagine getting a check for $1.80 to buy back your Kef wireless speaker!) For the law in your state, contact your local state movers association.2
This is pretty straightforward. Any home you own but aren’t living in is vacant in the eyes of insurers. We can’t stress this enough. While there may be some variations in the fine print from one insurance company to the next, your contract with your provider will be very clear on this.
For example, some providers consider a house that’s empty for 30 days to be empty, while others extend the period to 60 days. In either case, the length of time will be in writing. If you violate the terms, and there’s an accident or theft on your vacant property, it’ll likely be on you to cover it.
Sound scary? Don’t worry. It really isn’t, but it will take some troubleshooting to figure out the best option for your vacant home. Let’s start with a few common scenarios (and solutions) that may help you make the call.
Tired of on-site insurance claims reporting? Check out our in-depth report on Liberty Mutual home insurance for a deep dive into video claims reporting.
If you just bought a new home, congrats! But before you pop the champagne, have a chat with your home insurance rep. If you’re not moving in for a few months, you’ll probably need to take out some extra insurance. That could take the form of a separate vacant home policy or a surcharge or add-on to your existing homeowners policy.
This is kind of similar to the situation we discussed above, but the roles are reversed. You’ll definitely need to take out insurance for your new home, which is now your primary home. How your insurance company treats your old, empty home will vary. If it’s any consolation, according to the National Association of Realtors, in 2021, most homes in the U.S. sold in just 18 days.3So even if you do end up paying for a separate policy for your vacant home, it will hopefully be for only a month or two.
Take your time deciding, but consider protecting your windfall in the meanwhile. If the mortgage on your inheritance is paid off, you technically don’t have to take out extra coverage. But consider that a number of insurance companies will let you purchase additional coverage to protect a second, unused property. That extra insurance will sting temporarily, for sure, but it’s also protecting an investment worth hundreds of times more.
If you need to move out for serious repairs that are taking longer than expected, you’d be hard-pressed to find an insurer that would make you take out a separate policy for your (already insured) home while it’s under construction. At the worst, you’ll need to purchase a vacancy permit from your insurer. But always check your policy. Each insurance company has a different definition of vacant.
Are you becoming a nomad for a while? Nice. Again, chances are your provider won’t make you take out a new policy for your home, but, if you’re going to be away for months, you will likely have to adjust your coverage or possibly purchase a vacancy permit.
In many cases, if you spend enough time at both your properties, you might not have to take out any special insurance for either. (Of course, you’ll need standard policies for both if you’re still paying off mortgages.) If you rent, on the other hand, you may be better off with a landlord insurance policy with built-in protection for periods when your property is unoccupied.
Did You Know: The National Association of Home Builders estimates that there are about 7.4 million second homes in the U.S. and that 15 percent of those homes are in Florida.4
Vacant home insurance policy requirements are a little slippery because every situation is different. Here are two quick examples.
You inherit a home. The insurance has lapsed, but the mortgage is already paid off. You don’t need special vacant home insurance for this house, even if it’s highly recommended you do protect it at some point.
You just bought a new house, but because of work commitments, you won’t be able to move in for six months. In this case, your bank or lender will probably require you to have some kind of insurance for your new house even before you move in. Whether you can purchase additional or separate coverage from your current insurer is another matter.
These are just two random scenarios. But you get the point. Vacant home insurance is situation-specific.
FYI: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the final quarter of 2021, 10.5 percent of the country’s housing units were vacant.5
Most coverage for unoccupied dwellings is limited to basic perils like theft and vandalism, fire and smoke damage, wind, hail, lightning, and explosions.
You’ll notice that flooding isn’t on that list. As with regular homeowners insurance, that’s extra. Extra or not, it may be necessary. If you’ve got a vacation home near the water, for example, you’ll definitely want to take out a separate flood insurance policy.
There’s a chance that your endorsement or vacant home insurance policy won’t cover liability or your possessions either, so if you’re got a lot of valuable stuff in your empty home, you’ll need to look carefully at the details of your policy. You wouldn’t want to come back to your house and find it stripped to the bone, only to learn that your possessions are not covered.
The good news here is that, with the exception of a vacation home, for most of the scenarios above, you might not even need extra possessions coverage. The chances that you’ll fill up a house with expensive things and then leave it for months or even years are pretty slim, so protection from the basic perils listed above should be enough for most situations.
Homeowner’s Tip: If you take out a vacant home policy or extend your existing coverage, ask your agent about prorating the months you don’t end up using. You might be able to cut your bill down considerably.
Let’s start with the good news: In most cases, your empty home isn’t going to be empty for too long, so this isn’t going to be a bill you’ll be stuck with for a long period of time. Some insurers even prorate yearly policies if you cancel early.
Now, for bad news…
Unoccupied homes are bigger risks to insure because no one’s around to deter thieves or the local graffiti crew. Plus, as we noted above, when there’s a leak in an empty house, it’s going to be dripping for a while.
Considering all of that, insuring your vacant property is going to be more expensive. How much more expensive? If you read our home insurance buyers guide, you’ll see pretty quickly that homeowners insurance quotes are notoriously difficult to pin down. It’s not just where you live that influences your rates; it’s also what shape your house is in, how close you are to the fire and police departments, and what kind of home security system you’ve got in place, if any.
But we can say this: Your monthly bill for your vacant home is probably going to be at least 50 percent higher than what you’d pay for a comparable house with people living inside.
The silver lining here is that, one, you’re not going to be paying that bill for too long, and, two, many providers will let you extend your current homeowners policy to cover your unoccupied property, instead of forcing you to take out two separate policies.
Not sure where you stand with your provider? Our golden rule for thornier homeowners insurance questions is, when in doubt, jump on the phone with your local agent. Apps are great — we love them around here — but nothing beats human interaction.
Did You Know: Speaking of home insurance apps, if you’re a swiper like us, read our full Lemonade home insurance review for the lowdown on one of the best digital experiences on the market.
Vacant home insurance is a thorny topic even for us experts. But, as we’ve seen, there are solutions for pretty much every empty house scenario.
While it’s true that insurance for a home you’re not using can cost more than your standard policy, it’s usually not an expense you’ll be paying forever. Whatever your situation, it’s always better to get covered. Otherwise, you’re at risk of losing everything in the event of an accident or disaster.
We hope this guide helped you answer your tough questions about vacant property insurance. We refresh these pages all the time, so check back often for the latest home insurance news and updates on our top providers.
Do I have to take out a separate home insurance policy for a home I’m not living in?
Not necessarily. It depends on your insurer. Some home insurance providers offer special endorsements (add-on coverages or permits), some have surcharges for unused second homes, and some offer separate insurance policies.
If I purchase a vacancy permit, how long will it last?
Most vacancy permits last 90 days.
Does my vacancy permit cover my possessions?
Not usually, because in most cases, we don’t stock homes we’re not using with valuables. If you do have a lot of expensive stuff in a vacant home you own, you should look into extra belongings coverage with your current provider.
How do I apply for a vacancy permit?
Contact your agent. You’ll have to give them all the particulars before they can give you a quote.
How much does insurance cost for my vacant home?
Because of the higher risk, insurance for vacant homes is higher. Expect to pay 1.5 to 3 times more for a stand-alone policy and a chunk for a vacancy endorsement or permit. As we pointed out above, the good news is that your insurer may prorate your vacant home policy, and usually vacant homes don’t stay empty for long.
J.D. Power. (2021). Home Insurers Struggle with Customer Loyalty as Boomers Flock to Rental Market, J.D. Power Finds
FMCSA. (2022). State Movers Associations.
Hyman, Michael. (2021). October 2021 Existing-Home Sales Rise Modestly.
Zhao, Na. (2018). Nation’s Stock of Second Homes.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2022). QUARTERLY RESIDENTIAL VACANCIES AND HOMEOWNERSHIP, FIRST QUARTER 2022.