What is vacant or empty home insurance?

Vacant home insurance – sometimes known as empty home insurance –covers a home that is empty, meaning the occupants have moved out.

"Many insurance policies have language that may limit coverage if a home is vacant," says Cate Paolino, director of public policy at the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.

Paolino notes that not all home policies are the same. They are worded differently and differ in terms of coverage, terms, conditions and limits. "These differences have meaning," she says.

Vacant property insurance is typically needed if a home will be empty for a certain period of time, usually 60 days, but in some cases, 30 days.

“While 30 days is often mentioned, it will be important to refer to your insurance policy and to speak with your agent or insurer to determine the exact length of time,” Paolino says.

An empty home can be harder to insure because no one is there to notice issues like a burst pipe, and the home is at a higher risk of a break-in.

“Homes that are unoccupied or vacant often pose a higher risk because a problem -- like a burst water pipe or a break-in -- may go unnoticed,” Paolino says.

It’s important to note that the words “vacant” and “unoccupied” aren’t synonymous.

“Insurers may sometimes define or describe in their policies the difference between a vacant home and an unoccupied home,” Paolino says.

She says that if no one is in the home, but the contents or personal property remain inside -- such as when you are traveling -- the home might be considered “unoccupied.”

However, if no one is living in the home -- and it lacks a typical amount of personal property inside -- the home might be considered “vacant.”

"It may not need to be totally devoid of personal property to be considered vacant,” Paolino says. “Again, it’s important to check your actual policy wording.

Vacant vs. unoccupied home insurance

Vacant or Unoccupied Home Insurance
Unoccupied homeVacant home
Appears to be lived in.Personal property removed.
Owner's personal property remains inside, the utilities are on and appliances are functioning.Utilities may be shut off, and appliances are not functioning or may be absent.
Home renovations are in progress, but furniture and other personal property can be left behind.No one lives in the home, and there are no plans to return.
The resident is away temporarily and plans to return.House is in between occupants; it may be for sale or in probate.

Why is vacant home coverage different from standard home insurance?

Vacant home insurance differs because the risks are different. Without an occupant to keep an eye on things, damage that could have been caught immediately, like a leaky pipe, has time to become much more severe.

The lack of any signs of occupancy makes a vacant home an easy target for vandals and thieves; they know they’re unlikely to be caught.

Finally, a vacant home with little personal property doesn’t need the same level of personal property coverage as a lived-in home.

What does vacant home insurance cover?

A vacant home insurance policy typically protects you from many perils you would expect any homeowners policy to cover, such as:

  • Fire
  • Wind
  • Explosions
  • Lightning
  • Hail

However, some other perils may be excluded, most commonly theft and vandalism. Liability is usually not a part of the policy.

You might be able to add these coverages, but it depends on the insurance company and the type of policy.

How much is vacant home insurance?

Like any insurance policy, what you will pay depends on a lot of factors, including location and the size of the home. However, the average cost of vacant home insurance will be higher than a standard policy.

Although some estimates suggest you’ll pay two to three times as much for vacant home insurance, the only way to get a solid number is to get a quote.

How to buy vacant home insurance

The process for buying a vacant home insurance policy is the same as buying a standard home insurance policy.

The first place to start is with your current insurer. You may be able to add an endorsement to your current policy to protect the home while it’s vacant.

If not, or even if you can and want to compare costs (and you should), you can request vacant home insurance quote from other insurance companies. Compare each for coverage and price, and don’t forget to check the company’s reputation.

Once you’ve made your choice, it’s a matter of submitting an application and paying your premium.

Best vacant home insurance companies

Most insurance companies will offer vacant home insurance, and which is the best for you depends on a lot of factors.

Here are a few companies that offer homeowners insurance for vacant homes. Some are specialty insurers, and others are big names.

When do you need vacant home insurance?

There are various reasons a property might be empty, and each scenario may have a different insurance solution. Take a look at some common scenarios to see if the home is considered vacant or unoccupied and what coverage you might need.

Insurance options for vacant or unoccupied property

Insurance options for vacant property
Scenario Insurance options Vacant or unoccupied?
Dividing time between a primary and vacation homeMany insurers offer special seasonal and vacation home coverage for your vacation property, but you may also need additional coverage for the unoccupied primary residence. You may be able to insure both homes on one policy.Unoccupied
Medical treatmentAs long as someone checks on the home, you may not need to do anything. Check with your insurer.Unoccupied
RenovatingYou may need a vacant or unoccupied endorsement, as well as construction coverage, for the additional risk.Unoccupied, may be vacant if renovations are extensive.
Home is for sale and owner has moved outA home that you have moved out of and is on the market while sitting vacant will likely need either an endorsement or a separate policy.Vacant
TravelingHomeowners who take extended trips may need to purchase an endorsement that provides additional coverage for their unoccupied residence.Unoccupied
Insured is deceased and lived aloneIt’s possible to transfer the policy in some cases to a family member, but vacant home insurance is likely needed.Vacant

Make sure you speak with your insurance company in any of these scenarios. Whether you are insuring an unoccupied home or a vacant one, it’s best to find out how your current insurer views each situation.

What to do when leaving a house unoccupied or vacant

If you are moving out of your home or will be away for an extended period of time, make sure that your property is protected.

  • Maintain the exterior of your home. Make sure the lawn and garden are cared for, as an overgrown yard is a sign of vacancy.
  • Install security equipment. Cameras, motion-sensing lights and an alarm can all make your home a less tempting target.
  • Take the valuables with you. Don’t leave anything of value in the home if you’re going to be away for a long time.
  • Ask someone to check on things. Have a friend or neighbor stop by regularly to bring in mail and check for signs of problems.

Home insurance FAQs

How long can a house be vacant for insurance?

A home can be vacant for 30 to 60 days, depending on the company, before vacant home insurance is required.

Can you get insurance for an unoccupied house?

An unoccupied house is not the same as a vacant one. You should be able to continue your current home insurance but may need an endorsement. If you plan an absence of more than 30 days, contact your insurance company to find out what is required.

Is vacant home insurance more expensive?

Vacant home insurance is more expensive than what you would pay for a regular homeowners policy. According to the Insurance Information Institute, you might pay 50% to 60% more for insurance if your home is unoccupied.

Do you need insurance for vacant land?

Homeowners insurance isn’t required for vacant land since it doesn’t cover the land but rather structures and property. However, you should have liability insurance for vacant land.