Vacant and unoccupied home insurance: What is it & do I need it?

If you own a house that is vacant for months at a time, you’ll need vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance to protect the home against property damage and theft.

Pat Howard 1600Kara McGinley

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Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

&Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™

Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™

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Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™, is a financial advisor, principal and founder of Elevation Financial, host of the weekly personal finance podcast Wealth Redefined®, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

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Vacant home insurance is a special type of  coverage designed for homes that are unoccupied for an extended period of time — typically more than 30 or 60 days. A standard home insurance policy explicitly states that homes are not covered against theft and vandalism if they’ve been vacant for more than 60 days. If that’s the case for you, you’ll need to purchase vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance to ensure you’re fully covered. 

Key takeaways

  • Homeowners insurance financially protects your home against hazards like fire, weather damage, and theft, but that coverage doesn’t extend to homes that are vacant or unoccupied.

  • Insurers won’t knowingly cover a vacant home under a standard homeowners insurance policy. 

  • If it’s discovered during a claim or otherwise that your home was vacant for longer than 30 to 60 days, your policy may be canceled.

  • If your home is vacant or unoccupied for more than 30 to 60 days, you’ll need vacant home insurance to be adequately covered.

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What is vacant and unoccupied home insurance?

Vacant and unoccupied home insurance is a type of niche homeowners insurance product that is designed to cover homes that are uninhabited for months at a time. Vacant home insurance can protect your home against vandalism, burglary, and some weather-related damage — though it varies by insurer. 

Vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance can either be purchased as a standalone policy or added as a coverage endorsement to your standard homeowners insurance policy for an additional premium — again, it all depends on the company. 

What types of damage does vacant and unoccupied home insurance cover?

Coverage varies by company, but a vacant home insurance policy may protect the structure of your home from the following: 

  • Theft or break-ins

  • Vandalism

  • Lightning

  • Hail and wind

  • Fire

  • Smoke

  • Explosions

  • Burst pipes

Why doesn’t homeowners insurance cover vacant or unoccupied homes?

Homeowners insurance is designed to cover primary residences, or homes that are occupied full time. If your home is vacant for weeks or months on end, then it’s at heightened risk of sustained damage from certain hazards like house fires and burst pipes, since no one is home to report the damage or alert the authorities. Unoccupied homes are also more susceptible to burglary and vandalism. 

A standard homeowners insurance policy specifically points out that homes vacant for more than 60 days are not covered for theft or vandalism, but it’s not uncommon for insurers to extend that exclusion to other causes of loss like fire and water damage.

Make sure you’re not paying for two insurance policies at the same time

If you’re purchasing a separate vacant home insurance policy, you’ll need to cancel your standard homeowners insurance so that you’re not paying for two policies on the home. Vacant home insurance usually comes with flexible policy terms ranging from three to 12 months.

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When do I need vacant and unoccupied home insurance?

If you’re planning on your home being empty or vacant for longer than 60 days, you’ll need vacant and unoccupied homeowners insurance to be sufficiently covered. 

Here are a few different scenarios when you’d want to consider this type of policy for your house:

  • Your home is undergoing renovations. If you’re making some pretty drastic improvements to your home that requires you to move out for an extended stretch of time, contact your insurer to see if you need to modify your coverage.

  • You’re renting or selling your home. If you moved out of your house before selling it or you use the home as a rental property but it’s vacant during the off season, you’ll likely need speciality insurance protection like vacant home insurance to ensure you’re fully covered. 

  • The house is a vacation home. If you only use the home as a vacation getaway or a secondary home for a few months out of the year, you’ll likely purchase what is referred to as second home insurance. But if you don’t anticipate you’ll be using the property for an extended period, contact your insurer to see if you need a more specialized policy to cover the vacant premises. 

  • You have an extended hospital stay. If you anticipate that you’ll be in the hospital for weeks or potentially months because of a medical procedure, you may want to look into vacant home insurance while you’re away. Be sure to first talk to your insurer about your predicament — they may make an exception and allow you to keep your standard policy on the home.

Keep in mind that insurance companies don’t consider homes “under construction” to be vacant

If your insurer classifies your home as under construction during a remodeling project, then you’ll need something like builders risk insurance, not vacant home insurance.

How much does vacant and unoccupied home insurance cost?

While rates will vary by insurer, you can generally expect to pay anywhere from 25% to 50% more for vacant home insurance than you would for a standard home insurance policy, according to Policygenius experts. Since the average cost of home insurance is $1,899 per year, that means you could end up paying as much as around $2,848 per year

That said, there are many factors that impact home insurance rates, like: 

  • Your home’s location

  • Your home’s construction type 

  • Discounts you qualify for, like a discount for installing home security system

  • Your deductible amount

Most vacant home insurance policies are paid for up front on an annual basis with prorated premiums depending on how long you use the policy. That means if you cancel your coverage after four months, your insurer should reimburse you for the last eight months of the policy term.

How to buy vacant and unoccupied home insurance

Many large insurance companies offer vacant home insurance coverage options. Below are some steps to take when buying vacant and unoccupied home insurance. 

  1. Determine if you need it. Before purchasing vacant and unoccupied home insurance, make sure that it’s something you actually need. If you’re leaving town for a month, you likely don't need to purchase this coverage. Check with your homeowners insurance company to learn what their protocol is when it comes to vacant and unoccupied homes.

  2. Check if your homeowners insurance company offers vacant home endorsements. Before purchasing a separate policy, talk to your current homeowners insurance company to learn if they offer vacant home coverage. If they do, you may simply need to add this coverage to your current homeowners policy for an additional fee. 

  3. Shop around and compare insurers. If you need to buy a separate vacant and unoccupied home policy, make sure you shop around and compare different insurers. The agents at Policygenius can help you compare companies that offer vacant and unoccupied home insurance to make sure you’re getting the best deal. 

  4. Choose your policy and pay your premiums. Once you sign your policy, most vacant and unoccupied insurers require you to pay your premiums upfront in full. As mentioned, if you cancel your policy you should receive a refund for the remaining months.

4 vacant and unoccupied home insurance companies

Below are a few insurers that offer vacant home endorsements or policies — though costs and coverage levels will vary.

1. State Farm

State Farm doesn’t cover homes that have been uninhabited for more than 30 days. However, they do offer a vacancy endorsement that you can add to your standard policy ahead-of-time, which you can then cancel upon returning to or selling your home. 

→ Read our full State Farm homeowners insurance review

2. Farmers

Farmers offers vacant home insurance policies for up to 12 months with an easy cancellation option — if you cancel before the year is up, you’ll receive a refund of any unused premiums. 

→ Read our full Farmers homeowners insurance review

3. Foremost

Foremost specializes in insuring high-risk homes, including vacant ones. Foremost’s vacant home policies contain named perils coverage, liability coverage, and a prorated cancellation option if you wish to cancel your policy before year is up. 

→ Read our full Foremost homeowners insurance review

4. American Family

AmFam offers vacant home insurance policies in terms of three, six, or 12 months. You can also add personal property coverage to your vacant home policy for items that are used to maintain your property — like a snowblower or lawnmower.

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Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a vacant home and an unoccupied home?

Although typically grouped under one policy or endorsement, insurers actually consider vacant and unoccupied homes to be different.

A vacant home typically has nothing inside it — no furniture or people living there. An unoccupied home may still have belongings inside it.

Make sure you check with your insurer to discuss your coverage needs if you ever intend on leaving your home for more than 60 days.

Why is vacant and unoccupied home insurance so expensive?

Vacant and unoccupied homes tend to be more expensive to insure since you’re considered at higher risk of filing a claim since no one is there to report the damage — like a leaking pipe. They also tend to attract more vandalism and break-ins.

Authors

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

Expert reviewer

Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™, is a financial advisor, principal and founder of Elevation Financial, host of the weekly personal finance podcast Wealth Redefined®, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

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