How to deal with an abandoned home

Call the Realtor

If the property is empty and for sale — and has been that way for a long time — call the real estate agent listed on the sign out front. It's possible that, if there haven't been any showings for some time, no one with an interest in selling the home knows there's a problem.

"That's what we're here for," said Ann M. Delaney, of Powerplay Realty in Avalon, N.J., which is located at the Jersey Shore. There, most of the homes for sale or for rent are empty in the off-season.

"If I notice it, I'll take care of it," she said of any possible problems.

If it's more than something simple like closing a window or shutting off a light, she can contact the owners and start working with vendors to fix the problem.

Delaney says she —  and the owners — would rather know about the problem now before it gets any worse.