Birmingham property experts have welcomed the emergence of "house sitters" to protect unoccupied commercial or industrial sites against vandalism.
Some 25 major councils, the Ministry of Defence and numerous property investors and developers are now turning to "live-in guardian security" to combat the problem.
Birmingham solicitors Williamson & Soden say it is all too easy for vacant buildings to become a target while they await sale or refurbishment.
The best way for property owners and developers to avoid the kind of problems that squatting and vandalism can cause is to prevent them.
"Neighbours who witness damage or trespass may be willing to help but often don't know who to contact so nothing is done to nip the problem in the bud," said commercial property specialist Louisa Jakeman.
"Live-in guardian services may seem expensive but reputable agencies check buildings regularly and report any problems to the owner, so compared with the cost of evicting squatters and clearing up afterwards or rectifying damage caused by vandals, it is money well spent".