Winterize an Empty Home and Reap Dividends

How to Winterize an Empty Home

In case you haven’t been watching the extended forecast, it’s calling for bitter cold temperatures over the next ten days.  These temps will be well below freezing.  If your vacant home or building isn’t ready for the cold snap you could be looking at a very large bill.  The results of damage and cleanup from busted pipes and the other beauties of winter for those who fail to properly winterize their vacant properties.

While some real estate pros can prepare and sell a home in a very short span of time, for most people the process takes months if not a year or more between deciding to sell a property and finally signing the papers with a happy new buyer. Many people list their homes seasonally or plan for a specific time to put it up for sale or real estate auction. Therefore, a home that has already been moved out of and cleaned for sale may sit empty for several months. While this is perfectly fine as long as you check on it from time to time, during the winter you want to make sure that the home will be fine even with no one to check the weather stripping and turn on the heater every night.  This is the time to winterize the home.

Naturally, you don’t want your pipes freezing or your roof to take damage from piled snow so your best bet is to wisely winterize the empty property for the winter and check on it about once a month to ensure nothing has gone wrong before your warm-weather sale.

1) Unplug Appliances

While the home is still in your possession, you’re also responsible for any utilities consumed during maintenance or tours later on. The best way to keep a home you’re preparing to sell is to leave the utilities turned on but kept to a minimum. However, even if appliances like your washer and dryer, stove, and dishwasher are not being used, they might still be drawing something known as ‘phantom power’ which can slowly add to your power bill over time. To avoid this, unplug appliances when the home will stand empty for a few months.

2) Close the Gas Line

Gas leaks are incredibly dangerous, especially if there’s no one around to notice the smell and put a stop to it. There are a small variety of things that can go wrong with a natural gas line in a vacant home and you can prevent them all with one single preparatory step. Simply turn off the gas line at the access point so that none can get into your home. This way, an old stove or aging pipe can’t cause any problems.

3) Seal and Lock Windows and Doors

Very few things are worse for a house than bad weather, especially if it can get inside. Check every single door and window to make sure they are closed, weatherproofed, and locked tightly. Use your hand to check for drafts and close them if necessary. If the region you live in is prone to serious storms, consider putting up a little plywood over the windows to help them survive without anyone home to tape them up when the time comes.

4) Shut Off the Water Main

One of the biggest winter risks to a home is frozen pipes and flooding cold water. To prevent this issue, just like the gas you should find the water main where the municipal or well water supply connects to your home and turn it off. Then open every tap and faucet and drain the toilets to ensure that there’s very little water in the system left to freeze if the house becomes to cold on the inside. No freezing, bursting, or leaking takes care of more than 50% of your normal worries about an empty home in the winter.

5) Set the Thermostat

Even with the water and gas taken care of, it’s still a bad idea to let a home get below freezing on the inside. Many of the materials used aren’t meant to get below a comfortable living temperature and fluctuating humidity is often even worse. To combat both at a relatively low price, set the thermostat to about 50, warm enough clear the humidity and keep the home safe but not enough to burn much energy.  If you have gas heat you’ll need to the leave the gas main turned on, therefore it’s important to check the main and other lines for leaks.

6) Tell Your Neighbors

Finally, no matter what the season if you’re going to leave a home empty, be sure to let a couple of neighbors know that no one will be living there for a while. This will help them keep an eye on the home and report any untoward activity along the lines of squatters and rent scammers looking for an easy mark. Just be sure to let the same neighbors know when you have a buyer as well to ‘deactivate your security system’.

Planning the perfect moment to put your home on the market often means leaving it empty for a few months between moving out and finding a buyer. This is perfectly standard and with a little careful preparation, your home should still be in perfect condition to sell when spring rolls around.

At Kaufman Realty & Auctions, we enjoy providing Pro-Tips and insights for real estate owners in Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. Winterize your vacant home it will pay dividends.  If you have questions about what is best for you real estate please contact us.


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