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How To Winterize a Vacant Home

Mainting a home throughout the winter requires a good amount of care and attention. When the home is vacant, it is key to prepare it for freezing temperatures and the other home-risks of winter. 

The most significant risk arises from bursting pipes. This can lead to water damage which can severly impact the value. Water can ruin the walls, floors, electrical systems and even the foundation. Another risk is pest infiltration.

All of the dangers of failling to winterize a home must not be taken lightly. Anyone in real estate will tell you the necessity of knowing the right way to winterize a vacant home! Here are the top things to do in order to prepare for the risky winter months:

Bring in a plumber.

Hiring a professional to winterize the pipes and water system is key if you want to avoid the expensive water damage that can occur from freezing pipes. The plumber will drain the areas where water is stored - water heaters and hot tubs - and then use an air compressor to remove any excess water from the pipes throuhgout the house. With the water removed it is not necessary to keep the house heated to prevent frozen pipes.


Drain outdoor garden hoses.

Water hoses have to be disconnected from the home and drained of water to prevent damage to the hoses and spigots where they meet the house. If you do not do this the water inside will freeze and burst not only the house but often times the spigot as well. If winter watering needs to be done make sure the person who uses the hose drains it and disconnects it from the house after each use. 

Close all opening to the house.

To ensure that animals and insects will not invade you need to close up every opening in the house. Don't forget the dryer vents and chimney!

Have the gutters cleaned and repaired if necessary.

It is essential that the gutters are free of debris and attached properly in order ot funnel water away from the roof, siding and foundation. If the debris accumulates, the gutter may stop working. If anough water collects and freezes the weight of the ice may pull the gutter away from the house which will dmage the siding and lead to potential ice hazards where water collects at the base of the house. Knowing how to preven ice dams is something every homeowner should know. They can cause serious damage to a home including mold behind ceilings and walls that you might not be able to detect. Make sure your gutters are cleaned periodically until all the leaves have fallen.

Remove anythig touching the house such as leaves and firewood.

Water and insects can accumulate in firewood and debris which may cause damage ot the siding and lead to potential infestation. keep everything away from the house to create a safe barrrier and prevent water damage. Don't forget the shrubbery and other landscpaing - these must be back too. Allow a minumum of two feet for the home to breath.

Have trees trimmed over the home.

Make sure any tree branches that touch the house or hang to closely are removed. More branches mean more leaves that accumulate in the gutter. They can also brerak and fall on the house in a snow or ice storm. If you are negligent abou keeping the branches clear it could lead to insurance denying your claim.

Use moth balls to keep insects out.

They may smell terrible but they are effective. Use them wherever you think insects could be a problem.

Talk to the gas company about disconnecting the gas supply.

A gas explosion can cause even more damage than frozen pipes. let the gas company know the home is vacant and ask them to disconnect the supply. If a gas leak were to form it would be too late for you to do anything. This is one reason why nearly all bank owned properties get winterized.

Make the home appear occupied at a glance.

It's better for potential buyers and warding off unwanted visitors. You can setup light timers and have the landscape regularly tended. If snow is an issue you can also have the driveway cleared. This advice applies to both occupied and non-occupied homes. Remember that if your home is on he market you'll need to be able to un-winterize it with fairly short notice when the buyer schedules a home inspection. Buyers will want ot be able to check the heating and plumbing systems and won't be able to if the home is winterized.

Hire a landscaper to perform a fall cleanup.

As the temperatures drop, plants will die and the yard will become disheveled. It is beneficial for sales if you have someone come in and cleanup around the home after the first freeze when most of the vegetation has died off. They should cut back dead growth, rake the leaves and prepare the plants for winter.

Check on the home periodically.

A vacant home - even with lights on and a plowed driveway - can be appealing to burglars and squatters. The only people you want visiting are potential buyers so maintain a schedule of visiting the home periodically to make sure it is being left alone!

Good luck and happy winterizing.


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