What Buyers and Sellers Should Know About Winter-Proofing a Home

Are you helping to buy or sell a home in the winter? There are a few things you're going to need to do to make sure it's winterproof. If you're on the selling side, read on to find guidance on how to properly winterize a home. If you're on the buying side, find tips on how to make sure a potential home has been winterized to protect your client's investment. 

How to Winterproof a Home You're Selling

If a home is going to be on the market during winter, you'll want to make sure it's properly winterproofed before the cold weather strikes. Why? To avoid damage to the home that could lower its value and deter buyers. Plus, buyers will want to see that the home holds up well in the winter months (e.g. no leaks, frozen pipes, drafty rooms, etc.). 

So here's a quick list of things you'll want to do to winterize a home.

Prevent Ice Dams

One of the biggest problems you can face in the winter is an ice dam on your roof. Prevent it by ensuring gutters are cleaned, gutter guards are in place (when possible), and your attic is properly insulated and well-ventilated. 

Weatherproof Doors and Windows

To keep the house comfortable and the power bill down, use caulk or weatherstripping around the doors and windows and consider door sweeps if there are gaps below the doors. Adequate attic insulation is also important here, and you could consider outlet protectors. 

Service Your Furnace

The furnace is going to need to be running as efficiently as possible to keep the home at a warm, stable temperature. It should be serviced in late fall to ensure everything's working properly and that it has a fresh, clean filter. 

Inspect the Roof

The roof is a home's first line of defense against the elements. To ensure it holds up through the winter, inspect it in the late fall. Look for damaged flashing, broken shingles, and any signs of deterioration. Also, be sure to remove any debris that has accumulated and cut back tree branches that could break during a storm. Lastly, check for signs of water leakage on your ceilings and in the attic. 

Prevent Frozen Pipes

If the home is in an area where extended subfreezing temperatures are the norm, the pipes could be at risk of freezing and rupturing. While pipes are often kept in insulated spaces, they can be at risk when they run through exterior walls, attics, and crawlspaces. 

To prevent freezing, be sure all cracks and openings are sealed, weatherstrip and caulk around basement windows and crawlspace doors, ensure the home and pipes are properly insulated, blow out sprinkler systems, and consider recommending thermostat-controlled UL-listed heat cables. It's also a good idea to have an emergency pressure release valve in the plumbing system. 

Don't have much time? A few quick prevention steps you can suggest include:

  • Disconnect garden hoses from outdoor faucets and drain the hoses. 

  • Close and drain outdoor faucets with cut-off valves. Cover other faucets with foam covers. 

  • Close foundation vents. 

  • Fix any broken windows. 

  • Keep the thermostat set above 55°F if the house will be empty for a few days.

A quick way to check if the pipes are freezing is to turn on the faucet and see if the water pressure is down. 

Note: If you're in an area prone to more extreme weather events like tornadoes or hurricanes, there will be additional steps. 

How Buyers Can Make Sure a Home is Winter-Ready

Now for the buyers. How can you tell if a home you're looking at or showing has been winterized? 

Here are some questions to ask the seller:

  • Is this home prone to ice dams? What steps have been taken to prevent them?

  • Are there any areas that leak? 

  • When's the last time the roof was inspected?

  • When's the last time the furnace was inspected and serviced?

  • Do the pipes have a history of freezing? What steps are taken to prevent freezing?

  • Does the plumbing system have an emergency shut-off valve?

And, here are some signs the home isn't yet winterproofed:

  • Doors or windows with gaps or cracks. 

  • Signs of water damage (water spots on the walls or ceiling).

  • Fluctuating interior temperatures or drafts.

  • Ice dams.

  • Broken or deteriorating roofing.

  • Damaged or clogged gutters.

  • Hoses attached to exterior faucets.

  • Low water pressure. 

  • Overgrown trees that look like they could break in a storm. 

By asking these questions and performing your own visual review, you can gain a good idea about how winter-ready a home will be. 

Real Estate Sales Don't Have to Go Dormant in the Winter!

When winter rolls around, business as a real estate agent may slow for many, but it doesn't have to. Keep these tips in mind to help both your buyers and your sellers during cold-weather deals. 

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