My first winter spent self-managing a vacation rental home carried a steep learning curve. In fact, my property suffered a bit of avoidable damage that winter, and I also had to spring for an emergency HVAC system servicing. So it proved to be a rather costly learning curve. After that winter, I decided to seek the help of a property manager to handle these things for me.
Many property owners don't fully realize the importance of winterizing a home, even if you're going to be renting the home during the colder winter season. In some areas, the cold winter months actually represent the prime rental season. This is further motivation to get the home properly winterized so you can avoid costly repairs and lost revenues due to inconvenienced guests or even lost bookings.
By implementing the right winterizing techniques with the help of your property management team, you can save significantly on energy bills and reduce overhead expenses.
How Can Winterizing Help Your Rental Home?
Unlike your primary residence, where you have an opportunity to spot issues in need of repairs, there's a good chance your guests or even your property manager won't notice these issues until they're a real problem. But with a bit of winterizing, you can reduce your chances of a costly mid-winter problem while also reducing energy bills and minimizing financial losses.
So how can you work with your property manager to winterize your vacation home? Consider the following tips.
Ask your property manager to schedule a heating system tune-up. It's wise to ask your property manager to call in a technician who can perform routine maintenance on your vacation home's heating system by changing the filters and servicing the system in a more general sense. This servicing process also includes turning on the system for a bit to ensure it's in proper working order. If you have chimneys, it's also wise to hire a chimney sweep to tend to the chimneys because, over time, creosote can build up in the chimney, dramatically increasing the risk of a fire.
Regular maintenance reduces the risk of a heating system failure that could force your guests to move to a hotel. Your property manager will need to coordinate these appointments because the heating technician and chimney sweep may require access to the home's interior.
Fire up the generator and top off your fuel supply. Some vacation homes – particularly those located in remote or mountainous areas – are prone to mid-winter power failures, especially when snow, ice, and freezing rain weighs down limbs that ultimately take out power lines. Lots of these homes are equipped with backup generators so guests aren't inconvenienced by the outage.
If you don't have a generator but do have a fireplace or wood burning stove, you should ensure that you have some firewood on hand so there is a backup heat source. If your guests routinely use the wood stove or fireplace, you'll need to make arrangements with your property manager to deliver firewood on a regular basis.
Your property manager should also be certain that your flashlights and lanterns are in working order and you have a sufficient battery supply for those devices.
Clean the gutters. Gutter cleaning is important, especially if your vacation home is in an area with deciduous trees that drop their leaves in autumn. Clogged or slow-draining gutters can cause major problems in winter, especially in freezing temperatures. This can lead to ice and ice dam formation, which may cause serious damage to the roof and eaves. There are some easy-to-use gutter cleaning systems that your property manager can use, or you may opt to call in a contractor to handle the project.
Seal drafts. Apply weather stripping and seal drafts, which can easily be detected with a feather or a stick of incense because the draft will billow the incense smoke or feather tendrils. This can dramatically cut down on heating bills. Your property manager may feel comfortable doing this on their own or they may recommend calling in a handyman to assist.
Drain water from piping. Shut off water lines that will not be used during the cold winter months, such as outdoor water spigots. If you're going to be leaving your home vacant over the winter months, cut the water supply and drain the pipes by running the water until it runs dry. This prevents burst pipes in the event the pipes freeze.
Also, if the home will be unoccupied over the winter, open all under-sink cabinets to help promote airflow, preventing frozen pipes. If your home is vacant for more than a few days during the winter season, ask your property manager to see to it that interior pipes are drained and the under-sink cabinets are opened.
Rake and tidy up the yard. Ask your property manager to tidy up the yard or hire a landscaping company to perform a cleanup in late fall or early winter, ideally before the first snow. Leaves are far harder to remove in the spring after they've been compressed by snow and ice. But more problematic is the fact that leaves and sticks can cause problems with some snowblowers.
Managing your vacation rental home can be a challenge during the nicest weather conditions; it's even more challenging when you add winterizing to the equation, so it's essential that you have a property manager to be your eyes, ears, and hands.
But finding the right property manager can be a challenge. This is where Rented.com can help. At Rented.com, we help match homeowners with top-rated, local property managers. Get started today by creating a free profile, and you could start receiving offers in minutes from property managers eager to work with you.
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