A vacant vacation rental could prove costly in the cold of winter when temperatures drop and the weather takes a turn. You likely have other obligations which prevent you from taking a hands-on approach to ownership, and that’s okay. All that matters is getting ahead of potential problems.
With a little planning and preparation, you can ensure your investment property makes it through the winter without damage. While the thought of heavy snowfall and ice dams might make you shiver, it shouldn’t. You have no reason to worry as long as you take the proper precautions and implement a few simple strategies.
We’ll detail some of those strategies below, walking you through everything you need to know — and more — to winterize your rental in the colder months. As you learn the basics of preventive maintenance in a winter climate, you can feel confident knowing your vacation rental property is safe, whether you’re present or not.
Manage Plumbing to Prevent Water Damage
You’re likely aware of the dangers of water damage and the costly toll it can take on a property. Real estate investors have spent thousands of dollars repairing issues they could have avoided with a little foresight. Fortunately, you can preserve the plumbing in your rental through the coldest conditions, and it doesn’t cost very much at all.
To protect your pipes and prevent water damage, turn off your water supply. Of course, it’s best to consult with a professional before moving forward, but once you get the okay, you’re in the clear. The protocol for draining the pipes in your vacant vacation rental is pretty straightforward and easy to manage.
Open your faucets and flush your toilets to clear the water from the tanks and bowls. Afterward, you should pour non-toxic plumbing antifreeze in the tanks and bowls to stop any residual water from freezing and cracking. To confirm your pipes are clear and safe, have a plumber blow compressed air through them.
You can also choose to leave your water supply on, but prepare for the extra expense. You’ll have to run your furnace around 55 degrees or higher to keep the pipes from freezing in the wall cavities and interior of the floor. It’s also best to turn off the heat source and water supply to your water heaters if they’re separate from your boiler.
Clean and Tidy the Space to Discourage Pests
You don’t want unwanted guests to occupy your vacant rental. Your best defense for discouraging pests is a clean, tidy home, though you’ll need more than a broom and dustpan to secure the property. You’ll have to redouble your efforts to ensure no bugs, birds, bats, or squirrels make themselves comfortable while you’re away.
To begin your preparations, you should clean your rental and clear out your refrigerators and freezers. Unplug them and let them defrost, then wipe the appliances dry and leave the doors open to avoid mildew. It’s also a good idea to scour your oven of any buildup, as a small but no less important preventive measure.
After you’ve finished, inspect your rental for any openings which might allow pests to enter. Your flue is one example of a potential entryway for birds and other animals, and you should make sure it’s closed and secure. To protect your chimney in the future, use chimney guard screen-caps to defend against infestations.
As you complete your round of the property, assess the weatherstripping, insulation, and exterior doors and windows for any other vulnerabilities. These areas are susceptible to water and insects, so they’re critical to double-check. When you’re positive your rental is pest-proof, both you and your tenants will sleep better.
Inspect Your Property to Locate Problems
As an extension of the prior section, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of inspecting your rental property in preparation for the winter. Before you leave to return to your other work, you should evaluate more than what we’ve mentioned above. You have a long checklist to cover to maintain your vacation rental investment.
You should begin with your landscaping, searching for any older trees which show signs of death or decay. Weak branches can break with the weight of ice and snow, and if they hang over a walkway, it’s hazardous for tenants. Take the time to prune your trees and remove risky limbs.
On the subject of trees and branches, the gutters on your rental can accumulate debris and cause flow obstructions, resulting in water damage. As long as you clear out your gutters of any twigs, leaves, and buildup, this is far less likely to happen. Though it’s an admittedly boring and tedious chore, it’s still essential.
It’s also crucial to survey the roof and search for any signs of damage like missing shingles, mold, or moss. Ensure your windows are secure as well, tight and sealed without gaps. These gaps, as well as cracks in the ceiling or roof, are parts of the building envelope which are vulnerable to heat loss.
Protecting Your Vacant Vacation Rental
A vacation rental could prove costly in the cold of winter, but as long as you follow some of the suggestions above, you won’t have to worry. When you manage the plumbing, clean the space, and inspect your property, you’ve taken all the precautions necessary to ensure your real estate investment is safe and protected.
This article has been contributed by Holly Welles from The Estate Update.