Does winter come down hard on your vacation rental?
Nicole Guidi of Book by Owner, one of Evolve’s amazing partners in Colorado, is no stranger to cold weather, icy conditions, or heavy snow. We spoke with her to get some first-hand tips about how owners in cold-weather climates should prepare their homes.
Here are the 7 best steps to winterize your vacation rental, protect your property, and make sure guests enjoy their stay in the colder months.
Do a Deep Clean
Spring isn’t the only time of the year that you need to scrub your home from top to bottom.
Autumn is a great time to go in and clean up after the summer season and before the winter months.
- Clean all the nooks and crannies in your home – ceilings, baseboards, stairwells, closets, etc.
- Wash all the blankets and comforters
- Replace all of the batteries in your TV remotes, locks, CO2 detectors, fire alarms, etc.
- Clean gas fireplaces so the ignition switch and coupler ignite properly
- Sweep wood-burning fireplaces to remove residue and prevent built up
- Clean out the gutters to clear them of leaves
Nicole strongly recommends a thorough autumn cleanse, but also suggests that owners take precautions to prevent annual wear and tear.
“I think homeowners should really take this as an opportunity to have the carpet cleaned. It’s expensive, but it really keeps up your investment. If you clean it regularly, you’re not going to have to replace that carpet,” says Nicole.
Looking for more cleaning tips? Here’s our guide to Vacation Rental Housekeeping 101.
Stock Up On Winter Essentials
Many owners neglect to equip their property maintenance team with the supplies they’ll need, making it difficult to service the property. It also helps to have these items available for guest use throughout the stay, ensuring they don’t need to wait for a maintenance person to clear the walks or bring extra blankets.
Give your guests a comfortable and enjoyable stay throughout the winter by providing:
- Sturdy shovels
- Heavy-duty brooms
- Light bulbs (keep them in one central spot so the guests can help themselves if one burns out)
- Batteries for every device in your house
- Ice melt to prevent outdoor surfaces from getting slippery
- Wood for the fireplace
- Backup duvet covers so housekeepers can switch them out on same-day arrivals
- Flannel sheets and warm blankets for the beds
If you want to go the extra mile on guest experience, you could throw in some cozy slippers and robes, hot chocolate supplies, and hand warmers.
Perform Winter Maintenance and Prep
Schedule an autumn check-up with your property maintenance team to winterize your home and verify that important systems are in working order for guests.
- Inspect the HVAC system to make sure your heater is working
- Inspect fireplaces (do this at least every other year, but it’s a good idea to do it every year)
- Turn off and blow out sprinkler systems and outside faucets so they don’t freeze
- Service your hot tub so you know that it’s heating properly and ready for use
- Check the snow melt system on the roof; e.g. heat tape
- Pay for snow removal around the hot tub (if you have one) where ice builds up
- Change the furnace filters
- Check for leaks on doors and windows
- Open up the cabinet doors so heat flows to the pipes if the property is going to be vacant for extended periods of time
If you aren’t local and don’t plan to be around during the season, get a priority on-call service contractor for the winter. It’s a good idea to have someone who will be available to handle emergency heating repairs, guest check-in issues, or remove snow whenever you need them to.
Evaluate Your Heating Needs
If you plan to keep your vacation home open and host guests throughout the season, you probably don’t need to worry as much about pipes bursting. However, Nicole has some suggestions for making sure your home is heated to an appropriate level all winter long:
- Learn how your heater works and plan ahead
Thermostats don’t necessarily heat to the temperature you set. In some properties, a thermostat set to 68 degrees actually warms the homes up to 75, and others where a 60-degree setting warms the home up to 65 degrees. It’s important to know how to set yours so nothing freezes – and so you also don’t end up with an unnecessarily high heating bill.
If you have radiant floor heating, it can take up to 12 hours for the home to warm up. Make sure it’s turned on in advance, so your home is comfortable when guests arrives.
- Play it safe in especially cold areas
Take additional precautions if you live in an especially cold area or if your home is vacant for extended periods of time.
“If your property is somewhere that the temperature drops below zero, keeping your house heated to 55 to 60 isn’t going to cut it. If you have a pipe on an outside wall, it could freeze,” explains Nicole. “In Summit County, we usually have quick turnover, so it’s not such a big problem.”
If your property is more likely to have days or weeks between check-ins, you might need to run the heat a little higher to play it safe.
- Hire an on-call emergency contractor if you have a complicated system
Some large houses have complicated heating systems that include water and plumbing. If this is the case, do yourself a favor and hire an on-call emergency contractor for the winter who can immediately address any problems that arise.
“The toughest thing we run into is that when heat goes out, it’s hard getting a contractor out in a timely manner to fix the issue,” Nicole says. Having someone on-call means your guests will never be stuck without heat.
- Provide instructions for adjusting the thermostat
If you haven’t already, post instructions for adjusting the thermostat next to the dial itself. This makes it incredibly easy for visitors to set it to a comfortable temperature during their visit and set it back to your desired temp when they check out.
Consider Making These Upgrades
It may seem like a splurge, but investing in “smart” technology can be really valuable if you’re managing your property remotely. Here are some upgrades you might want to consider to save money and keep your home in good shape all winter long:
- Smart thermostats – to program the heat so it comes on an hour before guests arrive, warming the house to a comfortable temperature for them
- Smart water sensors – to detect leaks in the house
- Smart locks – to track visitors, allow keyless entry, and prevent break-ins
These tools allow you to monitor your property when you’re not there, so you can check remotely that everything is working as it should – or send a maintenance person quickly if you detect a problem. You can also adjust the settings to save energy and money when no one is using the house.
Depending on the area, that smart system may well pay for itself in fairly short order!
Hire Additional Services To Keep Your Home Safe
Nicole’s biggest piece of advice to people who own a second home: “If you can’t do it yourself, then hire a professional to make sure all of these checks and balances are done.”
If you have a large, single-family home, you might need:
- Snowplow services that can come and remove snow from your driveway and walk ways and move it into a safe location.
- A local on-call manager – someone who can stop by 2-3 times per week to make sure everything looks OK in between guests.
Cleaning, stocking, conducting maintenance, overseeing the property, and hiring support staff – it’s a lot of work and it’s very time consuming. However, it’s what’s required to keep your vacation home open and ready for guests during the cold winter months.
Have questions or winter prep tips to add? We’d love to hear them in the comments!
Are you looking for a partner who can help you continue to make money with your rental property year-round? Get in touch. We’ll build you a custom listing and create a marketing strategy to get your property more bookings. And we have a network of vetted partners, like Book By Owner, who will advise you and take care of your home just how you would, if you were there yourself.