Bench in Winter

Act Now to Protect Vacant Properties from Damage This Winter.

During the fall and winter months, agents have the potential to lose hundreds, if not thousands of dollars if they do not prepare for the changes in weather that the season brings.

When a house is vacated, agents must do what is necessary to prevent water damage, broken pipes, or any other hazards resulting from freezing temperatures and winter storms. When a house is left unmanaged and not winterized, water will collect in the pipes. If the weather gets cold enough, that water will freeze and expand, causing pipes to crack and break, which can be a costly repair.

The winterization process includes removing the plumbing system of water. This means emptying the water heater, draining all of the piping, and filling the various fixtures with an anti-freeze solution. When finished, the home will be left with no working utilities. Agents must keep in mind that when a potential client wants to see the property, you must de-winterize, and then re-winterize after the inspection.

It is always best, as an agent, to winterize if you have a vacant property in cold weather. Follow up with vendors, and check on the property.


Don’t Wait for Winter

Responsible FORCE agents know time is of the essence when preparing properties for winter.

“Do it quickly because you never know when the weather is going to start,” says Rebecca Scholl with Coldwell Banker in Colfax, Illinois.

HUD generally requires properties to be winterized once per year between October 1 and March 31. However, in some areas of the country, HUD requires year-round winterization.


Trust Your Vendors, But Follow Up

In addition to completing winterization early, Scholl advises other agents to “make sure you have a reputable company doing the work for you.” In her small town, Scholl says word of mouth is invaluable in finding reliable companies to perform important tasks. “Get to know the people you work with,” she says.

While it is important to work with reliable vendors, Jerry James with Coldwell Banker Hometeam in Branson, Missouri, also advises agents to personally check in with each property and talk with vendors.

“This time of the year is a very good time to individually go to each asset, get them ready, and talk with your people that handle those for you to make sure they get those done in a timely manner,” James says.


Prevent Water Damage and Bursting Pipes

One of the top concerns for vacant properties during the winter is freezing temperatures leading to bursting pipes, which can ultimately necessitate costly repairs.

Kenrick Kissoon with Charles Rutenberg Realty in Plainview, Illinois, emphasizes the importance of shutting off the water supply to vacant properties during the winter.

Antifreeze is also commonly applied to water fixtures and toilet tanks. In cases of sump pumps, it is important to keep the electricity turned on to prevent water damage.

HUD’s general requirements specify water be shut off at the curb and all plumbing and heating systems be drained. Special considerations are required for properties with pools, wells, and propane tanks.

Make sure to check with servicers or asset managers, and follow any specific guidelines they have for your area.