Maintaining an Unsold Home throughout Winter

Wintertizing your homeAs Daylight Saving Time ends, so does the real estate selling season, and many buyers and investors are left with a home that didn’t sell. The question then becomes whether you should keep the house on the market and plug away at trying to sell during the off-season, or take it off the market until spring.

Either way, you’re stuck with a house that you need to maintain during the coldest months of the year. As heating costs continue to rise, that maintenance can eat into your income while you wait. Taking a proactive approach to heating efficiency and cutting costs can save you a pretty penny in the end, whether you keep trying to sell or not.

How to keep an empty house warm

You don’t want to spend any more on heating an empty house than you have to, so you probably already turn the thermostat way down when you have no showings to deal with. But you will still be putting the furnace to work, and you want your home to retain more warmth without using more energy.

Here are some tips for holding in more heat:

  • Check for air leaks around doors and windows and seal them. Moving a lit incense stick around the edges of doors and windows could be enough to lead you to air leaks, especially if the temperature difference inside and out is very great. Sealing the leaks could mean caulking window panes, adding weather stripping or filling gaps with spray foam insulation.
  • If the home has a fireplace, close both the flue and the fireplace doors. Warm air rises, and you want to make sure the warm air in the home doesn’t rise up the chimney and outdoors.
  • Make sure the attic is adequately insulated. This not only helps hold in heat, but it can make the home more appealing, especially if the buyers themselves (as opposed to just the inspectors) take a peek up top.

To keep a house warm, you first need to understand where homes typically lose heat; then you need to figure out what to do about any problems you find. Fortunately, you’re not on your own. You can find a number of free online sources for more information on making a more energy-efficient, warmer home. What’s more, many of the things you do can raise the value of the home, a good double-whammy that lowers the cost of heating and raises your selling price.

Selling a home in winter

Home selling doesn’t stop when it gets cold, but the game does change. If you plan to keep a house on the market during the winter, you need to alter your selling plan:

  • Keep the drive and sidewalks clear. It shouldn’t be a chore for a buyer to get to the front door to see your home, so hire someone to shovel and salt or do it yourself.
  • Warm it up before a showing. Buyers who aren’t comfortable in a home aren’t going to stay around for long. Turn up the thermostat to a normal level the morning of a showing. If it’s a sunny day, open the curtains to let warm sunlight in. Humidity in the air can make a space feel warmer, too, so consider running a humidifier on showing days.
  • Protect the house. If it’s wet and slushy outside, buyers can track in mud, water and other debris. Ask buyers to remove their shoes or wear paper booties when they come inside. Although it might sound like a burden to buyers, and thus produce negative results, what this really does is illustrate that you have been taking care of the place. On the other hand, not really caring whether mud gets tracked in shows that you don’t really care about the state of the house.
  • Find and emphasize winter-specific bonuses. If the house has benefits during winter that others don’t — a fireplace, heated driveway or sledding hill, for example — highlight those benefits in winter just as you would point out large shade trees or a large deck during the summer.

Selling a home in winter can be a struggle, but it’s far from impossible. Though most homebuyers do their shopping between March and October, there is always a market for homes. Keeping your house warm and well-maintained can mean the difference between the house someone buys and that buyer’s second choice.

This is a guest post by Emily McGowan