In cold-climates the weather pattern called winter can cause as much damage to a vacant home as about any problem on a large-scale.  To see a home with burst pipes from the expansion of water when it freezes, and the resulting escape into the home when the pipes thaw, is a sad sight indeed.  Hiring a professional to complete winterization of a vacant home is something all non-occupant owners must take seriously.
Owners, wisely,  wish to prevent this damage to their vacant properties.  Beginning in October, we schedule all vacant homes to be taken through a process called winterization.  This process continues being administered until on or about April 1.  The idea is to protect the home from any freezing.
Despite the heat being on in a home, or the likelihood of a freeze being nil, we recommend winterization in order to avoid any chance that a system fails (furnace and no heat) or the storm of the century arrives bringing freezing temperatures at unusual times.
Interestingly, the problem is not just based in the fact it is cold.  The bigger issue is that the home is vacant and the water in the plumbing system is not getting moved around..so if you go back to third grade science, you understand how when mixed with cold, this water freezes.
And then expands..bigger than the pipes circumference.
winterizationThe process of winterizing a home looks like this.  By the way, for many reason this is best left to a company with the expertise (and the insurance) to protect your property.

  • The water is shut off at the house and at the street.
  • All faucets are fully opened to drain the water out.
  • All toilets flushed
  • The water heater is drained and the gas is shut off at the water heater
  • Air is blown into the pipes forcing all water out of the pipes.
  • Anti-Freeze is poured into all drains, toilets etc. Please note, this is NOT the anti-freeze used in your family car. This is the non-toxic anti-freeze used for winterizing RV’s and Marine vessels.
  • Tag all areas where the anti-freeze has been poured with a big sign informing anybody who looks at the fixture that winterization has been performed.  Toilets get some type of covering, usually tape or saran wrap,covering the bowl.

De-Winterization and Re-Winterization

If a winterized home is offered for sale, the buyers normally wish to perform an inspection.  We have several concerns with this process.  As a buyers agent, it is important that your buyer understands this process before making an offer so that they are prepared for the possible additional expense.  The other issue that happens frequently is the home inspector is not informed of the fact the home is winterized and shows up to do the inspection.  This also costs the buyer in a wasted trip charge.  Worse are the inspectors who offer to handle the de-winterization on the spot.  This will not be approved as we have to utilize our vendors in this process.  If an unapproved person handles a de-winterization, we will hold all parties liable for any resulting costs or damages (yes that includes the buyers agent who may have not been there when the buyer told the inspector to proceed).
This is a very important area for Buyers Agents to get involved and follow the procedures correctly.  It is obvious when showing the property that this problem exists so start researching what to do before proceeding with your buyers offer.  Make sure the buyer understands the process also.
Most corporate owners of winterized homes will have a process for allowing an inspection to be completed.  It usually involves a commitment that funds are available for re-winterization if the buyer does not complete the sale.  Bottom line-it is really important that a Buyers Agent find out the seller’s process for de-winterization when selling a home. Be prepared to explain this issue to your buyer.  For a significant part of the year it is an issue for non-occupied properties in cold weather climates.

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