As an investor, every year you need to ask if your homes are ready for winter. Particularly the vacant ones. The harsh winter cold and potential for snowfall can wreak havoc on even the nicest properties. For weeks we have all been saying “no way we have another winter like last, right”? Now, after a few early storms, we are starting to worry a little more that the answer is “yes”!
Here are some winter tasks to review and consider:
if your home is vacant, we recommend winterization completed by a professional. While this is an added cost it will save on utility bills while providing peace of mind. Heat can be kept at a low-level and with no water in the system, there is nothing to freeze and break. Last winter we even had an occupied home, where the tenant moved to a friend’s home due to a power outage in the area. She did not take any steps to try to protect the pipes from freezing. Unfortunately, when the power came on three days later, the pipes burst and flooded the home. We do our best to educate tenants that a small trickle of water will help prevent pipes from freezing.
These are an issue in Indiana because the winter typically is a constant freeze/thaw cycle. The most common area for ice to form is on roof overhangs and gutters. As a non-occupant they are very hard to monitor and prevent. A great tenant will watch for them and knock them down before the snow re-freezes and creates potential roof damage. Unfortunately, we often learn of an ice problem when the first sign of moisture appears inside. Once notified, we take swift action and limit the damage.
Having great, informed, tenants who care about the home is an important part of the prevention.
Heavy Snow Loads
Not a common issue in Central Indiana (note if your property is in the northern parts of the state the lake affect snows cause significant levels of snow we do not see in central and southern parts of the state). The weight of heavy snow can cause a roof structural issue. It is recommended that 6 inches of snow accumulated on a roof should be removed. Fortunately, due to our weather systems, the sun on the roof usually prevents this type of accumulation for any period over a day or two. Of course the melting of snow by the sun is what causes the previously discussed ice dams. If a heavy load of snow has occurred and is not going away, a professional snow removal service may have to be employed to get on the roof and remove the snow.
Tree branches loaded with snow and exposed to bitter wind will snap. Keep trees trimmed back from the house and driveway so the worse situation is one that comes down in the yard. This is an important preventative step outside of winter season.
Driveways and sidewalks
Occupied homes have tenants with leases that require they keep the home clear and accessible. The vacant ones need to be maintained from snow and ice build-up. Usually a vacant home is one that you wish to lease. Don’t let a potential tenant suffer a fall when trying to see your home because nothing has been cleared. Make sure now that your property is ready for winter by making arrangements for snow removal.
The only people I meet that like winter are kids. Managing your rental homes is not for kids. Winter is not something to mess around with hoping it will be mild. Prepare now for winter by:
- winterizing if vacant
- inform tenants of necessary maintenance steps
- and line up a snow removal service
And keep your fingers crossed that winter is mild and short!