With the cold weather coming and second-home owners migrating west, there’s no better time to delve into the dos and don’ts of seasonal home maintenance. Problems can—and will—arise in the off-season, which means that preventative maintenance is the key to keeping one’s property worry-free.
“Have all the systems cleaned,” Dan Palmer, a Southampton private estate manager, advises. “It’s the time when you have your burner serviced for heat. You can have your AC units shut down. If you have outside condensing units, have them cleaned and covered. If I were not going to be here to monitor my property, I would have things like water detectors installed.”
Such measures, Mr. Palmer argues, prevent unexpected catastrophe, like damage from burst pipes in cold weather.
Investing in a water alarm or water isolation valve, which detects water and shuts systems off in the event of frozen pipes, is invaluable. Alternately, homeowners can turn off water mains themselves, meaning that a burst pipe will yield less damage, unleashing far less water than if the main were on.
For those looking for a more hands-off approach, there are companies that can lessen the burden of winterizing and home maintenance. “With a larger home,” Robert Lambert, proprietor of Montauk Management Group, said, “you would want to hire a management company. The issue is that it’s not just about what you see—it’s about what you don’t see. Hiring a management company protects your investment.”
A home management company can relieve homeowners by shutting down systems, providing weekly and monthly checks of the property, addressing issues as they arise, and dealing with undesired guests: pests. Rodents and bugs tend to come indoors in the winter, nesting in the home and making for an unfortunate spring welcoming committee.
“Make sure that you have some kind of rodent protection system in place,” Mr. Lambert advised. “Make sure that the home is evaluated by a pest-control company and have some sort of preventative means in place. That is one of the biggest complaints we get.”
Preventative measures can extend to the home’s exterior, too. As Mr. Palmer explained, tree limbs that come close to a home’s chimneys can provide an easy in for squirrels and other rodents. He suggests having these limbs trimmed before winter. “The worst thing would be to have pests nesting and dying in your home,” he said.
If a home management company is not in your budget, Mr. Lambert offers some helpful tips for do-it-yourselfers. “Disconnect your hoses from your hose bibs. Water remains in the bib itself and then breaks the cylinder inside the hose. You go to use it in the spring and it explodes—it happens all the time.
“Make sure that you keep your hoses disconnected all winter from the hose bibs,” Mr. Lambert continued. “You can use them, but you would want to disconnect after each use.”
For the technologically inclined, several companies offer apps that permit a homeowner to monitor and control systems from alternate locations. A wireless thermostat that connects to a smartphone is said to be a great, affordable upgrade, running at around $200. Honeywell Smart Thermostats and the Nest are two apps that send alerts when the temperature has dropped below a normal range. Homeowners can then send a professional out to evaluate the property.
Overall, winterization comes down to preparedness. “If you make sure that your burner has been serviced, you shouldn’t have a problem with it in the season,” Mr. Palmer said. “You want to do the same things when you open back up. It’s all preventative maintenance. You’re being proactive by making sure you follow up on your preventative maintenance.”
Air filters and fuel filters should all be checked before closing up a home for the winter to increase the home’s chances of surviving the season unscathed. Professionals recommend following the same steps in spring, evaluating the heating and cooling systems and checking once more for pests. As far as major repairs, “it’s a matter of personal preference in terms of what repairs you want to do,” Mr. Lambert said. Those repairs can extend from necessary to aesthetic.
Homeowners who rent out their properties in the high season may require furniture upgrades as spring approaches. When it comes to luxury furniture at a discounted rate, estate sales can make or break a rental property.
“High-end luxury estate sales provide the ideal opportunity for homeowners of rental properties to annually update their properties … on an extremely reasonable budget,” said Kristen Hanyo, co-owner of Privét Estate Sales. “I am constantly telling people: Never buy anything new out here in the Hamptons, when we have access to the best pre-owned furniture.”
No matter the budget, however, closing and opening a seasonal home is a monumental task, and one that requires diligence and preparation. With a little professional help, homeowners can rest assured that their properties will be ready to go when the season begins.