Sheltering Your Home from the Winter Doldrums: A Comprehensive Checklist for Sellers

Living in an area that experiences freezing temperatures or severe weather during the winter can really put a damper on your home sale. Not only can cold drafts and unsealed windows be a buyer turn-off during a showing, but they may exacerbate structural damage caused by the snow and cold.

Beautiful row of brownstone homes covered in a light snow

Take some steps this winter to protect your home and make it warm and inviting for visitors. Or, if you’ll be leaving your old home empty during the sales process, prepare it for a long stretch of vacancy during the cold season. We’ve compiled two task lists to help you beat those winter blues no matter what your situation.

Cozying up an occupied home

If you will be living in your home throughout the winter, your goals will center more around preventing weather damage and saving energy. Stopping drafts and keeping your home toasty is exceptionally important when you’re trying to sell. No potential buyer wants to spend time exploring a chilly house!

Run your fans in reverse
Setting your ceiling fan to run in reverse is one of the easiest changes you can make, and it can have a drastic impact on your home. It will help push down the warm air rising in your house and redistribute it more evenly.

Boost insulation
Adding insulation between walls, in the attic, or in the basement can save you a significant amount on energy bills, and it’s a great feature to mention to potential buyers. Most states offer tax credits for efficient insulation, and they may reimburse you a percentage of the cost, depending on where you live. However, if you’re trying to sell your home quickly, it may be less disruptive to add insulation to the attic and crawl spaces than ripping open your walls. Make sure to pick your installation projects wisely.

Caulk or add weatherstriping to windows, corners, and chimneys
Attack drafts directly by caulking gaps in the wall corners, by the floorboards, near the windows, or around bricks in your chimney. While it might be easier to use plastic to seal off your windows, that solution can look unattractive and may deter finicky homebuyers. Using caulk or weatherstriping is a more understated solution that offers the same warm and cozy results.

Insulate your pipes
Prevent your pipes from losing heat and from freezing by wrapping them up with special insulation. Most hardware stores offer pre-cut pipe foam, and you may also be eligible for some reimbursement from the government, so make sure to check out your state’s local programs.

Install storm windows
While installing new storm windows may sound like a major expense, you’re likely to receive an 80 percent return on investment when your house sells. You can also save up to 15 percent a year on your utility bills according to, which would be a very appealing thing for your Realtor to point out to prospective buyers.

Prepping a vacant home

Protecting an empty home from wintertime damage is of the utmost importance, since problems that arise may continue unchecked until discovered by a real estate agent, homebuyer, or other unwary visitor. It’s advisable to make some of the changes mentioned in the list above as well, such as installing new windows or fixing drafts, which may help your home appeal to buyers.

Leave the heat on
You might think that heating an unoccupied house is a waste of money, but in this case leaving the heat running at a very low temperature can prevent major disasters, such as frozen pipes bursting. Additionally, if your Realtor plans on showing the home, they can crank the heat in advance of the showing so the potential buyers will be warm and comfortable during their walkthrough.

Shut off the water
If you intend to leave the house empty for a significant amount of time, you will most likely want to shut off water services to the house. This requires some degree of preparation, including draining the pipes and flushing all toilets, but will prevent any nasty pipe bursts while you’re away. You will also need to drain the water heater.

Shut off the gas and water heater
To prevent any risk of fire, it’s recommended that you shut off the gas and the water heater completely.

Unplug unused appliances
Don’t waste precious electricity on appliances you won’t be using any time soon. Make sure you take important steps, such as emptying the fridge and freezer before defrosting them.

Designate someone to check on the home
Above all else, you will want to ask a trusted friend, neighbor, or your Realtor to make regular checks on the house to see if everything is running smoothly and that nothing is amiss.

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