As per Oscar Wilde’s great quote, “And all at once, summer collapsed into fall,” the time has come to start thinking about what you’ll do with your short-term rental this winter. Many owners use this time to wind down after a bustling summer and prepare their seasonal homes for the frosty temperatures ahead. If you’re coming off a great summer season, you might be ready to close up shop and cruise the winter until the next big season. Some owners opt to keep their vacation rental closed during the winter due to seasonality, maintenance, or even just a moment to breathe.
If your vacation rental sits on the Carolina coasts or soaks up the fleeting summer sun in the Great Lakes, it might be time to prepare your vacation home for the season ahead. Vacation rentals that benefit from booming summers must also be ready for the quiet cold, which, for many, means closing their vacation homes during the winter season. If you’re planning to close your short-term rental soon, we’re here to tell you just how to winterize your summer home.
Winterizing your summer home means preparing and safeguarding your home for any incidents or weather-related problems that could occur while your property remains vacant from around December to March. The time frame depends on you, your seasonality, and how you choose to prepare. Some owners accept bookings until the end of the holiday season and some decide to close their doors as soon as the weather starts to shift. Check the specs and average occupancy rate of the other properties in your area to decide best when you should stop accepting reservations.
The type of preparation largely depends on the area of the home. If your vacation rental is in a hurricane zone, you’ll need to have storm protection and more inclusive insurance coverage than vacation rentals in milder areas. On the other hand, vacation rentals with extreme, low temperatures will need to implement more anti-freezing methods such as pipe care and water drainage.
What to consider when winterizing a summer home
Summer-oriented properties have a clearer to-do list for scaling up for the peak season; airing out the beddings, sand and water prep, and stocking the property with sand toys and summer fun. It’s not quite as obvious what vacation rental property owners need to do to taper off the peak season and prepare for the colder months.
As discussed, the weather is a huge factor in preparing your vacation rental for winter, but it’s not the only thing you’ll need to consider. You’re not just prepping for changing temperatures; your goals should also be to keep utility expenses low, security high, and any other measures for maintaining your property during its low season.
For beach towns and highly touristic destinations, fraud and burglary run rampant throughout the year. Worse yet is the off-season. Many of these thieves know that vacation rentals sit vacant during the winter months, making them easy targets for stealing furniture, electronics, or really anything of value inside the home.
One of your top priorities for the winter season should be to properly secure and seal your property from unwelcome visitors. There are a number of smart gadgets for vacation rentals that you can implement to keep your home safe from the convenience of your phone or computer. There are technologies like smart lights that allow you to periodically turn on the lights around your home to make it look like you’re there or motion-activated cameras that will turn on and alert you when it notices activity.
If your property isn’t bringing in any revenue during the winter months, you’ll want to keep your costs as low as possible, so it doesn’t come out of your pocket. Unfortunately, it’s not impossible to eliminate your expenses completely, but there are many ways you can cut down the costs of your expenses during the dormant months.
The biggest opportunity for savings is going to be your monthly utilities. You don’t want to completely turn off the heating, as it could damage the integrity of your flooring, structure, and pipes if left too cold for too long, but you can keep the thermostat at a lower temperature of around 50º Fahrenheit. Also, check all water sources to make sure the tap is turned off and there are no possible leaks. Lastly, unplug the electronics and appliances around the house. If you’ve completely cleaned out the refrigerator and freezer, go ahead and unplug it. Just be sure to add towels to the base in case of melted water and baking soda to eliminate any orders.
The best way to eliminate problems during the winter? Prevent them from happening in the first place. There are numerous checks and inspections you should do before leaving the house vacant. Some of these inspections include:
Carbon monoxide detectors
Cracks, openings, or holes from the exterior
Termite, pest, and rodent checks
Mold, mildew, and asbestos check
The extent of these checks and other inspections largely depends on your property. If your property is below sea level, it might be more important to prioritize water damage checks, while properties in highly wooded areas might be more concerned about termite damage. It’s up to you to assess the needs of your vacation rental to adequately protect it for the season ahead.
Alternatives to winterizing your summer home
The thought of closing off your vacation home for a couple of months in the winter can be unnerving for many owners. The unknowns, the duration, and lack of income can make your downtime become full of discomfort thinking about how your property is fairing the winter. There are alternatives to keeping your vacation rental vacant during the winter if you’re skeptical.
There are some services and companies that you can hire to look after your home or regularly check to make sure everything is in working order. If you’re planning to leave house plants or anything that requires a bit more tending to, this might be a good option. Within local Facebook communities or groups, you’ll also find that there are people willing to trade housesitting for free accommodation. If you’ve found trusted homesitters, you could exchange your property for their services.
If you don’t want to open up your vacation rental to strangers during the downtime, you might want to consider planning periodic checks on your property. For property owners that live relatively close to their vacation rental, this may be the best option. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of fully shutting off everything and hunkering down this winter, then you can schedule checks. If you opt for this option, make sure you’re visiting the property at least once a month and keep in contact with surrounding neighbors in case the unexpected happens.
If you’re still feeling the rush of the summer season, keep the momentum going by renting out your property during the winter. With the right planning and marketing, a slow season doesn’t have to be so scary.
There are a number of ways you can attract reservations during the winter months, such as marketing to digital nomads, offering extended stay discounts, or partnering with local businesses to create winter packages for tourists. Remember, too, that advertising on multiple platforms, as well as your own vacation rental website, helps you to increase your chances of keeping your reservation calendar full.
Whether you choose to shut your doors this winter or rev up for your cold-loving guests, make sure you’ve planned for the low season accordingly. Use the checklist provided to thoroughly prepare for the season ahead.
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