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Winterizing properties

Whether you own rental properties, own a home or just rent an apartment, you need to prepare for the increasing colder temperatures coming this winter. If the property will be vacant for an extended periods of time you should be especially careful. Water left in pipes that hit the freezing point could cause the pipe to burst and create a horrendous situation. In order to limit these potential problems, consider the following tips as they apply to your situation:

  • Hoses and Spigots – Never leave a hose attached to a water spigot over the winter. Even if you have the supposedly “frost free” kind. This is the most common type of rupture as it applies to just about everyone. Sure its a pain to have to reconnect the hose anytime you want to use it, but its worth it. If you have a shut-off valve in the line leading to the spigot, you should also close that off and open the facet valve to let the remaining water drain.
  • Interior Pipes – If you have a property that will be left vacant for an extended period of time over the winter, whether its a rehab sitting until warmer whether or a vacation house, you should consider draining the interior plumbing system. To do this simply shut off the water where it enters the property and at the hot water heater. Then you open the valves on all faucets, especially those in the basement, to drain the system.If you plan on turning off the furnace and or water heater during this period, you will need to make sure you put antifreeze (nontoxic propylene glycol antifreeze) in the toilets and all traps in the system. This is probably overkill for many situations, but if you turn off all utilities to the property it is a must. For a more detailed breakdown of how to accomplish this, check out this site. For most cases, I am a fan of leaving the water heater and furnace on during this time. If you set both to their lowest setting they use very little energy and you can make an argument that this is better for the property. I have found that putting a property at the mercy of the extreme temperature fluctuations of Missouri winters can play havoc on drywall, plaster and flooring in old houses. All that expansion and contraction tends to be rough on building materials. Some might disagree with this assessment, but I have witnessed it first hand.
  • Gutters – This one is really a no-brainer, but it is often overlooked. We all know how annoying it can be if your gutters get clogged and overflow or even leak into the house. During the warm time of the year this is always an issue, but at least you can address it in short order. On the other hand, in the winter time it can be a little tougher to do something about. If your gutters are clogged with debris and ice during a freeze you could have major water issues crop up yet have to wait for the ice to melt before you address them. Its not uncommon for this to cause gutters to break off due to the intense weight. Pick a warmer afternoon before the worst of the winter hits and make sure everything is clear and that the gutters are properly secured.

This list of tips is certainly not exhaustive and there are those that might have different suggestions. The main thing is that you appreciate the damage ice can cause to your properties so that you can prepare for it. You’ll be glad you did.

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Matt Kastner

Matt Kastner is an Investment Real Estate Consultant at St. Louis Real Estate Society in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also develops properties on the side through Threshold Properties. When he isn’t representing investors in the purchase or sale of multifamily properties, rehabs, foreclosures and other income producing properties, he is often taking on rehab projects himself. He lives in South St. Louis and has been in the real estate business since 2004.

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