Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Safety Tips

The holidays are in full swing, and I am sure we are all enjoying the holiday season since Long Island has gotten quite lucky and we have had some unusually warm days, considering this time last year we had already had 3 or 4 snow storms by this time!

Buyers are also taking advantage of this warmer winter weather, I have personally had some amazing turn outs to my open houses, and many clients who are still very active in the search for their new home, so I wanted to take a moment and talk about some safety pre-cautions that both home sellers and buyers should be doing during since this season has been quite busy!

1.  Christmas Decorations Are NOT Meant To Be An Obstactle Course To Your Front Door!
Let me start by saying I always tell my homeowners that they should put out their decorations, it will make your house feel like a home, and it does wonders to sell your neighborhood.  I put out a ton of Christmas decorations out, which also means a ton of extension cords, timers, and outlets but  if you have cords running across your walkway, you need to be sure that they are placed where potential buyers will not trip or fall!

2. Let There Be Light
Make sure that buyers can see where they are walking, this is a simple fix many people have lights in the driveway that are triggered when someone walks up and it will usually illuminate the walkway as well.  This is not the only area that you need to be able to see, home buyers need to be able to see your HOUSE NUMBER, I can not tell you how many calls I get from a buyer who happened passed a home with a for sale sign, but have no idea what house number it was! This also is necessary so people who are coming to view your home can easily spot your home, not all streets have only 1 house for sale, and some seller choose not to have signs, so make sure that numbers stands out!

3. Be Prepared For The Snow Trail
This has got to be the biggest pet peeve for home sellers in the winter, and that is buyers will often track snow and salt into their home.  I say this for both buyers and sellers, put a winter mat in the front hall of your home, and agents wipe your feet normally the buyer will be sure to clean off their shoes if they see the agent do so, and sellers and if you choose not to have a mat, be prepared for the trail, and a good chance someone will slip and fall.  I often carry one in my car, this is for when I have open houses to make sure my homeowners come home to a semi-clean floor!

4. Let It Snow
Of course if it begins snowing right before your homes showing or open house, there is not much you can do except shovel and home not too much accumulates between the time you leave, and the buyer arrives.  A simple suggestion is leave a smaller shovel, and container of salt next to your front steps.  This gives the buyers agent the ability to throw a tiny bit of salt down to make your walkway or steps easier for the buyer, and in the case of an open house allows them to keep the walk clear.  Not all agent will do this, but personally I do, I want the buyers to feel comfortable coming in even if it is flurrying out. 

5. Don't Open Your Door To Just Anyone
It is oddly alarming that I have had numerous homeowners if they should just let "people" not agents just come thru their home if they knock on the door! The answer is NO, NO, and NO! This is not just a rule for the winter time, but all year round.  This is also why I always have a open house advertised thru-out the time a home is listed with me, obviously you do not want to be rude, simply say that it is not a good time, and be sure to tell them when your next open house is scheduled, or give them your listings agents direct number to schedule the appointment! You do not want to turn off these potential buyers, but our company believes in safety anyone that enters your home we want to have some sort of information before they go walking thru. 

Now some homeowners have chosen to sell their home after they have moved into their new home, and if your home has not gone under contract by the fall, I always suggest taking some steps to winterize your home to protect it for the winter time.  So here are a few tips for those whose home are vacant!

1) Furnace Inspection

  • Call an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean ducts.
  • Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat.
  • If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them.
  • Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.

2) Get the Fireplace Ready

  • Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
  • If the chimney hasn't been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
  • Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
  • Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.
  • Check the mortar between bricks and tuckpoint, if necessary.

3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows

  • Inspect exterior for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes; seal them.
  • Use weatherstripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the home and caulk windows.
  • Replace cracked glass in windows and, if you end up replacing the entire window, prime and paint exposed wood.
  • If your home has a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields.
  • Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.

4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts

  • Check flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
  • Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
  • Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
  • Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the home.

5) Service Weather-Specific Equipment

  • Service or tune-up snow blowers.
  • Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
  • Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
  • Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand.

6) Check Foundations

  • Rake away all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation.
  • Seal up entry points to keep small animals from crawling under the house.
  • Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.
  • Secure crawlspace entrances.

7) Prevent Plumbing Freezes

  • Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
  • Drain all garden hoses.
  • Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
  • Drain air conditioner pipes and, if your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
  • Leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees.


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