Snowy driveways, cozy firelit evenings, frost on the window panes, hot cocoa on the stove.
To your guests, these make for a charming winter escape. But for unprepared vacation rental owners, they can translate to icy danger, freezing-cold drafts, and stressful seasonal headaches.
That’s why knowing how to winterize a vacation home is so important. By avoiding common issues with some proactive care, you’ll be able to welcome guests year-round and boost your potential to capture off-season bookings.
Cleaning is key to your property’s success year-round, as surveyed guests rank cleanliness as the most important aspect in a vacation rental — and these comprehensive cleaning checklists can help establish easy and efficient standardization.
But what about the fireplace that’s gone unused for most of the year? Or those gutters that are now filled with autumn leaves? To winterize a vacation home and prep for cold-weather rental guests, you’ll want to task your cleaning or maintenance team with the essential to-dos that may have been put on ice during warmer months:
Clean gas fireplaces so the ignition switch and coupler start properly
Remove soot and residue from wood-burning fireplace flues
Clean outdoor fire pits and remove flammable items like leaves and twigs
Clear gutters of leaves and debris
Wash all the heavy comforters and blankets needed for chillier nights
2. Stock Up on Cold-Weather Essentials
It’s all too common for guests to get a taste of winter weather during their stay. An icy driveway, piles of snow, the it-looks-pretty-but-my-car-is-buried feeling.
To prepare for these scenarios, it’s important to equip maintenance teams (and guests!) with winter-specific supplies. Take a pre-season inventory of what’s needed to combat the elements, then stockpile items like:
Ice melt or sand for walkways
Extra batteries and lightbulbs
3. Perform Winter Maintenance and Prep
Before the chill sets in, hire certified professionals (or tap your property maintenance team where applicable) to verify important systems are functioning properly, inspect windows, and winterize outdoor amenities like pools, hot tubs, and sprinkler systems.
Inspect your HVAC system. A technician can make sure the heater is working properly first by running thermostat tests and tracking the system’s response. Then, they’ll turn off circuit breakers to check for loose electrical connections. Finally, they’ll clean air filters, eliminate dirt and debris, and inspect for drain clogs.
Assess door and window frames. Look for areas where heat might escape. Identify and caulk any cracks on the interior and exterior, and confirm weather stripping is intact.
Winterize the sprinkler system. Shut off your water and open the valves to drain the pipes. (Any water trapped inside can freeze over the winter months and create larger irrigation issues.) Wrap any above-ground piping and sprinkler heads in foam insulation to protect them long-term.
Service your hot tub. Hot tubs are one of the most-booked amenities. To keep yours running for winter guests, drain the water first. Remove and clean the filters before refilling. Invest in a well-insulated cover to moderate the water temperature and keep heat from escaping. As guests come and go, keep water levels consistent and have ice melt or sand on hand for the surrounding pathways.
Winterize your pool. Whether it’s an inground or above-ground pool, proper closure makes for a much easier opening come springtime. Remove any pool toys, accessories, and ladders, clean and skim the pool thoroughly to eliminate debris, and add winterizing chemicals — like an algaecide or pH-balancer — to avoid growths or contamination. (Pro tip: many pool companies offer curated winterizing kits that contain all the supplies you’ll need.) Finally, invest in a well-insulated pool cover. If you want to keep a heated pool open, you’ll need to have your pump running constantly to avoid freezing.
4. Consider Upgrades That Boost Winter Efficiencies
It may seem like a splurge, but investing in “smart” technology can be really valuable if you’re managing your property remotely. Simplify the winterizing process, save money and energy, give your home an eco-friendly edge, and handle issues without deploying your on-site contact with these tech improvements:
Smart thermostats: Program the heat so it warms the house to a comfortable temperature an hour before guests arrive (and cools slightly when empty to keep energy costs lower).
Smart water sensors: Detect leaks in the house before a guest does, and prevent serious water damage caused by undiscovered issues.
Smart locks: Track visitors, allow keyless entry for your guests, and prevent break-ins with added security.
How Much Does It Cost to Winterize a Vacation Rental?
The cost to winterize a vacation home can range widely depending on what tasks need to be done. Basics can often be taken care of on your own at a more affordable price point. For example, replacing filters, clearing gutters, and installing a smart thermostat can all be done yourself for under $65.
Any winterizing that requires a pro is likely to cost over $65, depending on the complexity of the service. Draining a swimming pool, inspecting a chimney, or checking your HVAC system are all best completed by a professional, and can cost anywhere from $250-$350 per service.
There are also optional winterization efforts that can add up, like trimming tree limbs, replacing or flushing boilers, and adding pipe insulation. While you likely won’t need to address these every year, it’s good to take a look at bigger winterization investments every so often to keep your home in good condition.
The big takeaway: routinely winterizing your rental is worth the cost, as it can prevent severe damage and more expensive repairs down the line (not to mention keep your guests safe and comfortable).
Make Winter Easy with Evolve
Preparing to winterize your vacation home won’t feel like a bone-chilling task with the right plan of action, but there’s so much more to consider on your path to vacation rental success. Luckily, we have all the tips and strategies you need to help make five-star service and strong performance a summer breeze year-round.