Selling a house in winter

Many people choose to market their property in the Spring as they consider selling a house in winter may be more difficult.  Spring is a time when gardens can be seen as a pleasant and useful addition to a house rather than an uninteresting area which needs maintaining.   But sometimes circumstances dictate when a property is marketed, eg, where there is a deceased estate, and it may not be possible to avoid selling a house in winter.  And by marketing your house during winter you may find a buyer before the surge of properties comes onto the market in Spring.

Tips on selling a house in winter

  1. Keep the house warm. Setting the central heating for a longer period, ideally all day (even at a slightly lower temperature) is better than turning the heating on for short periods.  This helps to heat the walls, etc, rather than just the air within the house and gives a more comfortable temperature with less chance of condensation.
  2. Even when it is cold outside, remember to open windows regularly, particularly when cooking and after using the shower or bath. You may have viewings at short notice and what could be more off-putting than water running down windows?
  3. Clean any mould from windows and window frames.
  4. Clear any leaves from gullies to allow drainage of rainwater. Check that gutters are not holding leaves, moss, etc.
  5. Drain water from any outside taps and pipework to outside WCs.
  6. If there is a cold spell, put salt or grit on paths/drives so that potential purchasers can safely walk around external areas to view the property.
  7. Clear any moss/lichen from paths/steps so that they are not slippery.
  8. Set traps or poison to control pests such as mice, looking for a warm place to nest, particularly if the house is in a rural area.
  9. Clean windows regularly and open curtains and blinds fully to maximise light into the property. Where rooms are poorly lit, consider low level lighting or lamps for additional light.

If you are selling an empty house then:

  1. Turn off the water at the stop cock and drain down all services well before there is a risk of freezing. If there are any outside taps don’t forget to turn these on to drain any water from within the pipe/s.
  2. If you haven’t already done so, inform your buildings insurer that the house is empty.
  3. Consider putting some heat into the property. If the central heating has been drained down then heat could be provided by electric heaters, possibly on a timer, or set manually the day before any viewings.  The house doesn’t have to be warm enough to live in, just enough heat to take the chill out of the house.

And above all, check the house regularly and check for damage after any storms.  If you are not living at the property you will not have heard tiles crashing to the ground during high winds.  If you don’t live nearby, then ask the selling agent to make regular visits and make this a condition of your instructions.

See also preparing your house for viewings.

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Moving house in autumn – heating, insulation and freezing pipework

When moving house in autumn there are a number of items which take priority over longer term plans.  Alterations, and sometimes even decorating, can wait until a convenient time, but first it is important to make sure your new house is prepared for the winter months ahead.

If you are moving house in autumn remember to:

  1. Check that the heating system is functioning and have the system serviced (unless this has been serviced recently). Ideally, ask the vendor to show you how to operate the system before completion takes place.  If the system has recently been serviced then ask for the documents.
  2. Check that any plumbing pipework and water tanks in the roof space are fully lagged to reduce the risk of freezing. The same applies to any pipework in unheated outbuildings and pipework to outdoor taps.
  3. Check whether cavity wall insulation has been installed if the house has cavity walls.  Cavity wall insulation can reduce heat loss and improve the level of comfort within a house, but note that not all properties with cavity walls are suitable for cavity wall insulation.  See also 1960’s houses:  common defects. 
  4. Check gutters, gullies and drains to make sure they have not become blocked by leaves, etc.
  5. Check any paved areas to ensure they are draining adequately and are not ponding. Any areas which pond may become slippery with algae and/or ice.
  6. Check the level of insulation within any roof spaces.  Don’t forget the roof spaces to extensions, bay windows, etc.  If insulation is insufficient, then topping up before the cold weather arrives should help improve the level of comfort within the house.

When moving house in autumn, a few simple checks should help to ensure that you are prepared for the colder, winter months ahead.  If you are unable to check the house for yourself, consider instructing a surveyor.


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