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7 Things Home Buyers Look for in Cold Weather

By Thomas O'Shaughnessy | March 25, 2024

In a cold weather climate, selling your home during the winter might seem like a challenge, especially when your landscaping is under a blanket of snow and daylight hours for showings are few. Additionally, winter weather can reveal problems that are less apparent during the summer months, and home buyers are more likely to closely scrutinize homes they’re interested in, looking for issues that could become deal-breakers. 

It’s a good idea to get a handle on the common concerns home buyers are likely to have when shopping during the winter months. In addition to working closely with your real estate agent, consider hiring a home inspector, who can call attention to potential problems you may want to proactively address before your home goes on the market, which could help to avoid drawn-out price negotiations down the road.  

Common Cold Weather Concerns for Home Buyers

Frozen or Burst Pipes

If temperatures in your area regularly drop to sub-zero levels during the winter, even indoor pipes can freeze or burst, particularly in areas that may not be well-heated like basements, attics, or crawl spaces. The resulting water damage can lead to mold, rotted drywall, and other costly repairs. 

Pipes should be inspected regularly and any cracks or leaks should be repaired promptly. Protect vulnerable pipes by wrapping them with pipe insulation, or consider using an electric heating cable. Installing an emergency pressure release valve is a good option, so if pipes do freeze, the increased pressure won’t cause them to burst.

Clogged and Frozen Gutters

Gutters clogged with tree leaves, small branches, and other debris left over from autumn are hazardous in winter. When runoff is trapped and unable to move freely through the gutter system, backups and overflow can occur, leaving water to run down the sides of your house toward the foundation. This can be especially dangerous when temperatures are low enough for water to freeze and form heavy icicles, which are not only unsafe but can cause expensive damage to your gutters and siding. 

Clean your gutters in the fall, and keep them free of ice or other debris during the winter. Make sure previously damaged gutters are repaired, that worn-out gutter work is replaced, and ensure water is flowing freely.  

Ice Dams

Ice dams occur when the top half of a snow-covered roof melts, but the bottom half remains frozen, forming a ridge of ice that prevents snow melt from running into the gutters as intended. The resulting water accumulation can damage roof tiles, leak into your attic or roof eaves, and into the exterior walls and insulation, causing water damage. 

Ice dams are the result of uneven roof temperatures, typically caused by too much heat escaping through the home. To help prevent ice dams, homeowners should evaluate the airflow and ventilation in the attic, seal leaks, and increase insulation if necessary. 

Keep gutters and downspouts clean and free of ice throughout the winter, and if possible, make every effort to keep snow from accumulating on the roof. Some people use a long-handled “roof rake” to minimize the chances of ice dams forming or roof collapse.

Sump Pump Blockages

Keep an eye out for freezing or overflowing sump pumps during the winter months. If extension hoses freeze or become clogged with ice, you’ll have excess water with nowhere to drain. As snow melts in freeze-thaw cycles, your sump pump may overflow as it works to keep up with the excess water. Weather-related power outages may also cause a sump pump to overflow. 

Have your sump pump inspected to ensure it’s in good working order and that the system’s alarms are engaged to alert you to clogs or overflows. You’ll avoid water damage that could seep into your foundation, causing further problems. 

Poorly Sealed Windows

Condensation or ice on the windows, fog between the window panes, drafts, and windows not opening or closing the way they should — these are all signs that some windows in your home may not be properly sealed. That problem is likely to affect your home’s energy efficiency (and detract from your home’s cozy atmosphere). 

If possible, replace old and outdated windows with newer, energy-efficient models. Homeowners can also apply weatherstripping or caulk around existing windows to prevent leaks and improve efficiency. 

Mold Growth

Home buyers will be on the lookout for signs of mold growth anywhere in the home, particularly in basements, crawlspaces, attics, and bathrooms. Mold found in places that are normally dry like ceilings, walls, or floors can be particularly serious.

While mold isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, home buyers often use the presence of mold to negotiate a lower offer, as they’ll need to pay out of pocket to have the mold remediated, which can vary in cost. 

As a homeowner, if you’re concerned about mold, consult with a professional mold inspector. If you do have a mold issue, they can help you to formulate a plan for remediation. If your home is free and clear of mold and mildew, you’ll have the professional report as documentation to present to prospective home buyers for peace of mind. 

Roof Issues

Even if you don’t notice signs of roof deterioration like water stains on your ceilings, peeling paint, or exterior mold growth on your siding, it’s a good idea to have your roof inspected before you list your house for sale. 

Years of freeze-thaw cycles can do damage to roof shingles that can easily be identified and addressed by a roofing contractor. 

Setting up for a Successful Sale

A final thought about winter curb appeal: Keep in mind that winter home buyers won’t get a full picture of your home’s landscaping in all its glory, especially if it’s covered in snow. Have photos available to showcase your landscaping when it’s in full bloom. 

And in the meantime, keep your driveway and walkways cleared of snow and ice, and maintain well-lit pathways to your front door. 

Having addressed the major winter-related concerns of home buyers in advance, you’re equipped to list your home with confidence for a potential winter sale.

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