Winterizing Weekend: Steps to Get Your Short-Term Rentals Ready for the Cold

Midwest Winters are no joke, and neither is making sure your STR guests are comfortable, safe, and respectful of your home in the cold months. In this post we’ll walk through the steps I took to get my places ready.

Thinking Ahead

The colors on the trees have changed here in Michigan and temperatures are hovering between 50 and 70 degrees for the most part. I’m certainly not worried about this week’s guests shivering in my rentals or tracking in ice and snow onto the hardwood floors. Still, I chose this weekend to do my Winter prep so that there’d be no chance I’d be caught off guard by the season’s first surprise snowfall and find myself racing to the homes to get the job done. While my first Winterizing went pretty smoothly (took about 3.5 hours), I have identified ways to be faster and more efficient with the process next time.

The Steps for Success

I would be surprised if, over the next few weeks, I don’t realize a few things I forgot to do to prep the homes (please let me know any obvious ones in the comments!). Luckily, I don’t live too far away from the area to take a weekend trip whenever I need to. If you live too far for regular visits to your all-seasons locale, make sure you take all of these steps into consideration.

1. Prevent Pipe Freezing

My main concern here is turning off the water to the garden hose. A burst pipe can be disastrous for a home, rental or not. To protect yourself, you first need to find the shut off valve inside the house, closest to where the outdoor faucet (or “sillcock”…yes, that’s really what it’s called) protrudes on the exterior wall. In my homes, these are in the basement. Once you find that, turn it off completely. Then, head outside and open the hose valve to drain water that remains in the hose bib. Leave this open, but take note and action on any water that keeps leaking out after a minute or so.

2. Remove Window/Room AC Units

This one might be obvious but can be tricky to time just right if your home relies on window and room AC rather than central air. Here in Michigan we are known for our unpredictable weather. One day you can be sure it’s time to take the warm sweaters out of storage for good and the next you’re going out on the lake for another sunny boat ride. If you remove the units too soon in the year and then the next guest ends up feeling the heat to the point of discomfort, you may be in for a bad review or even another trip to put the units back in.

Though I was pretty sure it was the right time for me to remove the AC units, I left a fan in each room just in case the guests needed a little extra cool air. I made sure to remove the units from the livable space completely, storing them in the locked basement area where I keep all housekeeping supplies.

NOTE: Before I put the units away, I made sure to take a few steps to make it simple to reassemble the setup come next Spring.

First, I took pictures to show exactly how and where the window units were installed. For me, this included insulation foam placement, wood shims for sizing, and screw placement.

Then, with all of the units laying on the living room floor, I taped little baggies to each machine and put the necessary hardware inside. Mine were slightly different screw placements, so I made sure to label the bags to indicate which room each unit goes into. My goal was to make it as easy as possible for me to reinstall these units when it gets warm out again.

3. Change Air Filters

This one is another self-explanatory step, but one worth jotting down in the ol’ blog. Replacing HVAC air filters every 6 months is a good way to keep the guests’ air clean and keep your furnace working well for them. Doing this during my Winterizing and De-Winterizing (Summerizing?) weekends makes it easy to remember.

4. Prepare For Snowy Shoes and Boots

If you live in a home you own, you likely take extra care to ensure you don’t bring in water and snow from your shoes and track it all over the house. Renters, unsurprisingly, don’t always have the same conscientiousness about the floors. Short-term renters especially. To protect my floors, I added heavy duty door mats, one on the outside and one on the inside of the front door.

Though already specified in the house rules, I also added hand-written notes to “Please take your shoes off at the door!” and taped them to the walls in my rentals. This reminded me of a couple other necessary notes I wanted to add, including messages along the lines of “the sink doesn’t have a disposal so put your food scraps in the trash” and “don’t flush things you aren’t supposed to down the toilet”…totally unrelated to Winterizing but I’m glad the ideas came to mind while I was there.

5. Provide Shovels and Salt

If you’re operating your business like I am, in that you count on a third party to handle your lawn/outdoor care, it’s important to remember to give them what they need to keep your walkways clear and safe for your guests. A strong shovel and a few big bags of ice-melter or sidewalk salt should be enough to serve your STR for the Winter. I’ll be honest, these necessities completely slipped my mind during my recent trip to the homes. If it weren’t for writing this blog post, I’d likely be remembering these items when I looked outside and saw the first blizzard coming down… while sitting in my home, a 1.5 hour drive away even without slick road conditions. Needless to say, I’ll be making another trip soon.

All Set for a Michigan Winter

It was very pleasant heading “up north” in Michigan during the Fall, even if it was to get work done. If you’re in a place with Winters worth Winterizing for, you likely experience nice falls with crisp air and beautiful colors as well. You might as well enjoy your Winterizing trip and see what the town has to offer in the Fall season. It may inspire some new recommendations for your guests!

If you would add anything to the Winterizing steps I mentioned in this post, please let me know in the comments. I’m learning new things everyday and love hearing from others running short-term rental businesses. So, bundle up and enjoy earning money on cozy Winter getaways!

As always, happy hosting.

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