Ten Checks for Winter
As the days shorten and the central heating kicks in, is your property prepared for winter? Suffolk Secrets have put together a 10 point checklist to help you have a safe and successful winter of letting.
1. Does it work?
During the winter, customers will be spending more time in your property during their stay than they did in the summertime so it’s a great time to check that it all works!
Be proactive: make a visit to your property and test out all the appliances and features you offer from ensuite showers to kitchen mixers. Make sure that you have spare batteries for anything requiring them like TV remotes and portable radios.
Be reactive: read your visitors book and Suffolk Secrets CSQ reports, there may be a reoccurring issue that guests are having and this is a great time to resolve it. If it involves maintenance, make the most of the quite months by blocking periods of time in the calendar; remember, this can be done in your Suffolk Secrets Homeowner Area.
2. Safety First
Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; this may be already arranged through your housekeeper or Suffolk Cottage Care but if not now is a good time to test them. If they are battery operated, ensure you have spare batteries in the property and your welcome folder advises guests of where they are kept. If you have a gas fire, open fire or woodburning stove, place a carbon monoxide alarm close by, putting your guests’ safety first.
3. Programme your central heating
An efficient heating system will not only limit the amount your guests change the settings, it will also protect your holiday home during freezing temperatures. Set a minimum temperature for your heating to come on to avoid freezing pipes and ensure your water tanks and pipes are sufficiently lagged. Check your mains water can be shut off if needed and add the location of the stopcock to you welcome folder for guests.
This is also a good time you check your oil and gas levels if you do not have a mains supply; not only will fuel prices rise, but delivery will be slower due to increased demand. Remember to compare prices using AF Affinity.
4. Have your chimney swept
The type of fuel used will determine how often you should have your chimney sweft to avoid chimney fires and as guests will now start using this feature more, it is a good time to check it is ready for the winter season. Fire safety is extremely important so it is a good idea to include instructions in your welcome folder on how to light the fire safely and what fuel to use. Suffolk Secrets recommends that properties with open fires or woodburning stoves provide a starter pack of kindling and logs; make sure you are stocked up ready and your housekeeper knows where supplies are kept. Note in your welcome folder where guests can purchase addition logs, especially if there is specific fuel you wish to be used.
5. Don’t put the gardening tools to bed
Your beautiful lawn may not need attending to as often but that doesn’t mean your garden goes to sleep during the winter months. Ensure your trees are well pruned and any dead branches are removed as high winds can cause them to break off and cause damage not just to property, but potentially to your guests. Check all fence panels and repair or replace any that are damaged before it becomes a costly job of repacing the entire fence. Regularly check gutters and drains are not damaged or blocked by leaves; it may be worth adding mesh to prevent the leaves from causing a blockage.
6. Don’t invite theives
As the nights draw in theives will be on the lookout for unoccupied homes which present themselves as an easy target. Invest in deterents such as security lighting which can double up to assists guests when they arrive at the property, and timers on lamps. Ensure your keys are kept in a key safe and avoid having luxury items on display. Arrange for your housekeeper or Suffolk Cottage Care to carry out regular checks at the property which will show there is activity at your holiday home and will alert you to any issues.
7. Add an additional key safe for emergencies
A standard Suffolk Secrets recommendation, emergency keysafes are not just helpful when guests have locked themselves out, but also save time and money if Suffolk Cottage Care or tradesman needs to enter the property. If your heating system breaks down while the guests are staying, chances are they have found a local pub to warm up in so having a second set of keys at the property allows an engineer to enter the property without driving to a Suffolk Secrets office to obtain a key.
8. Reduce risks
All properties carry out fire, access and health and safety assessments and it is a good idea to ensure these are still relevant and up to date. If you have emergency lighting installed or wind up torches available for guests, are they all working and accessible? Have you listed their location in your welcome folder? Fire blankets and extinguishers will also need to be checked for the safety of your guests. Access may be affected due to snow fall or wet leaves on paths, arrange to have these cleared and have grit or salt available for paths.
9. Check your insurance
All holiday home insurers are different and some may have specific requirements during the winter months. Ensure you are adhering to their requirements to avoid an unexpected surprise if something does go wrong. If your property is managed by Suffolk Cottage Care, ask about how they can assist you with specific requirements such as regular property checks.
10. Guest satisfaction
The lower prices guests pay in many of the winter weeks may deter you from including additional extras to exceed your customers’ expectations; however, these guest are just as, if not more important than your summer guests. Spending more time in the property means they will not only have more time to use the equipment and features you offer but will also mean they are likely to have more to say when they leave. If a guest is made to feel comfortable and welcome from the moment they enter the property to the moment they leave, the more likely they are to give you a good review and more importantly, book next year!