The Warm Sell

Real Estate Agent with Re/Max 10 New Lenox Illinois

It's September and you are selling your home entering into the fall and winter months. With light dwindling and temperatures dropping, evaluating your home with regard to warmth is a smart idea. Homes that are warm in the winter (and cool in the summer) are highly desirable - and achievable, if the savvy homeowner knows where to look and what to do to control the interior environment.

When showing a home in the fall and winter months, pay attention to how warm you feel in the home, how the spaces are heated, how to control the heat and moisture, the presence of natural light, and how warm they are to the eye. When showing a home during these months, you will want to ensure that the warming aspects of the home stand out.

The Obvious - How's it Heated?

Understanding the heating system of a home is key information for many buyers. The type of heating used is often dictated by the fuel that is most readily available (or was, at the time of building) and can be the source of a significant expense in cold weather climates. Information to have available for potential buyers include:

  • Type of heating system(s) in all areas of the home.
  • How the heat works and best practices for using the system(s) including the presence of a programmable thermostat. For example, radiant floor heat takes a while to warm large spaces and continues to radiate heat once off; knowing this, scheduling heat to turn on hours before arriving home from work, and to turn off hours before retiring for the night makes total sense.
  • Source of energy, and operational costs.
  • Age of the system and maintenance history, if available.

Fireplaces, Stoves, and Inserts

There is something about seeing a fire in a fireplace that warms the heart - even "false" flames of electric fireplaces add a warming visual effect. However, traditional fireplaces often draw in warm air from the home which is lost up the chimney, in fact, cooling the rest of the home.

Fireplaces are not highly efficient ways of heating a home, without some assistance. Enter the blower: fan systems that distribute heat from the fire back into the room rely on electricity to work, but enables homeowners to benefit from the heat generated by the fire itself. Better yet, an insert, or sealed stove that uses the chimney but takes in air efficiently and puts out considerably more heat is the preferred method for increasing warmth. Russian fireplaces or other variations can be a boon in very cold climates, but take a moment to understand how to efficiently use them to see if these sometimes expensive bonuses fit with your lifestyle. Like radiant heat, they are slower to warm and cool down, so fires should be monitored and made at specific times.

Stoves that generate heat can rely on a variety of fuels, typically including wood, propane, and pellets (which are made of wood by-products). Ensuring that the stove is installed properly, well-vented, and airtight is essential for health and safety. Chimney fires in stovepipes can be quite dangerous, so it is essential to regularly have the stove serviced by a professional.

Spot Heating with Stand-Alone Heaters

On some occasions, free-standing heating units such as electric "space heaters" or propane heaters are handy to own. However, these appliances can be tricky to use and require that you follow explicit safety instructions. Their cords or fumes could present safety issues. A better practice might be to solve the problems that require their use. Insulate, seal and put in a more robust heating system - relying on dangerous or worry-inducing appliances does little to inspire confidence in a home. When showing a home, it is generally better to put these appliances in storage, unless an outdoor patio heater is seen as an advantage.

Keeping Heat In

Heating a space is only part of the warming equation. Keeping the space warm is achieved by capturing that heat and retaining it. Appropriate insulation and attention to places where heat may escape are key points to consider. Insulation in walls and attics should be clean and dry, free from signs of animal infestation. Windows in cooler climates might be double or triple-glazed, and doors and windows should close tightly and no drafts should be present around them. Caulk and seal around window frames, if needed, and pay attention to areas that seem particularly prone to cooling down quickly.

Architectural features of the home can also help with regard to a home's warmth. Entryways are more functional in colder climates if there is a way to avoid cold air and weather from sweeping into the home. Covered porches or enclosed "northern entryways" are essentially vestibules than afford a transition from the frigid outdoors to the warmth of your home. "Mudrooms" or other utility spaces such as garage entryways can help retain heat, though if they are to be highlighted features of a home, they should be attractive and well-kept.

Some rooms in the home will naturally be warmer than others. When showing a home, be present to this fact and decide if you will "close off spaces" by shutting doors to conserve heat in some living areas, or if you will seek to warm cooler spaces by keeping doors open.

Insulating hot-water heaters could be a plus if they are located in a cooler location such as a basement or garage and ensuring that water pipes are insulated is also useful to homeowners in frigid areas. Attention to these details shows that the home is well-cared for and ready for anything.

Warming "Accessories"

Some bonus features that jump out and say "warm" include hot-tubs, saunas, steam rooms, and sun rooms. Others are less noticeable, but also great, warming perks. The same ceiling fans that move air in the summer to create a breeze can move warm air from high spaces where it isn't being effective. Towel warming bars, heat lamps, or radiant floor heat in bathrooms can offer spot warmth in places that are most appreciated.

Heated workrooms, storage spaces and garages are a huge bonus to some families. Showcase these areas by keeping them neat and functional, including lighting and easy access.

If the home is in a locale where power outages are common, generators and homes wired to accommodate their use are especially appreciated. Understand the system in place, the age and repair of the generator and the electrical panel, and how to switch things back and forth between electrical systems. Be sure that there is fresh fuel available for the generator, and that it is stored safely.

In the fall months, decks can become more usable with outdoor heaters, generally run on propane, or small fire pits. These warming accessories can make the most of outdoor spaces, showing that they can be used year-round.

Décor is More, and More!

Finally, décor can add a great deal of warmth which may be achieved by the appearance and organization of the home. Color choices, fabrics, curtains and draperies, decorations and even lighting can add degrees of warmth. The trick is to engage all of the senses.

Light the dark corners with warm lights. Enabling people to see your space in a warm glow makes rooms appear lighter on shorter days that might be grey. Consider pulling out an afghan or lap blanket for the couch and swapping the warming colors of autumn in pillows and window treatments. Heavier drapery can retain heat and give your rooms a weightier, cozier feeling, while also retaining heat and adding privacy.

In general, adding texture and fabrics will warm a room. While bare tables can be cooling in the summer, adding a tablecloth or runner in the winter adds to the warmth of a scene. Similarly, place fall flowers and plants in rooms to bring the viewer into the season. Consider the closest holidays and seek to bring touches of cheer into the space. Don't fill or clutter spaces, but consider the details that warm the eye. Adding carpets or area rugs will warm the floors and add visual warmth, without adding bulk to a room. This goes for bedrooms as well as living spaces, so be sure to scan each room with a warming eye.

In cool months, cooking can add warmth to your home as well. A bubbling pot of soup, baking cookies or bread, or even a pot of tea will provide the smells that evoke a sense of heat and well-being. Candles also put out heat as well as light, though be certain not to leave them unattended. Scented candles can be difficult if a guest is sensitive to scents or chemicals, and may be perceived as covering up pet smells, so use these with care.


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Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Dale - Suddenly I'm yearning for the cold of winter ; ) even if it never gets that cold here.

Aug 29, 2013 04:55 PM #1
Dale Taylor
Re/Max 10 New Lenox Illinois - Frankfort, IL
Realtor = Chicago Illinois Homes Townhomes Condos

Yea, I spent 8 days this summer in the Colorado mountains.  Saw just a touch of snow at the highest peaks.

Aug 29, 2013 05:06 PM #2
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Dale Taylor

Realtor = Chicago Illinois Homes Townhomes Condos
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