Cold truth about the Winterization of REO Investment properties


Here in Victorville  USA,  fall and winter temperatures can drop below the freezing point.  Because of this, it is customary to Winterize an unoccupied house for sale throughout fall, winter, and parts of spring.

Since the majority of all the sales in this area and yours are REO (bank owned properties), banks decide it’s in their best interest to winterize properties because they don’t want to have a frozen pipe crack; of course, when the water is turned back on this prevents you from having some trouble and large headaches.

You see, the problem is not just the cold, but the fact that the water in a vacant home does not move: Toilets don’t get flushed; Water heaters are usually off; No one is taking showers. So, the water has a chance to freeze, expand and cause some damage.

Because of this it is best to Winterize the property.

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Here is what is done to Winterize:

  • The water is shut off at the house and at the street.
  • All faucets are fully opened to drain the water out.
  • All toilets flushed
  • The water heater is drained and the gas is shut off at the water heater
  • Air is blown into the pipes forcing all water out of the pipes.
  • Anti-Freeze is poured into all drains, toilets etc. Please note, this is NOT the anti-freeze I pour into my Bentley Continental. This is the non-toxic anti-freeze used for winterizing RV’s and Marine vessels.

When this is done, they usually tag all areas where the anti-freeze has been poured in with a big sign, letting anyone know that winterization has been performed on the house. Toilets get a big piece of tape around the seat, or in some cases they have saran wrap covering the bowl.

So why on earth do people still decide they want to use the toilet knowing that there is no water to flush?  You people are sick , lol. I’ve had to use a gas mask just to tour some homes because some cotton headed ninny muggin couldn’t hold it till they got to McDonalds (Americas Public Restroom).

Do me a favor people, hold it!

Attention INVESTORS and REAL ESTATE AGENTS: Remember, in order for you or your client to fully inspect a home you need to have all services turned on in the house (Gas, Water, Electric). Some banks are de-winterizing at no cost to the buyer, so that they can fully perform an inspection; then after inspections are performed they are sending someone back out to re-winterize the property. Others make it a point that it is the buyer’s responsibility, hence you have to pay for the property to get de-winterized.

Note: this runs $50 to $150 and the cost to re-winterize is $125 – $250.

This can be an added expense that you were not aware of, nor your client. Don’t be caught off guard and have to scramble at the last minute to find out who is going to take care of the de-winterization and re-winterization. Don’t have your inspector go out to the property just to find out the property cannot be inspected because it’s winterized and get charged a return visit to complete the plumbing portion.

A great tip is to make sure you ask that the bank be responsible for the de-winterization and re-winterization of the property in your initial purchase offer; or you can state that you will be responsible for the cost and the bank will go with your offer because you are costing them less money, and they always look at the bottom line (a.k.a. Net).

You just might yank that property from another investor just because you were on top of your game.

Happy Holidays America! Good luck in all you do!

About Author

Winston Westbrook is broker & owner of Westbrook National Real Estate Company servicing the cities of Victorville, Spring Valley Lake, Adelanto, Hesperia, Apple Valley & the surrounding Victor Valley High Desert communities of So. California. Specializing in short sale and distressed properties.


  1. oh the joys of living in Phoenix:) I certainly don’t have to worry too much about that. Now, it does get below freezing here in the desert, a quick check of the temp right now and it’s 36 degrees but on most days, we’re rocking 70 degree weather baby 🙂

    Off topic, you mentioned: Bentley Continental, beautiful cars!

  2. Funny you mention this, I’ve been working a short sale for about 5 months now, the bank refused my offer and said their going to wait until January to order another BPO. I told them to get the property winterized asap. Instead they chose not to, and when I was showing the property to an investor last week, guess what?? The whole basement was flooded!!! LOL oh well. I can’t wait for their BPO guy to show up next month, that drops my offer by about 20k 🙂

  3. I was working with an investor and some potential investment properties…This is one of the issues that came up. I failed to ask about winterization going in…Then there was a back and forth between potential buyer and seller about who should pay…This is definitely advice that should be taken to heart when dealing with vacant properties…


  4. I purchased my rental at a HUGE (40% under asking) because of water damage (not winterized) combined with pre-existing pet damage (3 yrs of non-housebroken dog…!!!!). Most of the dog damage was mitigated in hours (carpet out, floors rolled with Kilz…smell GONE). Water damage to floors took a bit more (80 linear feet of drywall replaced, 100sq ft of subfloor replaced). Not bad for a savings of $40k & longterm tax benefits (California prop 13).

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