Think Safety When Planning Winter Open Houses

Helping your clients and potential clients stay safe before, during, and after an open house is paramount. In winter, with rain, snow, wind, and ice, it’s even more important to think through the possible safety issues.

Your local knowledge provides some answers

Assuming you’ve lived in the area for several years, you’ve got a good sense of the weather and potential problems. If you happen to be new, check with an old timer – there’s probably at least one in your office. Drive to the property the way most people will drive there. Notice known problem areas. For example, bridges tend to become icy before pavement does, and that can include the almost invisible bridges that drainage pipes make. If there are areas that are prone to flood during a rainstorm, keep that in mind. What about landslides? Or even areas where mud is likely to make the road slick. These are the sorts of observations that can help you decide if you need to cancel when bad weather shows up.

Your homeowner has specific knowledge

Sidewalks in front and around the home to be shown need to be looked at with an eye toward winter danger. So do any steps leading into the house. Work with your homeowner who will know if there are particular danger spots. You need not only to know about them but make plans to mitigate them. While rain doesn’t usually pose the same danger that snow and ice can, it can make steps and sidewalks slick, or just plain miserable. Walk the property with the owner and discuss these possibilities. If you find trouble spots solve them or cancel the open house until the weather changes or the problem is addressed. Solutions can include things like: Sand sprinkled over slick spots – just be sure to have a supply ready if open house traffic causes it to scatter.
  • Snow should be cleared from walkways and checked often for icing.
  • All hazards should be marked with signs warning visitors of potential trouble spots and directing them toward safer passage.
  • Mats can provide safer footing in the rain; just make sure they stay in place and don’t get kicked up to become tripping hazards.
Windstorms prior to the open house mean you need to do an inspection and be sure there are no downed branches, or loose wires caused by the wind.

Watch the weather reports

Although weather reports aren’t always completely accurate they’ve gotten pretty good. I find Weather.com mostly reliable. Another valuable source is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration often referred to at NOAA. Either site, as well as any locally generated weather reports, can help you in several ways. Major storms are usually predicted well in advance. Use those reports to help you determine dates for your winter open houses. The same sources can warn you about surprising weather that may signal a need to cancel an open house.

Don’t be afraid to cancel

No matter where you are, if the weather socks in on the morning of your open house, or even later once the home is actually open, don’t be afraid to cancel. Far better you reschedule than you push through and someone is injured. Keep a some Open House Canceled banners you can attach to your open house signs… particularly right in front of the house. Tweet cancellation and post it on your Facebook page and other social media accounts. Let your office know so they can answer questions when people call. Winter weather can make open houses more difficult than usual. Don’t despair. In most cases you can hold them safely, and if you can’t better weather is on the way.
Anne Wayman real estate writer