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Opening a Winter Home for the Season

This time of year, many estate teams are headed to ski resorts and mountain homes to set up for the season. Their goal is to ensure that owners are met with a home that feels like a private luxury resort in which to entertain their family and guests. There are certain steps an Estate Manager can facilitate to prep the home for incoming residents. Let’s discuss some of the processes and checklist items:

Systems Check

As a first step, a thorough check of the property’s utilities and systems is paramount. Estate managers should ensure that HVAC systems, water pumps and filtration, electricity, and gas supplies are fully operational. These systems may need to be scheduled for service or maintenance to avoid any potential issues or disruption. We’ll have a company come and clean the HVAC vents as well. Dust settles over the off-season that can fill the house with a burning smell when the systems are turned on. 

In regions prone to harsh winter weather, a generator is essential. Estate managers should confirm that the generator is functioning correctly. It’s also crucial to verify that it has an adequate fuel supply to ensure uninterrupted power, providing peace of mind in the event of any power outages. I recommend an on-site walkthrough with your generator vendor, both to familiarize yourself with the system and expectations, and to create a personal connection with a vital service provider.

Minor systems and appliances should be checked at this time too. Inspect all appliances, from ovens to boot dryers, to ensure they are in perfect working order. Turn everything on and press every button. This extends to replacing any lightbulbs or batteries in remote controls, smoke detectors, and other essential devices to guarantee uninterrupted use for the owners and guests. A thorough check ensures that no inconveniences disrupt the guests’ stay and that everything functions seamlessly. 

Exterior Assessment

While your facilities staff if doing systems checks, your landscape crew can be assessing the exterior. First and foremost, the team needs to assess the condition of pathways, driveways, and access points. The primary objective is to confirm that these areas are in good condition, level, and free from obstructions that may not be visible under a layer of snow.

To be well-prepared for potential snow and ice, check the inventory and condition of snow removal equipment. This includes items such as snow blowers, shovels, and de-icing materials. These tools should be well-maintained and easily accessible. 

It’s good to check outdoor electrical at this time. Ensure that all outdoor lights are in good working condition. Any burnt-out bulbs are promptly replaced to maintain safety and a welcoming atmosphere during the darker winter evenings. If one plans to have outdoor holiday lights or decor that requires power, confirm access and functionality of exterior outlets. Outdoor speakers can be checked by the same team. 

Roof and gutter inspection is another practical concern. Have the roof examined for visible damage or leaks and clear gutters of any debris that could lead to ice dams and water damage. There was over 50 feet of standing snow on roof tops in Lake Tahoe over the 2022-2023 season. Has your team done everything they can to prepare for any similar situation? If you’re not sure, ask a roofing engineer to come out and assess the condition 0f your roofing system.

As a final exterior step, landscape maintenance should be addressed. This may involve pruning trees and shrubs to prevent snow or ice damage,  or moving pots susceptible to freezing and cracking to storage. Additionally, the consideration of adding winter plants and evergreens enhances the property’s visual appeal, contributing to a pleasant and well-maintained exterior.

Interior Cleaning

Deep cleaning a luxury winter residence is a fundamental task that should refresh the entire property from floor to ceiling. Every item and surface should receive attention to bring it up to the highest standards of quality and cleanliness.

Soft textiles, including carpets, rugs, and upholstery, should be thoroughly cleaned to remove dirt, stains, and odors. Curtains and drapes should be addressed too, as they can accumulate dust and grime. They are removed, cleaned, and rehung to enhance the overall cleanliness and air quality. Often the most effective way to handle these larger textiles is to hire a professional service to remove them and clean them offsite.

Closets, shelves, cabinets, and drawers are cleaned and organized, ensuring dust and clutter are eliminated. Both large and small appliances should inspected and cleaned, from coffee makers to  washing machines. Table settings, such as china, glassware, and silverware, will need to be cleaned and polished, and any damaged items identified that are in need of repair or replacement.

Windows and surfaces are cleaned to a high standard, including walls, ceilings, doors, and floors. To repeat, every surface should receive attention during this seasonal deep clean. The objective is to create a clean, fresh, and inviting environment for owners and guests, setting the stage for a comfortable winter retreat.

This is a good time to conduct a comprehensive inventory of toiletries, linens, food and beverage, and cleaning essentials and make note of items that need to be restocked. In many cases, a quick run to the store is not an option. Be sure to plan your essential par stock to last through the season, or at least until the next order can be fulfilled. It’s good to identify local vendors who will deliver, just in case. Remember your holiday orders as well. Lights, decor, and festive linens may be in high demand at your location. If you can buy it at your primary location and ship, that is recommended. 

Setting the Stage

Beyond aesthetics and functionality, it’s essential to consider the overall ambiance of the property. Should it smell like fall or holiday? Does the family have a preferred temperature or lighting scheme? What music will create the mood they want when they arrive? Attention to these little details can make a major impact.

Also, this  home will function differently than a primary residence and may not have the same workflow or room set-up. Consider alternatives for daily operations. Some things one might consider include: Where will mail and packages be received? Where is your staff break room? What space will the Mr. / Mrs. use as her office?  Think through these issues and provide a solution before the family arrives. Set the spaces to be intuitive for that use. 

A combination of a pristine interior, meticulous landscapes, and attention to thoughtful details ensure that when the principals and their guests arrive, they are greeted with a 5-star luxury experience. 


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