Whether you are selling your home soon or staying put, neglecting home maintenance can cause unexpected repair bills at the worst possible time. There’s nothing worse than a furnace going out the night before Christmas. Or if you forget to clean the gutters, ice can build up and damage your roof. Many of our local contractors are very busy this time of year, so it is important to allow time for scheduling. Here are some additional reminders:

Call a plumber or a furnace repair company to clean and inspect your boiler or furnace. If you have a gas fireplace, make sure the heating contractor can check inspect that as well. If you have a wood burning fireplace stock up on wood and make sure your chimney is clean. They should also check your dryer vent for lint build up, to avoid a fire.

Remove window air-conditioners, and lock your windows to ensure they are closed tight. Some people with older windows may need to apply window film to avoid drafts or replace screens with storm windows.

Drain the outside water faucets and shut them off. On very cold nights, open cabinets beneath the sink to let warm air in and, if you are especially worried about freezing pipes, let a slow drip of water run through them.

Cleaning the gutters and downspouts is critical. Your gutters are supposed to direct water away from your roof and siding. Clogged gutters can create ice dams which can lead to roof leaks, in addition to allowing water to pool near the house in the spring which can lead to a wet basement.

If you have a snow blower, check it before we have a big snow fall. Find your shovels, stock up on ice melt and find the snow rake for your roof.

Walk around your yard to make sure everything has been put away and look for any remaining piles of leaves that could mold the grass. Look for any cracks in the siding, peeling paint or missing shingles.

Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. There should be a smoke detector in every bedroom and a carbon monoxide detector within 10’ of each bedroom, in addition to other areas. Check the manufacturing date, too, and replace any detectors that are more than 10 years old. The batteries should be changed every year.

Stay warm and safe this winter and contact an experienced real estate professional with any questions about your home.

Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to ckempenich@cbburnet.com. All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.