Whether you’re a snowbird heading south for the winter months or just taking an extended vacation to a warmer climate, protect your home while you’re away. Follow these tips to increase the odds that your home will stay safe and sound until your return.
Discourage Thieves by Making the Home Look Occupied
∙ A mailbox overflowing with mail signals you’re out of town. It’s easier than ever to temporarily stop mail. Just go to the United States Postal Services’ website and log the dates to halt mail. If you’re not expecting bundles of mail, you can even arrange for all of it to be delivered upon your return.
∙ Ask a neighbor, friend, or relative to collect flyers or community newspapers that get left in the driveway, front porch, door, or hanging on the mailbox.
∙ Arrange for someone to shovel snow after a snowfall. A perfect blanket of snow in the driveway might catch the attention of thieves. If you don’t have any takers, at least have someone put tire tracks in the driveway to make it look as if someone has been coming and going.
∙ Keep lights on timers and set them to go on and off at various points of the day and evening. This mimics regular light usage when the house is actually occupied.
∙ Ensure your alarm system is in working order and activated when you leave.
∙ Store valuables in a safe deposit box or in another off-site location while you’re gone. If there is a break-in, at least you’ll have saved sentimental and expensive items.
∙ Don’t post vacation photos on social media while away. Friends of friends of friends might stumble upon the information and target your home for a break-in.
∙ If you still have a landline phone, clear out messages regularly so that a “message box full” indication does not tip off strangers that you’re not around.
Take Steps to Avoid Water Damage
∙ Shut off washing machine and dishwasher water supplies where possible to avoid any leaks or broken hoses. Coming home to a flooded house is a terrible experience.
∙ If you’re opposed to draining your water pipes, keep the furnace running to keep the home warm, which helps pipes from freezing in frigid temperatures. You may want to keep cabinets under sinks open as well to help warmer air circulate to water pipes.
∙ Consider installing a home water flow monitoring system with sensors on your main water supply that will alert your smart phone. If water usage exceeds the normal needs of your appliances, the shutoff valve will automatically stop the flow of water into your house.
∙ Keep the thermostat at a temperature reasonably warm to ensure pipes do not freeze. Fifty-five degrees or above is recommended.
∙ Turn off the heat source and water supply to hot water heaters (if separate from your boiler).
Perform Routine Maintenance Before You Leave
∙ Service your furnace before leaving town to ensure proper heating while the home is unattended.
∙ Clean out gutters to prevent ice dams.
∙ Unplug all unnecessary appliances.
∙ Clean out the refrigerator and freezer and wipe down surfaces. Defrost the freezer if you’ll be away for an extended period.
∙ Check weather-stripping and insulation around doors and windows to prevent pests from getting inside, as well as moisture, snow, or rain.
Have a Plan for Emergencies While You’re Away
∙ Install smoke detectors that are tied to a monitoring system that alerts the fire department if set off.
∙ You may choose to alert your local police department if the home will be vacant for an extended period. Give them a way to contact you.
∙ Ask a trusted friend or relative to check in on the home once a week and give them access to go inside. Make sure they have more than one way of reaching you.
Real Estate Term of the Week
Home Water Flow Monitoring System: A water flow monitoring system is attached to a home’s water main and protects the entire house. The system works by measuring water flow into your house. If it detects continuous water flow beyond the normal stopping and starting of your everyday appliances, it stops the flow of water into your house automatically.