Snowbirds, retirees and those with a second home will frequently be leaving their home for a short or extended period of time. While we can set you up with a caretaker to maintain your property or a property manager to rent the home out on a short-term or extended basis, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before you lock the door:
Get to know your neighbors
Most neighbors will be willing to take your contact information (and any local contact that you may want to pass on) to call if there are any problems with your home while you’re away. Even a daily or weekly check cannot replace having local “eyes” checking for issues 24/7. You may even let the neighbor to regularly park their car in your driveway (make sure their car isn’t dripping oil!) to give the appearance of occupancy. Additionally you can have a friend, family member, caretaker or neighbor check your home on a regular basis to help water the plants, pick up any accumulated advertising material and secure your mail. It is imperative you keep your unit clean so that it does not appear from a drive-by that the home is vacant. Make sure any contacts that need access to your home have code access to a security gate and a full set of keys for necessary locks.
Prepare your kitchen
Clean all floors, countertops, food drawers and food appliances. Make sure all food storage appliances, cupboards and pantry are cleaned out and all perishable/date sensitive food is disposed of. When you leave there shouldn’t be a crumb left to be found by a curious cockroach otherwise you’ll have a few unwanted guests partying in your kitchen when you get back.
Clean and prepare house
Sure it’s a pain to give your place a hard clean but you’ll hate it twice as much when you get back. Make sure all garbage is disposed of outside. Clean floors, countertops and glass. Straighten furniture, make bed (or strip and cover with light sheet to air) and cover select interior items with sheets if desired.
Do not turn off your thermostat in either summer or winter. In the winter set your thermostat to 50 degrees. This insures that pipes cannot freeze (a very expensive repair including the potential for flooding). In the summer you’ll want to set the thermostat for 85-90 degrees.
Prepare your plants
Make sure your irrigation unit is appropriately set (more water in summer/less in winter) and that all drip/sprayers are properly working. If possible collect old sheets and towels and use for the occasional winter freezes that can seriously damage plants. If you’ll be away in the winter you can cover select plants with a protective cover (purchase at hardware/other stores) and make sure individuals looking after you house are aware of your stock of sheets to cover important plants in case of a big freeze.
Secure water sources
Turn off faucets. Check drains to make sure they are open and ready to drain. Pour vinegar down drains to keep from creating odors. Turn off the supply valves to the toilet and washing machine. Make sure outside hose bib is turned off (do not leave hoses filled with water pressure – they’ll burst sooner or later).
Check smoke alarms
Add fresh batteries and check to make sure all are in working condition.
Unplug electrical appliances, computers and most things plugged into the wall
One hit from a power surge or lightning could ruin anything plugged into your home wiring. This includes appliances (for your fridge check this link for advice), computers and cable/networking equipment.
Modify hot water heater
Turn off or down the water heater. If the water heater is outside and exposed you can adjust the temperature down via a small panel near the base of the unit. If the water heater is enclosed or inside you can turn off the unit via the circuit panel or fuse.
Secure anything of value
This should be obvious but do not leave valuable or sentimental items in full view. Protect against theft, fire or other damage by purchasing a small safe to be secured into a closet floor, hide them or take these items with you while away.
Set up a timer to turn lights and radios on and off
Timers are cheap and easy to set up and provide an additional deterrence to burglars looking for an easy mark.
Secure sliding doors and windows by blocking the tracts or installing track locks
Don’t announce you are away on your outgoing phone messages and turn down the ringer on your phone