5 Steps to Prepare for a Long-Term Home Vacancy
Whether you're going on an extended vacation or you're shuttering your winter getaway for your primary residence, you should know the basics of properly preparing for a long-term home vacancy. These five steps will not only keep your home secure, but they'll also save you money in the off-season.
1. Turn off vs. Keep on
Turn off your water supply to avoid water damage and unplug everything - even if you use surge protectors, to avoid damage during a power surge and any electric charges. Anything left plugged in may draw on electricity, even while turned off, according to the New York Times.
Leaving a home in an area like the southwest? Experts recommend keeping your air conditioner on and cleaning or replacing the filter. This is especially true if you have valuables like art that can easily become damaged when exposed to extreme temperatures. For those vacating homes in humid areas like the southeast, keep your humidistat around 35% to prevent mold and mildew.
2. Secure Your Property
Beyond locking windows and doors, motion-activated lights are a great way to deter anyone from getting too close to your home. You can also invest in a DIY home security system that allows you to keep tabs on your space via your smartphone. Some homeowners choose to notify the local police or a trusted neighbor, too.
You'll also want to protect your space from rodents. If you have a fireplace, close it so that animals can't get in, and remove all trash - indoors and out - before departing for the season.
3. Weather Proof
Bring in any outdoor furniture so that it doesn't get damaged, or damage your house. If your home is in an area prone to tropical storms or hurricanes, determine if you need someone to put hurricane shutters on your home.
Consider hiring someone to water your plants (along with the added logistics if your water is turned off), mow your lawn, maintain your pool, or any other maintenance you need to not only make your home look lived in, but to also reduce the amount of work you have to do when you return. You can easily pay caretakers from wherever you are with apps like Zelle.
4. Clean Indoors and Outdoors
Examine the indoor and exterior of your property to look for any damages that need repairing before you leave. Routine maintenance will cost you a lot less than a major expense. For example, removing a dead tree may cost between $180 to $1,500, according to Angie's List. While homeowners' insurance would typically cover the cost, if the tree is found rotting, you may be on the hook for the damage. However, that's a low price to pay compared to the cost of a new roof, which averages to about $12,000.
Remove everything from your fridge and seal any nonperishable foods like flour and salt. Other tasks you may consider include replacing smoke detector batteries, putting valuables out of sight, cleaning gutters, and draining the tank and bowl of your toilet so the stagnant water doesn't collect and leave rings.
5. Put it on Hold
Go to your local USPS branch or go online to put mail on hold or forward it to your other residence. You may want to have a neighbor stop by occasionally to pick up any fliers or other notices that get put into your box or at your doorstep.
Some TV and internet service providers will allow you to pause service, too. If you don't want to cancel them all together and go through the hassle of restarting service the following year, you can benefit from a significantly reduced bill.
Whether you're only gone for a week or a few months, the last thing you want is to come back to damaged property or bills you didn't expect. Taking the time to properly care and prep your home for your home vacancy is a foolproof way to stay worry-free until you're ready to return.