1. Either cancel or put on temporary suspension:
- Newspapers and Magazines
- Cable, DirecTV and the like – or reduce to basic and save $$
- Call forward house number to your cell phone so you actually answer calls
- Forward your mail or if you only get junk, have someone pick up or toss for you
- If you’re gone more than 6 months, you can re-do your mail forwarding as if new.
- Your personal trainer, your house cleaner, regular scheduled classes and activities
- Your regular manicure or pet grooming appointment
2. Storms happen any time and summer storms can be vicious, plus homes can be burglarized anytime, anywhere. No security system is foolproof:
- Take photos or video of each room including ceilings and closets. Move your clothes away from walls to take a picture of the wall behind the clothes on outside walls.
- Take pictures of your insurance documents on phone or tablet so you have copies.
- Make sure your pictures include the contents of your home and garage.
3. Leave your keys or entry code with someone you trust in case problems arise that need immediate action! (Neighbor, family, house-sitter or professional service company, …)
4. Choosing a Professional Company that monitors and services your home is always a good option but go over the signed document that defines and spells out their responsibilities and liabilities. If you’re not sure what should be on it, ask a knowledgeable friend or neighbor (longtime snowbird, RE attorney, P&C Insurance agent, Realtor, …).
5. At least once every 2 weeks and once a week during summer months, your home should be checked for basic issues.
- Air Conditioning Checked to make sure working – But raise temp a few degrees!
- Every toilet flushed (you should flush every toilet weekly even when you’re here) and many advise putting saran wrap across the toilet bowl even if you do not shut off the water. If you do this, tell the “flusher” to lift the saran wrap when they flush and restore it after. Takes only a second.
- Faucets run for a minute (make sure they’re shut off after) and drains left open.
- Leaks checked for in bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room and around hot water heater.
- Easy way to check for leaks – leave a single sheet of newspaper under the pipe right on top of whatever’s there. Pull out the newspaper and if will usually show if it had gotten wet … even if it dried up, so someone knows to check further.
6. After a storm, have the house checked for leaks and water intrusion at key areas – ceilings, doors and windows
7. Once a month minimally: Run all appliances on a short cycle (rinse and hold) especially dishwasher and washing machine. Leave your washer open and your dishwasher door open.
8. If you prefer to keep your refrigerator off, make sure to clean the interior with a solution of 1 tbsp. of baking soda in 1 quart of water, dry thoroughly and leave doors open. Turn off the circuit breaker to the refrigerator. Remove all food from the freezer & refrigerator, and leave the door(s) propped open.
9. If you keep your refrigerator on, shut off the ice maker. No need for it on.
10. FPL (Florida Power and Light) has a dashboard you can check online to see if there’s any out-of-the-ordinary electric usage in the house. Good to check every few days.
11. Depending on how long the house will be vacant, you may want to consider shutting off some breakers and shutting off the water to house (or to washer, dishwasher, sinks & toilet).
12. Change your A/C filter. If it is washable, then wash it. A dirt accumulation plus summer heat and humidity can lead to mold and mildew growth, which can spread through the house.
13. Leave your closet doors open and your larger cabinet doors as well. Put a sheet or towel across the top of your hangers to keep dust off your clothes. Ventilation is a good thing.
14. Disconnect all plugs on non-essential items including the printers, scanners, your computer, unnecessary lamps, toaster, blender, etc. Turn off your pool heater. Just because something is not turned on or in use, doesn’t mean it’s not drawing power. Reduce the electric load on your house.
15. ANTS! They are annoying unpleasant visitors even when you’re there. When you’re away, they can party big time! AT Publix or Home Depot, pick up a large amount of ant baits or Ant Gel tubes. Leave one on each window sill around the house, one on the pantry floor against the outside wall and one at each entrance to your home including the laundry room door. Sounds like overkill and maybe it is, but it helps. My favorite is the red tube of RAID Ant Gel but it only works for a month (so if your house-watcher is nice, they might be willing to re-apply every month or as needed.): squeeze a small glob of Ant Gel at each inner corner of the window sill and half way down the frame on each side – it’s clear and a little dab is all you need. Ants hopefully take it back to their nest and the nest dies. Read the labels of this stuff if you have pets or children around. Oh, don’t forget the block windows. Having ants does not mean you have poor construction, Seymour will confirm even our $4 Million plus listings have had ants. Shhh, don’t tell anyone ….
16. Prepare a list of Contact Information of everyone who has access to your home with keys or codes. Contact info means: name, phone, address, email, text number, office number, their code to get into your house and whether they have gate access or not. If you’re hiding your key around the outside of your house, don’t. If you must hide a key, hide a key outside of a friend’s home and let them do the same. That way if someone finds it, it won’t work on the house it’s hidden at.
17. Review your list of persons with access through the community security gate. Take off those persons and companies that no longer need access. They and their workers don’t need access to the community when they know your house is empty. We could share stories with you of vacant homes used for romantic rendezvous, places for teens from neighboring communities to hang out and order pay per view, pool parties and unauthorized use of pools by workmen, an unauthorized storage place, a garage as a workshop for a project and so on. Remember that your service people’s families, co-workers and others have access to their keys and paperwork showing your codes. Many know how to override codes and cameras. They also know when there’s a blackout and these electronic security devices might not be working. No judgment here: it was my house in the Hamptons where a romantic rendezvous happened at least once by a trusted workman and where a workman’s brother brought his family swimming when we weren’t there. It was a friend’s summer home where teens came to watch pay per view movies and drink.
18. List all vendors, workmen and companies that service your home. Include: HOA, alarm & security companies (code & password), air conditioning, cleaning service, electrician, plumber, pool person, landscaper, pest control and irrigation. Include: your handyman, window cleaner, and pressure washer. Gather copies of contracts you have with these companies. Scan and email to yourself or take a picture of this list with your phone. Leave the hard copy in a clear plastic baggie in an obvious place in your house for whomever might have to deal with whatever issue might arise.
19. Change the batteries to smoke & carbon monoxide detectors as well as alarms before you leave. Check them when you return.
20. Make sure every window and door is locked. Close drapes and shades. You don’t need people peeking in to see if you’re home. If you have automatic timed lights on and off in different areas of your house, that’s good.
21. Make arrangements to have someone come and put up your hurricane shutters if you don’t have hurricane windows OR if you have one or two glass block windows. Remember to have them put on the storm lock for the garage. When you bought the house, we suggested taping it on the inside of the garage door. If you didn’t do it then, do it before you leave, adding the location of the bar because when the hurricane is coming, everyone is frantically looking for directions & parts.
22. Depending on what community you live in, some police departments, community Security Companies and HOAs want you to notify them when your home is vacant for any length of time. Some will check your house occasionally if you report to them that you will be absent from the home.
23. Document all your homes’ settings, including air conditioning and humidistat, light timers, sprinklers, etc. If your home loses power for extended periods, timers need to be reset. Don’t forget to adjust automatic light timers with changing sunrise & sunset times, if it’s done by time instead of sensor.
24. Finally, the camera & security systems that allow you to view your home online are priceless!
25. Sign up for the Post Office Informed Delivery, which will show you all the mail you are supposed to get that day, including USPS delivered packages. Go to: https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/start.action
This list of suggestions is by no means complete or perfect. It’s a constant work-in-process to help our clients who we’ve grown to know and care about settle into part-time home ownership in the area. It’s only suggestions that others have shared or we’ve found ourselves and is not intended as anything but that. They may work or may not and you may agree or may not. Please don’t get annoyed at me for sharing things you think are simple or you think are ridiculous. This is meant to help! Kathy Fineman, SRES, Seniors Real Estate Specialist. Call Kathy Fineman at 561-362-2646 or email KathyFineman@gmail.com if you have suggestions for this list or if you wish to buy or sell a home in South Florida.
contributed by Kathy Fineman
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