September 20, 2019
Protecting your home from vandals and damage requires preparation when you vacation during the fall and winter months
Fall is in the air, which means weekend getaways to pick apples, trips to the mountain to view the fall foliage, and planning and preparations for winter vacations.
For homeowners planning trips, it’s important also to have a plan to protect your home while away.
Nobody wants to come home to find the basement flooded or the house ransacked and burglarized. Nor do they want to learn the neighbor slipped on an unshoveled walkway or find their appliances are fried from a lightning storm.
The good news: there’s a host of ways to reduce the risk as you vacation. None of them are completely foolproof, but if you are looking to extend those feelings of rest and relaxation upon your return, follow these tips.
Keep your vacation plans under wraps
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting unit, there were 1.4 million burglaries in 2017, costing victims $3.4 billion in property losses. The average dollar loss amounted to $2,416 per burglary with robberies of residential properties accounting for 67.2% of all the offenses.
Some of those break-ins occurred when the homeowner was on vacation. One of the reasons: social media. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we have become a nation of sharers. We share everything from our children’s first day of school to our latest meal. That isn’t lost on the criminals who use social media to try to steal people’s identity and yes, break into homes. Posting when you’re about to take off for vacation and when you’ll return is an open invitation to robbers. They know the home will be vacant for a period of time, giving them cover to break in and steal your belongings.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share your vacation with your social media followers - just wait until you return. The pictures will still be impactful, and you won’t have to worry about clueing in any nefarious individuals.
While you don’t want your social media friends to know you are away, you do want the local police force to be informed. It may not amount to much but they could drive by your home periodically to ensure nothing is amiss. It's also important to postpone newspaper deliveries, have a neighbor collect your mail and install lights with timers. If lights go on when it's dark and shut off during the day, it will appear as if someone is occupying the home. If your vacation means you’ll be away for an extended period of time, hire someone to mow the lawn or shovel the walkway.
It's also a good idea to invest in a safe to store any valuables or place them in a safe deposit box with your local bank. If your home is broken into, you don’t want any precious items lying out in plain sight.
Weatherproof your home prior to leaving
Inclement weather won’t wait until you arrive home from your vacation. It’s up to you to ensure the house is prepared to withstand any weather thrown its way.
If you’re traveling during the winter months, one of the biggest risks to your home will come from pipes that freeze and burst. That could cause flooding that, if left unchecked, may result in mold, which is unhealthy and costly to clean up. To prevent that, keep your heat at a minimum of 55 degrees and shut off your water supply. You can also install a water-flow sensor on your main water line which will alert you to any leaks. Make sure to cover pipes in the attic, basement and crawl spaces with insulation. That will protect them from freezing when the temperature dips.
If you’re traveling during the hurricane season, make sure to remove or secure any items around the home such as lawn furniture that could be used as projectiles in a storm. Trees should be trimmed back from the home and any appliances that could be harmed in a lightning storm should be unplugged.
Keep yourself in the know
Thanks to advances in technology, there are several ways to monitor your home remotely in real-time. These systems send alerts when someone is at the front door or if a window breaks. Some can even alert the police or fire department if an event occurs.
Not the tech type? Leave your contact information with a neighbor so he or she can alert you if anything goes wrong. That trusted neighbor can also keep an eye on your home, which should go a long way in giving you peace of mind. It may seem obvious but don’t leave any windows or doors unlocked. Make sure food that could go bad is tossed out, that you’ve discarded the kitchen trash and that all your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are operational.
Vacation is a time to kick back and relax, leaving life’s worries behind. But nothing can upend that faster than returning home to a disaster. Your home is your safe haven. Keep it that way while you travel by following these guidelines.