7 Things to Do Before Vacation (to Protect Your Home)

July 24, 2017

things to do before vacationYour bags are packed. Your “out of office” work email is set. You’ve even completed our road trip checklist, so you know your car is ready for the long haul. What are some other important things to do before vacation?

Protect your home! Whether you live in a standalone house, a condo, or an apartment, your home needs some special attention while you’re away. Follow these tips to ensure everything is exactly how you left it, when you roll back into town.

1. Invest in a Security System and Motion Sensor Lights

It’s a sad fact of modern life: break-ins happen often—every 18 seconds, in fact, according to some estimates. So yes, it makes sense to research home security systems before your next vacation (or any time, really). Here’s how:

  • Rule Number One: Don’t get overwhelmed by all the choices. There are loads of options available today—from DIY deterrent alarms/cameras, to professionally-installed systems that are monitored by offsite teams. Motion detectors, body heat sensors, panic buttons… Your system can be a complex as you want.
  • Rule Number Two: Do your homework. Here’s a good overview on how to choose a home security system based on your family’s needs and budget.
  • Rule Number Three: Ask your insurance agent if you might qualify for any home insurance discounts based on home security upgrades.

2. Hire a Housesitter/Petsitter

Hiring a housesitter doesn’t have to be a big expense. You probably know someone—a reliable college student or a retired relative—who would be thrilled to enjoy the quiet of your empty house for free. Aside from watering your plants and bringing in your mail, a housesitter can take care of pets that don’t do well in boarding facilities (e.g. goldfish and cranky cats). A sitter can also open your windows daily and bring your garbage/recycling to the curb on pickup day (so you don’t come home to the smell of whatever was left in the trashcan). Finally, a sitter can alert you if something major happens—e.g. a storm creates water damage, tree damage, or a pipe bursts.

3. Assign a Neighbor for “Just in Case” Duty

Not in love with the idea of a live-in housesitter? No problem. A neighbor can assume many of the same caretaking tasks. To make sure you’re both on the same page, write an itemized list of things that need to be done, and tape it someplace visible. You should also ask your neighbor to drop by in the event of a sustained power outage or destructive storm.  Hopefully she is willing to clean out any refrigerated food that spoils before you return.  Finally, if the neighbor is coming and going frequently, leave your spare key at her house (versus underneath your welcome mat). That hiding spot isn’t fooling anyone anymore.

4. Maintain Your Property

If you let the grass grow tall and brown, you’re pretty much announcing that you’ve gone away. Hire a landscaper to swing by and mow your lawn/tame your weeds at least once per week. Here’s a list of Massachusetts’ top landscape professionals; you can search by zip code.

If you have a pool, you should probably schedule a maintenance visit, too. This will ensure your water levels don’t get too out of whack, filter pressure is okay, and debris is manageable when you get home. If you’re going to be away for more than a week, you may want to purchase a timer for your filtration system, so you don’t need to keep it running 24 hours per day. Most important, be clear with neighbors and other swim guests that your pool is officially closed until you return; lock your gates.

Meanwhile, don’t forget about your house lights! If you decide not to schedule a housesitter, make a small investment in timers or smart bulbs that will send the message: yes, somebody is home—even if no one really is.

5. Keep the Critters Out

Believe it or not, a lot of home invasions are perpetrated by animals: squirrels, raccoons, bats, etc. If you haven’t done so recently, take a walk around your property to look for holes, openings, and tears in your screens or vents. Install a chimney cap. Also remember to seal your doggie door from the inside before leaving for vacation. If you’re asking a neighbor to roll your trash out during the week, keep it tightly capped, inside a shed or a garage.

6. Take a Vacation from Social Media

According to a recent survey, 78 percent of burglars use social media to look for empty houses. So you may want to rethink those beach photos and foreign city hashtags you’re planning to share on Facebook and Instagram—at least until you get home. Note: it’s also a good idea to turn off any location alerts in your social media settings.

7. Insure Your Home Properly

We can’t stress this enough: make sure you have adequate home, condo, or renter’s insurance before going away. Fires, floods, break-ins, and other costly loss events can happen at any time. Knowing you’re covered isn’t just a smart financial move; it’s also the key to a truly stress-free getaway.