Protect Your Home While You're on Vacation
Memorial Day week-end is the start of the Summer travel and vacation season for most families. Unfortunately, it isn't only your neighbor who may have a suspicion you're out of town. A little planning will ensure that your home is safe while you're away. Here are some tips to prep your home for your vacation. We've included some extra tips to keep in mind if your home will be for sale while you travel.
Is Your Security System Up To Date?
If your security system relies on telephone lines, it may be time for an upgrade. The latest security systems are wireless and not as vulnerable to simply cutting wires. Today's systems include video cameras, motion detectors and sensors that can detect breaking glass.
Advertise your security system. Putting those signs from the security company around your home can deter thieves who are looking for an easy target.
You can find more suggestions for securing your home in Anita Clarks' "Securing Your New Home". Her article was written for new home owners. The tips she gives are useful for any home.
Think Before You Share Vacation Plans
Social media is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends. We love to share photos of the kids at the amusement park or the sunset at the beach. The problem with sharing your vacation on social media is your friends aren't the only ones who can see it. Allstate's "Mayhem Sale" commercial pointed this out with a bit of humor.
To avoid falling victim, it's best to keep your vacation plans to yourself until you return. Take the photos and share them when you get home. Your friends will still enjoy seeing them even after you're back home.
Want to meet up with friends who live in the town you're visiting? Send your friends a private message. Let them know when you'll be in town or ask them to call you. Private communications will help you avoid becoming a victim.
Know Who To Trust
One of our clients was celebrating their daughter's engagement. A few bits of info have been changed to protect identities but this is based on a true story -
The wedding was planned on an island. During the planning stages, the family was having some renovations on their home. Workers were coming and going daily as Mom made phone calls to schedule airline flights, hotel reservations, etc.
The family flew off to the wedding. Had a great time until they came home to find they'd been robbed. It was an inside job. Thieves knew the home. Knew the family would be out of town. They knew how to get past the guard gate. They were able to disarm the security system but didn't stop all the video cameras.
One video clip identified the culprit as he sauntered down the hallway. It was the man who put in their new master bathroom floors. He had overheard the wedding plans while working in the home. The guy was caught but tens of thousands of jewelry and other items haven't been recovered.
Be careful about letting people know when you'll be out of town. Only friends you completely trust should know when you're away.
Make Your Home Look Like You're Home
Leaving lights on is a good idea. Today's luxury homes often feature high tech systems that allow owners to turn lights off and on from their phones.
If your home isn't equipped with the smart home technology, put timers on the most important lights. If there's a room where you spend time in the evening, leave the room's lights on. Set the timers so that they're turned off about the same time you turn them off. Have your bedroom lights set to turn on in the evening and turn off about the time you go to bed.
If someone is watching your home, seeing that lights are staying on all night may provide a tip that you're not home.
Things to Cancel
Number one thing to cancel is the newspaper. Nothing says "we're out of town" better than a few days worth of newspapers in the driveway. Cancel any deliveries that might be left by the door when you're away. This includes the water delivery service.
In general, any service that might tip observers off that you're out of town should be re-scheduled. Our pest control company tends to leave a receipt on the front door when they've stopped by. If they're due at the house while we're traveling, we reschedule them for when we will return. Better than having the receipt on the door for days.
Your mail is another item to put on hold. A mailbox that overflows is a dead giveaway that you're out of town. It also leaves you at risk of ID theft if the mail includes anything with bank account or credit card numbers.
Do you have maids who come to your home several times a week? Having them continue that schedule while you're away will make it appear that you're keeping a normal schedule.
They won't have as much routine cleaning to do while you're out of town. Have them do that deep cleaning you've been wanting. If your home is equipped with video, you can check in to see how they're progressing while you're away.
Adjust the thermostats to conserve energy. Our home inspectors suggest leaving the AC at 82-85 degrees even in vacant homes.
A few days of 100+ temperatures with the AC turned off can be harmful to your home. We were once called to a client's vacant home that was "leaking". The client hadn't turned on the AC during a stretch of 110 degree days. After four days, the plastic water pipe connecting the ice maker on the fridge cracked. Yes, the house was leaking. First floor had to have new carpet and drywall.
Cold spells in the Winter can be equally dangerous. Even while you're away, leave the thermostat at 65 degrees.
The last thing you need to hear while you're enjoying a vacation is that your house is leaking:(
Unplug Electronics and Appliances
Thieves aren't the only concern when you travel. You can conserve energy and reduce fire hazards by unplugging computers and items like blow dryers.
Trust a Friend or Neighbor
You can't trust everyone but it's important to have at least one friend or neighbor who can keep an eye on things. They're the ones who can drive by to make sure no packages have been left by the door. It's a good idea that they have a key in case someone does need to get in the home.
Taking a Vacation While Your Home is Listed For Sale
Allowing strangers to view your home while you still live in it can be annoying. If you have the chance to take a vacation while your home is on the market, you should go for it. You can leave your home nice and tidy. You won't be rushing to put dishes in the dishwasher or pick up dirty clothes off the floor when someone is coming to view your home.
Make sure your Realtor knows you will be going on vacation. Don't just leave them a voicemail as you're heading out of town. Tell them as far in advance as possible so you can plan how your home will be shown when you're away.
It's a good idea to leave your security system armed when you go on vacation. Program a unique alarm code that is only shared with your Realtor.
Talk with your Realtor and decide how your home should be showin while you're away. Should it be on lockbox? If you are both comfortable with having other agents show the home on their own, make sure the lockbox is electronic. "Mechanical" or "combination" lockboxes are not secure. It is very easy to smash the combo lockbox open, steal the key and get into the home. It's also easy for "buyers" to look over their agent's shoulder and see the combo as they open the lockbox. Electronic lockboxes will track which agent opened the box. If there's a problem, you will know who showed your home.
Your agent will need to share the alarm code you've established with other agents if they will be showing your home. If you have a security system that allows you to monitor the system, find out when an appointment has been set for your home to be shown. After your home is shown, verify that the alarm was turned back on. Again, this is easy to do if you have one of the newer alarm systems.
It's a good idea to have a trusted neighbor or friend check on your home after it's been shown. Even if the alarm has been properly armed, someone may have left a door unlocked or turned the timers off by accident.
One final thing to remember - If you go on vacation while your home is on the market - don't forget to check email, voicemail and text messages. Vacations are wonderful but you don't want to miss a qualified buyer because you didn't respond to your Realtor's messages.