Ever worry about your house while your away? Did I turn everything off? What if…? Sometimes our imagination just runs amuck.
Before we hit the road, what we need is a plan. Here are some of the best things we have seen, pick and choose what suits you best, then, hit the road jack and don’t you look back!!!
- Get a home monitoring system. Want to shop around and compare, maybe be a little hands on? Consider these Top Ten apps… Just want someone to take care of it for you? Check out these systems recommended for the Winchester area. There are so many options these days offered by security companies, cell and internet providers; there are even diy options with cameras and upcycling old tech like tablets and cell phones to make your own.. Here’s a good place to start… If you have an alarm company in place; let them know you are leaving and for how long. If not, it is still a good idea to let your neighbors know in case they notice any unusual activity in your absence. (Please also let neighbors know if you have arranged for others, including handymen to check in on or work at your home while you are away) Other than having a trusted friend or family member stay at your home while you are away; it’s hard to imagine any other single thing you could put in place to assure you that all is well while you are away. By the way, still a good idea to leave a key and/or access code/s with a trusted friend – if they stop by frequently they can remove evidence of absentee-ism such as unexpected deliveries, flyers, taking the trash cans to and from the curb on your regularly scheduled day… if your trusted friend is a gardener, maybe they’ll even pull a few weeds and water the gardens!
- To keep potential thieves guessing AND to reduce the time spent catching up on routine chores when you return, schedule regular maintenance to occur in your absence… lawn care and grooming, pool maintenance etc. Keeping things up on your regular schedule will help to keep up the appearance that all is normal.
- Altho “sharing” has become second nature – PLEASE REFRAIN from sharing about your trip in any public manner until you are safely back. Before you leave, do a quick security check and verify that there is no reference to your home’s address or your family’s phone numbers — we often include such details on Invites, evites and events — a simple google search may reveal more about you than you think – clean it up before you leave!
- Secure your valuables. The most common place to find valuables in a home? The bedroom. If you have valuables, don’t keep them in the bedroom. Consider tucking valuables away where thieves would not look; kitchen pantry, laundry-room, linen closet in unrecognizable containers… after being robbed more than once, my depression era Godmother used to hide cash (stapled in increments of $100, in a sandwich bag) along with her diamonds buried in her flour canister and in the freezer. She also kept the baggies of $100’s in between her baking sheets in case she or my uncle needed cash in a hurry. (As you may already have guessed – she really wasn’t much of a baker ;-D) While they were still broken into, she was never robbed of her valuables again. Alternatively, while you are away a safe deposit box is not a bad option – in the worst case scenario of a natural disaster or an “act of God”, storing valuables off-site is most likely the most secure.
- DO NOT leave a “Hide-A-Key” – what self-respecting thief wouldn’t look for such easy access… under the mat or potted plant and up above the door are also bad choices… If you have a convenience key out there – give it to a your trusted friend or family member – even if it is just for emergencies… if you are a worrier, entrust that key to someone who will do a daily walk through and alert you to any concerns.
- Lights = occupancy… install motion-sensor flood lights (dusk to dawn yard lights can do the trick – interlopers do not like to work with the lights on!)- many can be programmed to turn on and off per your preference – just like the old school interior light timers. If you don’t go all in with a monitoring option, at least make certain to set up a few lights in the active living areas of your home on timers – it really helps to keep the home looking occupied.
- Promote the fact that your property is well protected — most security companies and systems will provide you with stickers to advertise the fact they are monitoring your home – you should definitely post these at all entry points… if you are going on guts with a monitoring system to back you up — no worries, you can still buy very “official – looking” stickers and put them up — anything to deter the bad guys is probably worth doing — short of the ol’ “Home Alone” booby-traps ;-D
- Garage Doors – if you have an automatic garage door opener — turn it off before you leave. Easily obtained universal remotes may make it relatively easy to hack in to your home otherwise.
- If you do not have a friend or neighbor picking up your mail – make sure to arrange to have your mail “held” at the Post Office until you return and be sure to pause your newspaper deliveries also.
For those who serve and are deployed, as well as, those who work away from home for an extended period, such as missionaries and those who volunteer for the Peace Corp and such or even you romantics following the “Eat, Love, Pray” dream journey – there are a few more things to consider and put in place before you depart.
- Power of Attorney (POA) – put in place a document which designates individuals to whom you grant the authority to act on your behalf in legal and financial matters. This provides for someone to handle personal and financial matters such as your mortgage, bank account, contracts in your absence. A POA can be created for a limited time-frame and even with limited powers or authority. While most folks choose a trusted friend, spouse or family member, many choose an attorney.
- If called to duty – become familiar with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). It provides protection to servicemembers deployed who may experience difficulty meeting legal or financial obligations. Consult your legal assistance staff to learn more about your SCRA rights.
- Schedule regular, ongoing exterior home maintenance before leaving. Landscaping, yard care, gutters and drains acan all be scheduled in advance of departure/deployment. Seasonal tasks like leaf clean up and debris removal after storms can be handled in your absence as well.
- Schedule interior maintenance as well. While you are away no doubt filters for your HVAC, perhaps humdifying and dehumidifying, hot water maintenance, and drains all function better with regular maintenance. Depending upon your situation, it may make sense to winterize the home until you return. Having a trusted professional check on the interior can save the day if unfortunate events such as broken pipes occur…
Regardless of the reason for your time away from home, or the length of your time away, do these 6 things…
- Turn off the water to your house. Even a very small leak can create a very big problem left unattended. Check your water heater – many newer models have a “Vacation” setting, older models can be set to a lower water temperature while you are away.
- Leave the a/c on. In the warm season set the thermostat to 85 degrees if you do not have a “Vacation” or “Away” setting on your unit. It is best to keep not only the temperature, but humidity levels in balance while you are away. If you can, program the thermostat or a/c unit to return to your preferred temperatures before your return so all is comfy. Or, call upon the trusted friend or family member to restre settings so you can return to a comfortable home.
- Whether your vacation is “Unplugged” or not — before you leave your house should be! That’s right – kicking it old school once again… tv’s, cable boxes, computers, monitors, routers, blue ray and DVD players, phone chargers, lamps which aren’t on timers, microwave, range, coffe maker, etc. … BONUS: with all the power vampires unplugged, you may find your electric bill more palatable.
- Clean out all perishables from the refrigerator. Coming home to spoiling food is so unpleasant! Put a quarter on top of a frozen ice cube – when you return, if that quarter has sunken into the cube, you lost power for a measurable time period while you were away. It may make sense to purge compromised foods.
- Make sure someone has your cell phone numbers as well as a number where you will be staying, just in cases!
- Do a final walk through and make sure all your doors and windows are secured.