family packing the car for a trip

Precautions and preparations to take for an extended absence

Tired of winter coats and shoveling snow, looking for a reprieve from the summer humidity and heat or just taking advantage of the work-from-home lifestyle so many have adopted these days? If any of these options resonate with you, you’re probably leaving your home for more than just a week’s vacation.

Whether you’re a retired snowbird, a sunbird or a millennial who caught the travel bug, leaving your home for extended periods of time requires thoughtful planning and care to ensure that your most valued asset is protected and waiting to welcome you home.

While a homeowners insurance policy is an important part of safeguarding your home, taking steps to make your home appear occupied, protect from theft and avoid damage is just as important. Additionally, some insurance companies have requirements about the length of time a house can be unoccupied or what precautions need to be take, in order to ensure there is coverage. They may require an endorsement to be added. Be sure to check with an insurance professional before you plan your great winter escape.

Before the bags are packed and it’s time to hit the road, there are some important steps you should take.


Make your home appear occupied

Vacant homes are a prime target for thieves. If you can leave your home looking like someone is still there, your property will be better protected. Newspapers and mail that pile up are a key indicator that no one is home. Have your mail and newspaper services stopped or request a neighbor collect these items for you. If a neighbor is periodically bringing in mail, they’ll be able to keep an eye on other aspects of your property that could be a problem and overlooked when you’re away.

Before you go, set your blinds and curtains in the position that’s most common when you’re home. A house sitter or neighbor can also periodically move your window coverings, so it looks like someone’s been there.

Hiring someone to maintain your exterior is not only important because you won’t be around to do it, but it also removes any red flags that you might be away. Whether it’s having a teen shovel your driveway when it snows or cut your grass and pull your weeds, or a professional company to keep things looking perfectly manicured while you’re away, getting it taken care of can’t be overlooked before you depart.


Protect from theft

Don’t overlook safeguarding your valuables while your away. Keeping your expensive possessions out of sight is a good idea whether you’ll be gone for a weekend or several weeks – that way you won’t tempt someone who may be on to the fact that you’re traveling.

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to have a hidden key under the doormat or in a rock garden. While these might be lifesavers if you lock yourself out, they are also the first places thieves look for easy access into your home. Be sure to take these items in and instead leave your key with a trusted neighbor or friend.

Keeping your property well-lit at night is another way to deter someone from accessing your property while you’re away. You might consider putting your exterior lights on timers, so they come on at dusk and turn off at the first signs of daylight. Another solution is a motion detector light. Not only are these great for lighting the way, but if they surprise an unsuspecting visitor, they might also deter mischievous activity.

Even with all these safeguards in place, the best protection might be a security system. There are plenty of systems you can install and monitor yourself on your smartphone. If that’s not something you want to take on, a local security company can provide you with a plan for your property.


Avoid damage

With all these protections in place, there are still a few more things to think about. You may not consider it, but when you’re home every day you are able to monitor situations and intervene before damage can occur. If you’re able to turn the water main off to your home you can prevent costly damage that could result from a leak. In lieu of shutting the water off at the main, you may install a device like LeakBot. This smart water leak detector discovers hidden leaks before they become a problem.

Another precaution that’s important to take is to unplug your electrical appliances. Lightning storms can cause surges to your appliances that can be difficult to discover and costly to mitigate. Unplugging expensive devices before you depart can save you money and the headache of resolving issues when you return.

It may seem like there are a lot of things to check and take care of before you can take off and enjoy some time away. Don’t skip these extra steps. With some careful consideration of how you leave your home, you can enjoy your destination and return home rested without any problems to take care of.