Many of our clients enjoy glorious days seaside or at the lake throughout the summer. Owning a second home, whether on the water or in the mountains can provide a place for rest, relaxation and family time – but what should you do to protect your investment during the off-season?
First, your vacation home is an asset that needs protection, just like all your other valuable assets. Understanding the types of problems which might arise in your absence is the best way to avoid those issues before they happen. According to The Hartford, the most frequent issues arise due to bugs, rodents, mold, fire, frozen pipes, leaks, theft and vandalism and issues with your condo association, swimming pool care or lawn and landscape maintenance.
Having a solid homeowner policy in place for your vacation home is critical. In addition, you will want to consider the nuances of weather, upkeep requirements and available services in the area of your home. Depending on its location, that second home may have very different maintenance needs than your primary residence. Consider items like:
Water & Electricity
If you are closing your home for the winter, and do not expect to be there until warmer weather you can turn off both water and electricity. In New England we have frigid temperature during the winter months and blowing water out of the pipes before final closing is important. Broken pipes could result otherwise. If you do plan to visit the home over the winter, you will want to turn heat down, but not off. Keeping the home to a temperature controlled enough to avoid frozen pipes is the goal.
Unwanted rodents, bugs and moths can wreak havoc on your home – so be sure to take steps to prevent any damage from these types of pests. Inspect the perimeter of your home, as well as doors, windows and loose siding, ensuring that any gaps, holes or cracks are properly repaired before you leave for the season. In addition, we recommend that you cover mattresses with plastic, store bedding in sealed plastic bags (garment bags work nicely for large comforters, quilts and pillows,) clear off countertops and empty cupboards and refrigerator to eliminate the attraction to animals hunting for food and hang a few flytraps throughout the home to catch any flying bugs as temperature change and draw them indoors.
Even after you prepare your home to endure the long cold winter season, you must still consider other potential types of weather related hazards. Depending on the location of your home you may also need to consider the following: Flooding – be sure you have proper seals on doorways, basement windows and bulk heads, and lift all items off the floor using blocks or pallets just in case; Wind – Strong winds are a reality here in New England, and they can be very damaging, so remove any dead trees, trim branches and button down any outdoor equipment or furniture which could potentially become airborne; Ice & Snow – In large amounts this can also be very damaging to your home. Take steps to alleviate ice dams and prepare for extra weight on the roof and consider installing shutters to protect your windows from damage.
Depending on your community, you may still need to plan for specific types of property maintenance in your absence. Items to consider when speaking to a local property maintenance or landscape business may include: Leaf clean-up, lawn mowing, snow removal and tree/branch clean-up after storms. In addition, it is wise to also consider steps to keep your home looking “lived-in” (such as installing timers for lights and discontinuing newspaper and mail delivery), and if you are leaving a vehicle behind, make sure it is covered securely and stored out of the way of possible snow plows and emergency vehicles.
An unoccupied home is a burglar’s dream! More than 70% of all home break-ins happen while the occupants are away. While it is true this can happen even if you are out for a few hours, an unmaintained lawn, unlit driveways and uncollected mail can be tell-tale signs of an unused home. Thieves look for these kinds of clues when targeting households for burglarizing.
Lastly, make a final walk through both inside and out to ensure all items have been taken care of. It can be easy to overlook the storing of outdoor furniture and cushions, grills, hoses, and other accessories. Also, be sure to store garbage cans away from the house, lock sheds, outdoor cabinets, and garage doors, as well as all house windows. Lastly, set the alarm, and make sure all doors are locked and secure. Here are a few additional tips from This Old House.
Moving from your summer home back to your primary residence (and then back again) is much easier when you have the peace of mind knowing you have made all the appropriate preparations. If something does happen in your absence, your insurance agent can assist you in the process to remediate. Be sure to keep an updated policy in a convenient spot for emergency access.