Georgia is fortunate to have milder winters than much of the United States, but summer is still the most wonderful time of year for a lot of people. Kids get out of school, days are longer and weekends seem a little more special. Of course, a lot of folks take that opportunity to travel.
Whether your residents stay close to home by visiting the Cumberland National Seashore or Tybee Island, or they spend the summer globe hopping, you can help them minimize worry about their homes while they are gone. It’s also important that they continue to fulfill their responsibilities to the association while they are away. Whether your community is a high-rise condominium, master-planned community or gardenstyle property, you want to make sure that your residents prepare their homes in a way that helps protect the community.
1. Let homeowners know how to appear at home when they are gone.
Your residents don’t want to come home to a burglarized property, and you don’t want a community that appears vulnerable. Make sure that your residents are aware of behaviors that can make it obvious that no one is home, and how to counter them for the safety of the entire community. “Residents in gated communities sometimes have a false sense of security,” said Julie Magaldi, general manager of the Sovereign Condominium in Atlanta. “Even if there’s a gate, every community should consider implementing best practices to prevent crime as recommended by local law enforcement.”
Residents should consider the following:
- Stop mail and newspaper deliveries so they don’t pile up.
- Avoid social media posts that make it clear they are gone.
- Don’t pack the car in plain sight of your home, if possible. Use your garage.
- Set lights and televisions on a timer.
- Have pets cared for at home rather than boarding them. It’s less stress on them and guarantees that there is activity in your home while you are gone.
Gary Hulion is the general manager of Cresswind at Lake Lanier, an active adult community in Gainesville. It’s a close-knit gated community of single-family homes. “We don’t have a community watch per se, but the residents keep an eye on things. They let us know if they see something out of place. If I see a couple of newspapers at someone’s door on my morning drive through the property, I email the resident. If they tell me they’re away, I send a landscaper over to grab the papers,” he said. “We also use our daily “Did You Know?” communication to remind residents to suspend their mail and paper delivery if they will be out of town more than a weekend.”
2. Reduce energy use and the risk of water waste.
Residents should know how they can save money on their energy bills while they travel. Timers and programmable “smart” devices will allow homeowners to balance between the safety factor of making the home look occupied while reducing energy usage. Leaving the air conditioning on, but at a higher temperature (77º), will cause the AC to kick on occasionally, making it appear that someone is in residence and preventing mold or mildew problems while still reducing electrical costs.
Residents who live in condominiums or townhomes should be directed to turn off hot water heaters while gone. Leaks are an incredibly common vacation problem. Magaldi recommends some ways that residents can reduce the risk of leaks while away from home. “Turning off ice makers and water supply lines to the refrigerator, making sure that the condenser water drain line on your AC unit is clear, and turning off the angle stop valves to all toilets are all easy steps that can help make coming home painless,” she said.
3. Rely on neighbors helping neighbors.
Well ahead of summer, work on building a sense of camaraderie in your community. Plan events that give residents the opportunity to get to know and trust their neighbors. Knowing that there’s someone a few doors down who can grab the newspaper, and that it will be reciprocated, goes a long way toward helping residents relax while they travel. It makes your entire community more secure as well. Would-be burglars are less likely to try anything in a community of people who are looking out for each other. It’s in the best interest of your association to facilitate this.
Hulion said that Cresswind at Lake Lanier has a very active travel club, and almost everyone in the community relies on the “buddy system” to keep an eye on things. “We have a close community,” he said. “Almost everyone has a neighbor with a key to their house.”
4. Make sure residents know they need to follow landscaping policy while away.
Residents need to understand that they are expected to keep up curb appeal if they are away from home for an extended time. Summer is a big time for home sales, and grass that’s not been mowed for two weeks and bushes in dire need of trimming do your community no favors. Residents should also make sure that their pools are properly closed before leaving for more than a few days, or should have them serviced over vacation so that the water doesn’t turn green and to ensure that the pumps are working. Residents should use irrigation clocks and programmable devices whenever possible. It is a good idea to redistribute policies related to landscaping in early May, before vacation season picks up.
Communicate with your homeowners. Making sure that everyone is on the same page and knows how to prepare for summer vacations will help the entire community have a great summer and prevent problems. Your professional property management company will have the resources to help your Board craft the right policies around summer vacation time and communicate them to your residents. To learn more, contact FirstService Residential
, Georgia’s residential property management leader, today.