Summer is slipping away – time to hit the road! Beautiful weather, a break from school and lighter work schedules for many offer the perfect opportunity to get away from it all for a while. Doesn’t a road trip sound great? Go down the shore to Long Branch, enjoy the night life in Atlantic City, or relax in the shady beauty of the Poconos – New Jersey residents have great options close by! Or, you may decide to hop a plane for an exotic destination instead. Since school doesn’t typically start until after Labor Day, you have a little more time to play too!

Before rest and relaxation mode takes over, there are a few important things to take care of. Taking a little time to properly prepare your home can save you money and worry in the long run. Whether you live in a high-rise condo or in a master-planned community, it’s important to know how to prepare your home for an extended time away.
If you work with a professional management company, you can reach out to your community manager for vacation preparation tips specific to your community. No matter where you live, here are some simple tips to help ensure your home is safe and well maintained while you are off enjoying the summer sun. 

1. Be Subtle About Being Gone.
Nothing ruins a great trip like coming home to a burglarized property. The FBI reported about 32,000 burglaries in New Jersey in 2014. Thankfully, there are several ways to discourage potential criminals who might be lurking near the neighborhood or around your building, observing people’s behaviors for clues that residents are away. Set your answering machine to answer on the second ring, and turn down your ringer volume. A phone ringing off the hook is a good indication no one is home. Be very careful about broadcasting your travel plans on social media such as Facebook or Twitter, regardless of your account privacy settings. That’s a dead giveaway you are out of town and are unable to respond to a crime at your home. Also, if many neighbors are traveling at the same time, residents can contact the local police department and your community manager so extra eyes can be on the neighborhood. Alert Neighborhood Watch to your travel plans, as well as to anyone who will be authorized to be at your home while you are away, including landscapers, maintenance pros and pet sitters.
Try not to pack your car in open view. Use your garage for loading the car to limit the number of individuals who will know you are planning to be away. You should also consider stopping mail and newspaper service while you are gone, so that it doesn’t pile up. You can quickly arrange for your mail to be held at
2. Cut Energy Use – and Costs.
Save energy while you’re out of town, which can do wonders for your summer electric bill. You don’t want to leave your home completely dark, because that’s an obvious sign that no one is home. But you also don’t want lamps, TVs, and other appliances running unnecessarily or on too regular of a pattern. Instead, set your lights and TVs with a timer so that they are on at appropriate times and turn off as normal. There are also now smart devices you can control from your smartphone, while on the road, to program and control lights and appliances easily from anywhere.  Leave your blinds slightly open so that lights and flashing TVs inside the house provide visible signs of life.
Keep your air conditioner on but set at a higher temperature than normal (unless you are leaving pets at home). Your AC compressor will kick on when it gets hotter, which will help it look like someone is home. Also, consider turning off the circuit breaker or gas valve to your hot water heater, or simply turn it to a lower setting so it isn’t working when it doesn’t have to be. Turn off your automatic ice maker, and if possible, raise the temp of the fridge and freezer a degree or two.

3. Plan for Pet Care and Property Maintenance.
If your pets are staying behind while you’re on vacation, consider asking a friend or neighbor to pet sit in your home, rather than boarding them in a kennel. Not only does this reduce stress on animals and make time away from you easier on them, it shows signs of habitation at your residence. Don’t know anyone who can help with this? Check with your vet for a recommendation or look online. Websites connect pet owners with reliable dog walkers and pet sitters who will come to you.
If you plan to be gone for more than a few days, make sure you arrange for your lawn to be maintained, your bushes and landscaping to be tended to, and your pool cleaned if you have one. A suddenly unkempt home is a sign residents are away. If you are close with your neighbors, ask one of them to park a car in your driveway and retrieve mail or newspapers (if you haven’t suspended these services) so it looks like there is regular activity at your home.

4. Enlist Your Friends and Neighbors.
Having a friend that you can trust on your block or in your building can go a long way toward helping you relax while you are gone. Make sure you leave a key and alarm codes with this person, as well as an emergency contact number in case you need to be reached while you’re out of town. Ask them to check on your home once in a while to make sure everything is as it should be. Ask them to put out your trash and retrieve the cans, so they aren’t curbside, broadcasting your absence. Be sure to return the favor when your neighbors are away, and bring them a gift of some kind for taking time to give you peace of mind. Building a reliable network, forming stronger friendships and being able to rely on each other makes time away easier and less stressful for everyone.
Following these simple tips can save you worry, money and energy, keep intruders away and provide peace of mind while you’re enjoying your vacation away.
Wednesday August 03, 2016