Planning a Vacation? Four Easy Things You Need to Do
Summertime and the living is easy… The weather is beautiful, kids are out of school until the end of August – it’s the perfect chance to go to beaches, camp sites, on cruises and more. There are tons of options to choose from and lots of details to plan for a great summer vacation for everyone. Get out of town and relax around Lake Norman, hike in the Smoky Mountains or hit the beaches of the Outer Banks…. or fly somewhere exotic to really get away from it all.
While fun in the sun might be on your mind, it’s just as important, as a homeowner, to think about the safety and security of the property you’ll be leaving behind. Whether you live in a high-rise condo or in a master-planned community, in Charlotte or Asheville, it’s important to know how to prepare your home for your trip.
If you work with a community association management company, you can reach out to your community manager for specific vacation preparation tips. 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. Don’t Advertise That You’re Going Away
Nothing ruins a great trip like coming home to a home that’s been broken into. In 2014, the FBI reported more than 79,000 burglaries in North Carolina alone. Thankfully, there are several ways to discourage potential criminals who expend effort looking for clues that residents are away, or planning to be. Try not to pack your car in open view; use your garage for loading the car to limit the number of people who will know you are planning to be away. If you’re going to be away more than a week, think about suspending mail and newspaper service, so that it doesn’t pile up and broadcast your absence. It’s easy to get your mail held by visiting www.usps.com and calling your local paper’s circulation office will stop newspaper delivery. Don’t order anything online during the last two weeks before your trip unless you can guarantee it will arrive before you leave; in addition to risking the package being stolen or damaged by weather, packages left outside are a huge sign that no one is home.
Set your answering machine or voice mail to answer on the second ring if you have a landline, and turn down your ringer volume as far as you can. A ringing phone is a good indication that 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. If your community is gated, make sure that your security staff knows that you will be out of town and notify them of anyone that is allowed access to your home and property in your absence.
2. Ask for Help from Friends and Neighbors.
Having a friend who you can trust on your block or in your building can go a long way toward helping you relax while you are gone. Leave that neighbor a key, alarm codes and an emergency contact number in case you need to be reached while you’re on vacation. Ask them to check on your home occasionally to make sure everything is in order. If you leave before trash day, ask them to put out your trash and retrieve the cans, so they are not left on the curb for days and alerting people to your absence. Return the favor when your neighbors are away, and be sure to thank them with a small gift from your trip or other token of appreciation for their help. Good neighbors build a reliable network together, form stronger friendships, and know that they can rely on their communities when they are out of town for any period of time.
3. Schedule Maintenance and Upkeep Before You Go.
If you plan to be gone for more than a few days, arrange for your lawn to be maintained, bushes and landscaping to be cared for and your pool cleaned, if necessary, while you’re out of town. A suddenly unkempt home is a sign that the house is empty. Consider asking a neighbor to park a car in your driveway and retrieve mail or newspapers (if you haven’t suspended these services), so it looks like people are home and active. If you are traveling without your pets, consider keeping them in your home and cared for by a friend or neighbor. If you don’t know anyone who can do that, several websites now connect homeowners with background-checked, reliable pet sitters, which may be less strain on Fido or Fluffy than a kennel stay, as well as ensuring that your property looks occupied.
4. Manage Energy Wisely.
Take advantage of your time away to lower your electric bill. You don’t want to leave your home completely dark, because that’s an obvious sign you are away, but you also don’t want lamps and TVs running all of the time. Instead, set your lights and TVs with a timer so that they are on and off at the same times they would be if you were home. Many smart home devices can now be controlled via smartphone apps, allowing you to vary lighting and TV use while you are on the road. Leave your blinds slightly open so that the lights are obvious to passers-by. Keep your air conditioner on, but set at a higher temperature (unless you are leaving pets at home). The AC will automatically kick on as the house warms, which makes it appear that someone is home. Lower the temperature of your hot water heater or even turn off the circuit breaker or gas valve to it. On the flips side, bump the temperature of the fridge up by a degree or two if possible. Turn off your automatic ice maker too!
These simple tips can help you save money and energy, keep your property safe and bring you peace of mind while you’re enjoying your time away from home.