Four Easy Steps to Help Community Members Plan for Summer Vacation
Summer is slipping away quickly – it’s time to hit the road! Beautiful weather and a break from school provide the perfect opportunity for rest and relaxation. Maybe you’ll take a road trip to the sun and sand at the Jersey Shore or the shady cool of the Poconos or even an urban adventure in Philadelphia.
Before enjoying fun in the sun, there are a few important things to take care of. Making the effort 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 your time away from it.
If you work with a professional community association 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. Plan Ahead for Property Care.
If you plan to be gone for more than a week, arrange for your lawn to be cut, your bushes and landscaping to be cared for and your pool cleaned, if necessary. Grass that badly needs to be mowed is a sign that no one is home. Ask someone close by to park a car in your driveway and pick up your mail or newspapers (if you haven’t suspended these services), so it looks like there is regular activity at your home.
If you are traveling without your pets, consider asking a friend or neighbor to pet sit in your home, rather than boarding them in a kennel. 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 ensure that people are coming and going from your home. Asking your vet for recommendations can be a great way to find in-home pet care as well.
2. Don’t Broadcast Your Plans.
Nothing ruins a great trip like coming home to a home that’s been broken into. The FBI recorded about 32,000 burglaries in Pennsylvania in 2014. Thankfully, there are several ways to discourage potential criminals who might be lurking near the neighborhood, observing people’s behaviors for clues that residents are away. 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. Think about suspending mail and newspaper service while you are gone, so that it doesn’t pile up. Arrange for mail to be held by logging on to www.usps.com and stop newspaper delivery by calling your local paper’s circulation office. Don’t do any online shopping during the last two weeks before your trip unless you can guarantee your goods will arrive before you leave; in addition to risking the package being stolen or damaged by weather, that’s a huge sign that no one is home.
Set your home phone’s answering machine or voicemail to answer on the second ring, and turn the ringer as low as possible. 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. If your community is gated, make sure that your security staff knows that you will be out of town and anyone who is allowed access to your home and property in your absence. Notify your Neighborhood Watch if you have one; let them know your general travel plans and the identity of anyone you are allowing to be on your property while you’re gone, including service personnel.
3. Save Energy and Money While You’re Away.
There are easy ways to save energy while you are on vacation, which will do wonders for your summer 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, TVs, and other appliances running unnecessarily. Instead, set your lights and TVs with a timer so that they are on at appropriate times and turn off when you would be going to bed. Many smart home devices can be controlled via a smartphone app now, allowing you to vary the schedule while you are on the road. Leave your blinds slightly open so that lights and flashing TVs inside the house are visible on the street. Keep your air conditioner on but set at a higher temperature than usual (unless you are leaving pets at home). The AC compressor will kick on when temperatures rise, which makes it appear that someone is home. 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. If you’re leaving for an extended time, and it’s empty of sensitive perishables, bump the temperature of the fridge up by a degree or two if possible. Don’t forget to turn off the automatic ice maker as well!
4. Enlist Your Friends and Neighbors.
Having friends you can trust on your block or in your building can go a long way toward helping you relax while you are gone. Leave a key and alarm codes with your neighbor of choice, plus an emergency contact number in case you need to be reached while you’re on vacation. Ask them 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 sitting outside for days. 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.
Save money and energy, keep your property safe and enjoy greater peace of mind while you’re enjoying your time away from home by following these simple steps.