Four Easy Tips to Help Community Members Plan for Summer Vacation



Summer is a great time to hit the road! Kids are out of school and the weather is beautiful – it’s the perfect chance to hit the beach, go camping, board a cruise and more. Road trip destinations for those in the Mountain State include the Lost World Caverns, Ocean City, Virginia Beach, Greenbrier, and the Shenandoah Mountains; or perhaps you’d rather fly to somewhere exotic instead!

Wherever you decide to go, it’s important, as a homeowner, to think about the state of the home you’ll be leaving behind. Whether you live in a high-rise, condo or master-planned community, it’s important to know how to prepare your home for an extended time away.
 
If you work with a community association management company, you can reach out to your community association 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. Keep Your Property Well-Maintained.
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 cared for and your pool cleaned, if necessary. A suddenly unkempt home is a sign that no one is home. 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. 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 ensuring some level of activity in your home.

2. Manage Energy Wisely.
There are many 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 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 shine out. Keep your air conditioner on but set at a higher temperature (unless you are leaving pets at home). Your 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. Turn off your automatic ice maker too!
 
3. Be Subtle About Being Gone.
Nothing ruins a great trip like coming home to a home that’s been broken into. More than 9,000 burglaries were reported to the FBI in West Virginia in 2014 alone. 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. 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 service to be held for you at www.usps.com and by calling your local paper’s circulation office. 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, that’s a huge sign that no one is home.
 
Have a landline? Set your answering machine or voice mail to answer on the second ring, and turn down your ringer volume as far as you can. 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. 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.

4. Ask for Help from Friends and Neighbors.
West Virginians are known for their helpfulness. 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. Make sure you leave a key with your neighbor of choice and an emergency contact number in case you need to be reached while you’re on vacation. Have 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 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.
 
Following 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.