How to Prepare Your Home When You Are Leaving Town
Deciding to get out of town is the easy part; the planning and preparation is another story. Whether you are traveling on your own, with friends, or bringing the whole family, there are undoubtedly a lot of things to do – lists to be made, shopping to be done, and bags to be packed.
Amidst all the pre-vacation excitement and busyness, Bearingstar would like to remind you of an important step that often goes overlooked – preparing and protecting your home. As your local insurance team, we at Bearingstar are here to help you with this part of your checklist, so that you can truly have peace of mind and relax whether you are soaking in the rays or taking in tourist attractions.
Don’t worry if you are crunched for time; there are only three main areas that we recommend you focus on and most of the items can be done quickly and easily, especially if you have little helpers at home.
Home Preparation Item #1: Arm Your Home with These Security Tips
It’s been said that the best way to protect your home while you are away is to make it appear occupied. If you are scratching your head wondering how to do this, you are not alone! That’s why we posed this question to Officer Brian Wilson of the Swampscott, Massachusetts Police Department who has been protecting and serving his local community for the past 16 years.
Officer Wilson shared his experience and knowledge with us, which included three important measures he recommends you can take to ensure your home looks lived in while you are out of town:
- Leave interior and exterior lights on all the time or put them on a timer
- Leave a vehicle in the driveway
- Ask a neighbor to collect your newspapers and mail or contact the Post Office to take advantage of their Hold Mail service.
Officer Wilson also feels that home security is often the one thing vacationers overlook. “It’s important to use common sense before heading out of town for an extended period,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if you are skipping town for a week or spending a night away, there are several simple tasks you can do to protect your home when you are gone.” Here are Officer Wilson’s top six tips for making sure he, or any other police officer, doesn’t have to pay a visit to your home while you are away:
- Lock your doors and windows
- Invest in exterior motion-sensor lights as a deterrence
- Consider installing an alarm system as it will notify the appropriate officials in the case of emergency, such as burglary and fire
- Notify the police of any upcoming trips
- Let neighbors know that you are going away and, if you feel comfortable, consider leaving a key or alarm code with a friend to periodically check on your home
- Refrain from announcing your travel plans on Facebook and any other social media for that matter. Also, during your trip, avoid checking in to any locations via Facebook or posting any vacation pictures until after you return home.
In addition to this very wise advice, there are a lot of high-tech security options now available that allow you to check in on your home from just about anywhere. These modern-day technologies may allow you to control the temperature of your home, view live security camera footage and even turn on your front porch light, all with the click of a button. USA Today recently put together a top 10 list of the best gadgets available to protect your home, condo or apartment while you are away.
Even if you do decide to invest in one or more of these technological wonders, Officer Wilson suggests that you combine them with the old-fashioned security measures he recommended. “Technology is not always 100% reliable, not to mention it can be expensive. Nothing beats an actual person checking on your home daily and keeping an eye out for anything or anyone that looks suspicious.”
Home Preparation Item #2: Prepare Your Home for Unseasonable Weather
As residents of Massachusetts and Connecticut, we know how unpredictable the weather can be regardless of the time of year. Like you, the insurance professionals at Bearingstar prefer to be optimistic that spring weather is just around the corner, but you can never be too sure.
With New England’s unpredictable weather in mind, we have put together a list of four home maintenance tasks to consider tackling before hitting the road:
- Inspect your basement for signs of water and possible cracks to the foundation. It’s important to safeguard your home against the possibility of heavy rainstorms that can lead to basement flooding while you are away. So, carefully inspect your basement walls and floors for any cracks and, in the event you notice anything out of the ordinary, we recommend you call a reputable foundation repair consultant.
- Corral any items in your yard that could take flight or blow around should winds kick up while you are away. Consider storing your trash barrels, recycling bins, patio furniture, ladders, shovels, rakes and any tools inside your home, garage or shed prior to your departure.
- Keep a close eye on the weather forecast before you leave and while you are on vacation. While we hope that Storm Stella was the last of the big snows this winter in Massachusetts and Connecticut, just last spring we were hit with a snowstorm in April! If snowflakes are appearing on your weather.com app, consider pre-ordering plow services or commissioning a friend to clear your driveway, stairs and walkways in your absence.
- Protect your pipes from freezing by making sure all exposed pipes are properly insulated. If it is unseasonably cold before your trip, consider trickling water out of your faucet to avoid a burst pipe. To read more about preventing frozen pipes while your home is empty, read our blog, Preventing and Dealing with Frozen Pipes.
Home Preparation Item #3: Don’t Put Off Today What You Will Not Want To Do Post-Vacation
Transitioning back to your normal routine after some relaxing time away can prove difficult. However, we have found that one of the best ways to extend the highs of your vacation is to handle pesky household chores before your trip. Doing chores pre-vacation will not only aid in a smoother transition back to reality, but it can also protect your home from possible property damage while you are away. Here are three simple things that you and your family can quickly take care of before driving, jetting or sailing off on vacation:
- Remove branches and leaves from your property. Weather permitting, consider cleaning out your gutters and yard of fallen leaves, branches and other debris. Clean gutters will guide rain water and even melting snow away from your home. In addition, consider trimming any unruly bushes to protect your property from unforeseen damages.
- Clean out lint from your dryer vent. Perhaps you are good about cleaning out the lint filter in the front of your machine, but that doesn’t account for the possible buildup of lint and/or other debris that may be caught in your dryer vent. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, when this buildup goes untreated, the lint can cause a blockage which may lead to a possible fire hazard. For more information on how to properly clean your dryer vent, visit consumerreports.org.
- Test all smoke detectors as well as carbon dioxide monitors. While you should already be doing this monthly, before you start your vacation is another opportunity to make sure these important home safety devices are on and functioning properly. For peace of mind while you are away, consider replacing the batteries in all smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors before your trip. Read more fire prevention tips from Bearingstar Insurance, including checking the age of your smoke alarm, here.
A vacation should be a relaxing time for you and your family, so we hope that the tips discussed throughout this blog will bring you peace of mind while you are away. However, should something unexpected happen while you are traveling, please know that your Bearingstar team will be here to answer your call for assistance as well as help you start and navigate the claims process while you are away. The team at Bearingstar is dedicated to providing you the advice and guidance that you require and ensuring your issues are resolved quickly and effectively so you can hopefully get back to enjoying your well-deserved time off. If you have any questions before, after or during your vacation, be sure to contact a friendly, knowledgeable Bearingstar insurance agent at any one of our Massachusetts or Connecticut offices.