Heading out for a long trip?
Before leaving, you’ll want peace of mind that your place – and your belongings – are in good order.
Regardless of when you hit the road, taking precautions at home is key to avoiding potential break-ins and other problems while you’re away. Follow these guidelines to make your place ready for your departure.
1. Get a Security System
If you don’t already have a home security system, now is the time to invest in one. Fortunately there are many security systems on the market that can easily be self-installed including Ring, Abode and Simplisafe. These system offer door entry sensors, motion sensors, smoke alarms and more. Many new options on the market also require no contracts with an alarm company. Linking your security system with internet connected security cameras is an easy way to keep an eye on your home while you are away.
2. Take a Home Inventory
“Take a home inventory of all the items inside the home,” said John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, which offers digital home management solutions. This includes taking photos of appliances, furniture, electronics, collections, and artwork. You’ll also want to create a list of what you have, along with the estimated value of each item.
“Burglaries, or a fire, or some weather related event could happen while you are away, and you need to make sure you have documented your home’s contents for insurance purposes,” said Bodrozic.
3. Protect the Pipes.
More than 93 percent of claims related to frozen pipes occur between October and March, according to Farmers Insurance.
“Maintaining a temperature of no lower than 55 degrees within the home while away is crucial to avoiding frozen pipes regardless of the length of the trip,” said Paul Quinn, head of claims customer experience with Farmers Insurance. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to keep temps inside warm enough to steer clear of problems.
If you’ll be gone for an extended period, unhook the washer, dryer, and any outdoor hoses before heading out.
4. Make a Digital Backup.
If your hot water heater springs a leak while you’re gone, having access to the owner’s manual, along with the make and model of the water heater can help you guide a trusted friend or service provider through the process of shutting the water off.
Before the trip, “Create an electronic version of your important home documents,” said Bodrozic. This includes insurance policies, mortgage notes, and owner’s manuals for equipment such as furnaces and air conditioning units.
4. Don’t Make it Obvious That You’re Away.
“Stop your newspaper delivery so they don’t pile up in your driveway or ask a neighbor to pick them up,” said Tracy Vega, co-founder of Simple Self Defense for Women.
You might also think twice about sharing your vacation pictures on social media, until after you get back so potential thieves don’t know that you are away from home.
If you live in an area where there is snow, line up someone to keep your driveway and sidewalk clear. Have the post office hold your mail until you get back.
Plug-in outlet timers on light fixtures can help illuminate certain areas of your home at different times. Another option: Wi-Fi outlets, which allow you to use mobile apps to control lights inside the home from any location, as long as you have smartphone connectivity. You can also use Wi-Fi connected bulbs, like the Philips Hue to control indoor and outdoor lighting.
5. Get Ready to Let Others In.
If you have a house sitter come to watch your place while you’re away, take some time to think through the details of the home.
“There are so many things to remember in terms of keys, parking spots, mail delivery, and remotes,” said Lisa Ng, a travel blogger at This Beautiful Day Blog who often has friends housesit for her when she is away. “I try to create one big word document with a bunch of FAQs.”
If you have pets, write down information about feeding times and emergency contact numbers. Leave simple directions for alarm systems, a complicated TV setup or coffee maker as well. Point out any plants that might need watering, or any packages you’re expecting to arrive while you’re away. Don’t forget to hide a spare key in an inconspicuous location, and avoid obvious hiding places like under your doormat.
A few extra touches can go a long way.
“I definitely try to leave out a bottle of wine, some snacks and stuff in the fridge,” said Ng. “I also lay out a fresh set of towels, a mini bar of soap, and make sure there are fresh sheets on the bed when I leave.”
7. Keep the Place Tightly Closed.
Homes have many entry points, explained Michael McCalley, owner of Mr. Handyman.
“Make sure doors, windows, garage doors, and even basement access all are secure. The night before you leave, or the morning of the trip, go door to door, and window to window to ensure all are closed and locked,” McCalley said.
If you have sliding doors, consider adding a metal security bar or piece of wood in the bottom track to keep intruders out.
For arrangements that include having someone check on the house while you’re gone, consider changing the door knob. “The new knob should have a different key than the one you usually use,” suggested Vega. “It takes just a few minutes and you can put your old doorknob back on when you return home.”
You can also use a lock that can be easily rekeyed, like ones made by Kwikset with SmartKey technology.