Leaving your home alone for a month? Three months? A Year?

Whether you’re a snowbird, or just taking a long trip, everyone needs to consider the best way to secure your home if you plan to be away for an extended period of time.

Here are a few tips for necessary and added security.

Get Insurance

First of all, everyone should have home insurance. It’s pretty standard when you own a house, but renters can also find good rates. Most packages include coverage for stolen property, damage due to weather, even medical insurance in certain circumstances.

If you already have home or renters insurance, be sure and call your insurance company to update your policy before you go out of town.

Have Someone Watch Your Place

Best case scenario, you have a neighbor or friend who can help keep an eye on your place. This not only creates some needed movement around your property, but it will give you peace of mind. Have them come by every other day if possible.

No worries if you haven’t met your neighbors yet, or you don’t feel like burdening your friends. There are house sitting services where you can pay a monthly or yearly fee. House Sitting Magazine has a comprehensive list of different sitting services.

Don’t forget to leave all useful phone numbers and contact information in case of an emergency.

And if you have the budget for it, hire someone to keep the leaves raked, lawn watered or snow shoveled while you are away so its not apparent that you are gone and neglecting your yard work.

Handle Your Mail

It’s also a good idea to have a friend or neighbor hold your mail so it doesn’t pile up, or, you could have it forwarded to your temporary address. And if you have a newspaper subscription, you might want to temporarily cancel it to avoid making your absence super obvious. Plus, you’ll save a little money.

Make an Extra Key

Just in case you have to leave unexpectedly and don’t have time to pre-arrange a house sitter, have a key hidden somewhere, that way a friend can get in later when you have a chance to make arrangements. It’s a good idea any way, in case you ever lock yourself out or lose your keys.

Watch From Your Smart Phone or Laptop

Now with smart technology, you can watch your house remotely. This doorbell camera is $250, but it connects to Alexa, has a built in siren, and notifies you when it detects motion. There are less expensive versions, but if you really can’t afford one, start by getting a fake security camera for less than $20. This will at least deter intruders from entering.

If you want a camera for inside the house you can go with a tiny camera that will go unnoticed by burglars. And if you have pets, check out this camera that lets you interact with your fluffy buddies; it even gives them treats!

A good rule of thumb is to make people think you are home, even if you are not. No need to go full on Macaulay Culkin and create an elaborate orchestration of moving, talking mannequins. The point is, burglars look for houses that are dark and secluded, so make yours look like it is being used.

A common way to fool people is to leave a light on. Better yet, get some smart light bulbs that can be controlled remotely. This way, you can turn a different lightbulb on everyday, making it appear that someone is home.

Avoid Nasty Accidents

In addition to keeping your home safe from theft, make sure to protect it from other unwanted accidents, like a busted pipe or a fire.

In colder weather, make sure to let your faucets drip as slowly as possible while you are away. This will prevent the water from freezing and bursting through your pipes. If you are leaving for an extended period of time, go ahead and shut off your main water supply.

Before you leave, make sure your fire and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. If someone is looking after your house, also make sure your fire extinguisher is up to date.

Keeping with the Smart technology trend, you can also buy smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that will notify you on your smart phone before the worst happens. Nest Protect is one of the highest rated products out there.

To avoid moldy appliances, it’s usually a good idea to leave your dishwasher and washing machines lightly ajar, especially if they won’t be used for a while.

Save Money on Your Electric Bill

It’s important to keep the temperature of your home at a comfortable level while you are gone, and you can save energy and money by setting your thermostat a little hotter or colder than you normally like.

Most current thermostats have programmable settings which allow your heat or AC to turn on and off throughout a set weekly or daily schedule. But if you are tech savvy, you can get a smart thermostat that allows you to control the temperature of your house remotely. This option is more expensive than traditional thermostats, but if you are a control freak, you will find comfort in constantly being updated on your phone about the internal temperature of your home.

Research shows that unplugging electronics and appliances when you are not using them will certainly save you money. This might not be easy to do on a daily basis, but when you leave for long periods of time, you might as well go the extra mile. Plus, you’re helping the environment by only using the energy you need.

Be Extra

For added protection, you could get a full on security system. ADT is still a commonly used company for home security, but here is a list of 9 other brands for comparison, including fast growing SimpliSafe. Having a code that only you and your family/roommates know will give you the comfort you are looking for.

New to the market are DIY security systems that you can install yourself. Here are some of the top rated brands. You can also put up some intimidating security signs like these for $10.

Lastly, keep your house extra clean with a programmable vacuum. This one by Samsung is self cleaning! Now your home will not only be safe and protected, but perfectly tidy when you return!

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Hollie Brown