Embarking on vacation should be an exciting event for families, not one fraught with worry over securing their temporarily unoccupied houses. Homeowners investing modest efforts prior to departing can implement common sense safeguards deterring most would-be burglars. This thorough guide examines those simple preparations owners should complete before locking their front doors and heading out for some well-deserved rest and relaxation.
Secure all Windows
Along with doors, sealed windows minimize outside entry points into the home. Guarantee that windows on all levels, plus any skylights or other openings are fully closed and locked. Upgrading outdated window locks and adding supplemental home security in the form of window vibration alarms provides additional peace of mind against sneak attacks on vulnerable panes.
Installing window privacy film removes visibility into the dwelling’s interior and may dissuade opportunists from targeting the property over residences where assessing valuables proves easier. While undeniably tedious, methodically examining every window systematically reduces the likelihood of one being accidentally left unlocked or accessible through tampering. Even small basement windows often get ignored, but these can allow access for small-stature thieves, so check them as well.
Empty houses tempt people seeking free accommodation who use squatter rights to avoid any legal consequences. When vacationing homeowners fail to provide credible occupancy cues, dilapidated homes morph into inviting shelters for those seeking unlawful habitation. Therefore, creating visible evidence of ongoing habitation while away thwarts illegal occupants from commandeering domiciles.
Simple efforts like asking a neighbor to regularly park in the driveway, routinely collect mail, or position garbage bins roadside on pickup days intimates full-time residency despite traveling owners’ absences. Prominently positioned security cameras also intimate constant video surveillance, causing would-be squatters to reconsider trespassing for fear of recorded retribution.
Using Timers for Lights
Programming timers to switch lights on nightly tricks vacancy-seekers into believing homes remain actively inhabited by returning occupants. These practical devices impart occupant presence through minimal investment compared to costs associated with actual property damages from break-ins. For optimal effect, set staggered light sequences at plausible domestic usage hours, not predictable patterns which crafty burglars may detect. Expanding timers to televisions or radios strengthens the deception that owners merely sleep or entertain themselves behind closed doors and drawn window coverings.
Unplugging unused electronics prior to departure significantly curtails fire threats caused by unexpected electrical surges. Additionally, this prevents wasted energy costs accrued by phantom loads from idle devices. Before walking out and locking doors, scrutinize each room, detaching items like televisions, computers and kitchen gadgets not needing continuous electricity access.
Not only does this tactic prevent potential blazes, but it also preempts food spoilage and vermin attraction. Added benefits include restarting appliances in a cleaned, decluttered post-travel environment upon returning from vacation.
Shut Off Water Supply
Cutting water flow via privately owned main cutoff valves or by contacting municipalities to suspend public access alleviates leaks and flooding if pipes unexpectedly rupture during absence. While not an obligatory measure, this extra provision provides substantial peace of mind by circumventing expensive water damage from uncontrolled flow over days or weeks.
To prevent frozen, burst interior pipes, maintain low but above-freezing interior temperatures using programmable thermostats. If vacationing in colder climates, arranging for daily house checks further ensures the heating systems operate properly. Likewise, disconnecting exterior hoses and automated sprinkler systems conserves resources by keeping water off and avoids slip hazards upon returning.
Ensure all automatic exterior watering equipment is completely switched off before locking up. Don’t neglect canceling backyard misters and water features either which unintentionally waste hundreds of gallons if left continuously pumping.
Arrange Mail Collection
Perhaps the most obvious indicators signaling an unoccupied home are accumulated newspapers cluttering doorsteps and mail overflowing the mailbox. Accordingly, homeowners should establish temporary mail holds with their local post office or appoint reliable neighbors to routinely clear boxes. Note that many post offices only maintain these holds for limited stretches, so verify duration days accommodate planned absences.
Unattended mail invites identity theft when sensitive documents accumulate, so suspending delivery removes this hazard while also promoting household security through the appearance of residency. If opting for neighbors, provide them means to contact owners should concerning correspondences arrive.
Well-kept gardens, mowed lawns and cleared leaves give the appearance of continual habitation, whereas overgrowth hints at vacancies ripe for unlawful occupation. Those extending travels into different seasons should formalize outdoor maintenance by either installing automated sprinkler systems or hiring rotating landscaping crews to preserve exterior house appeal.
Similarly, establishing regular gutter cleanings and professional snow removal maintains home esthetics despite weather shifts. Keeping trees professionally trimmed back by arborists eliminates potential property damage if limbs buckle under heavy snow or ice. Don’t neglect pool care either, as stagnant water attracts wildlife and breeding mosquitoes. Securing a maintenance contract adds peace of mind while homeowners relax on holiday.
Lower Thermostat Settings
Adjusting thermostats just above freezing during cold seasons saves abundant energy expenditures in homeowners’ absence. Conversely, vacationers in hot climates should not deactivate air conditioning completely due to increased humidity and its detrimental effects promoting mold growth. Fortunately, internet-connected thermostats allow remote oversight through smartphones, facilitating temperature modifications applied by home servers while on the go.
Savvy owners can digitally reset homes to comfortable levels hours before arriving back based on weather forecasts, ensuring optimal comfort without wasting resources overshooting comfortable ranges.
Safety Check Utilities
Meticulously inspect all utility systems including gas, electric and water for defects before vacating properties for extended stretches. While not compulsory, licensed technicians provide comprehensive evaluations pinpointing potential problems overlooked by untrained eyes. For example, extinguishing the gas furnace pilot light reduces explosion risks until the family returns to relight it.
Similarly, shutting off unnecessary electrical breakers conserves electricity, leaving only essential circuits energized to prevent frozen pipes and support security systems. Don’t forget checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and functional alerts to relay any hazardous conditions to monitoring services if owners prove unreachable.
Informing Trusted Neighbors
Cultivating relationships with trusted neighbors supplements standalone security measures through additional community supervision while away. Their proximity allows them to scrutinize suspicious activities around the home or relay noteworthy concerns directly to homeowners or local police if circumstances warrant elevated responses. Offer to reciprocate these beneficial courtesies when their travel plans reverse roles.
Proactively provide house sitting neighbors with valid contact methods and action plans should problematic events unfold in owners’ absence. Formalizing these supportive relationships before vacations breeds helpful cooperation through ongoing exchanges.
Insurance Policy Review
Before departing, thoroughly review home insurance policies for restrictions regarding unoccupied dwellings, as many providers mandate evidence of ongoing supervision to honor claims made for damages or theft. Meticulously scrutinizing documents beforehand prevents denial of proceedings that may arise months down the road. Verify coverage amounts for possessions sufficiently account for high-value items, especially jewelry, artworks, or collectibles prone to rising market valuations when acquiring decades back.
If hiring house sitters, relay arrangements to insurers for transparency should unfortunate mishaps transpire during the policy period.
Homeowners can implement several practical steps to mitigate risks facing their properties while on family vacations. Physically locking all entry points, programming electrical timers to simulate occupancy and overall inspections convey due diligence preserving homeowners’ rights when filing inevitable claims for incidents out of traveling families’ direct control. Suspending mail delivery and hiring house sitters provides further safeguards thwarting both determined burglars and unlawful squatters seeking to occupy the premises in their absence. And informed neighbors lend observational skills that supplement standalone measures through trusted community cooperation.