Vacant property is a target for theft, trespassing and damage. Take these steps to protect your home or vacation property while you are away.
MAKE YOUR VACANT HOME LOOK OCCUPIED
Nothing announces that nobody is home as fast as an overgrown yard and an overflowing mailbox. Hire someone to maintain the landscape, and ask a friend or neighbor to collect your mail if you plan to be gone for more than a few days. If you don’t have anyone who can consistently collect your mail, have the United States Post Office hold delivery or forward it.
Install timers to turn lights on inside the home at various times throughout the night. Use sensor lightbulbs (e.g., dusk to dawn) to turn on porch lights and other outside lighting fixtures automatically. Motion detector lights for the exterior of your home can add another level of security.
And one more tip: Don’t “advertise” on social media that you will be away from your property. Why invite unwanted guests?
INVEST IN A HOME SECURITY SYSTEM
Today, many “smart” and do-it-yourself security technologies are available to homeowners. For example, smart doorbells, such as Ring, notify the homeowner’s phone, tablet or PC when motion is detected and allow the owner to hear and speak with visitors. More complete home security systems, such as Vivint, can include features such as window sensors, smoke/fire alarms, thermostat control, smart door locks and more.
If you purchase a security system, post their sign in the yard so that it’s visible to others. Would-be intruders are less likely to approach a property if they know an alarm system is installed.
SET YOUR THERMOSTAT APPROPRIATELY
You might be tempted to save money and turn off your thermostat if you plan to be away for several days or weeks. Don’t. Too much cold can lead to burst pipes and damaged appliances. Too much humidity in a home can promote mold and mildew growth. Some sources suggest setting the thermostat to 55 degrees during cold weather and 77 degrees during warm weather.
Smart thermostats are a great fit for homes that are temporarily used. You simply use the app on your phone (and Wi-Fi) to control the temperature from just about anywhere.
REDUCE THE RISK OF WATER DAMAGE
Water can cause significant home damage. If possible, turn off the water (and water heater) if you will be away from your property for an extended period. At the very least, consider shutting the water supply off to the washing machine, dishwasher and refrigerator. If that’s not possible, install water leak detectors that alert you to problems. Some sensors are even available with water shut-off capability.
If the property will be vacant during cold-weather months, shut off water to outside spigots and drain the pipes to prevent them from freezing and bursting. Disconnect garden hoses as well. Insulate exposed pipes (e.g., in crawl spaces, near outside walls, etc.).
GIVE A KEY TO A TRUSTED NEIGHBOR OR FRIEND
Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to check your property periodically while you are away. Outside, check for anything in the mailbox, on the porch or anything that is out of place. Check that spigots aren’t leaking. Inside, verify that the temperature control is functioning correctly, that doors and windows are still locked, and that there are no water leaks.
A handyperson or emergency personnel may need to access your property if a problem arises while you are away. If you don’t have a friend or neighbor who could give them access, purchase a key lock box like realtors use to gain access to show properties for sale.
TALK WITH YOUR HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE PROVIDER
There are three reasons to speak with your homeowners insurance provider. The first is to make sure your coverage is sufficient. The cost to rebuild homes and replace personal items has risen dramatically since the pandemic’s beginning, so ensure you are covered.
Second, depending on how long your home or vacation property is vacant, your standard homeowners policy may not provide coverage. You may need “vacant property” coverage to protect your investment.
Third and finally, some insurers offer discounts to homeowners who install security systems and other devices that reduce the risk of damage and loss. It’s worth asking about.
Hylant clients are welcome to contact their service team member anytime. If you aren’t yet a client but need homeowners insurance or would like us to review your current policy, contact us here.
Related Reading: Does Your Insurance Cover You if the Unexpected Happens?
The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted advisor for insurance-related questions.