The holidays are quickly approaching, and for many of us that means traveling to visit our friends and family members that we haven’t seen in a while. Before you let the excitement and anticipation take hold, you should turn your thoughts to preparing your home for your absence.
There are a number of ways to make sure your home is safe and secure while you’re gone, each one with its own pros and cons. Think carefully before deciding which will work best for you, as not enough thought prior to your vacation can lead to a disaster upon your return.
In this post we’ll not only cover some of the most popular options, we’ll give you a pre-travel checklist for your home to help you to keep it safe and well during your adventures.
Housesitting is when someone you know, preferably a friend or family member, stays in your house while you’re away.
This is a great option for people who have someone they know close by, and who doesn’t mind leaving their own home for a short time. If they live in an apartment or other small residence, chances are they’ll enjoy the luxury of a larger home all to themselves.
Even if the individual can’t spend the nights at your home for whatever reason, having them check up on the house once a day will lift a big weight off of your shoulders.
Just make sure to leave them a list of things that need to be done and who to contact in case of an emergency.
If you’re traveling for the holidays, but don’t have a place to stay, a house swap may be the answer for you. If you can find another individual or family who is looking to travel to your hometown or city, you may be able to arrange to “swap” houses for the duration of the vacation.
This way, you don’t end up having to pay for accommodations or worry about booking a hotel. Just make sure that you have a clear contract with the other party so that you both understand the terms. Try to find someone through friends or family members before looking online. It’s best if you know the other person, even if it’s just through someone else.
Be careful about who you choose and ask someone you know that lives in the area to check out the house before you sign anything. Have them meet the people who you want to swap with to make sure that you aren’t about to get into a sticky situation.
Another alternative to leaving your home vacant is to consider renting out your home on a short-term basis. In this type of agreement, you can create a lease, which can protect you from many different issues. You may even be able to find a short-term tenant through your realtor or through an old property manager or landlord.
Again, finding someone that you know (or that you know by association) is a far better option than renting to a stranger. Having your home occupied is a better option than leaving it empty, especially if you’ll be away for more than a week.
Tell Your Neighbors
The first thing that you should do when leaving your home either attended or unattended is to tell your neighbors that you will be gone. Let them know when you’re leaving, and when you plan to return.
Ask them to keep an eye on your property to make sure that no one is entering without permission, and leave them a key in case they need to check the heat or plumbing. If you get mail delivered to your home, ask them to pick it up for you so that it isn’t left unopened on your front step.
Turn the Heat Down
Keep your heat turned up enough to prevent any seasonal freezing, but low enough that you won’t be wasting power on an empty house.
If you have someone checking in on the property while you are away, ask them to turn on the faucets every couple of days to make sure that water is going through your plumbing. This helps to keep pipes from freezing, and it keeps the pea traps from drying out and causing unpleasant odors.
Leave a Timed Light On
If possible, leave an outdoor light on with a timer. Having a light on for your whole absence may show that you are actually away, while having one on a timer can indicate that someone is home. If you do have someone checking in on the house, ask them to make sure that they turn off any lights and lock any doors before leaving.
Plan for an Emergency
Traveling in the winter, either by plane or by car, is always a risky business. With inclement weather and unexpected storms, you never know whether or not you can trust your return date. Keep in close contact with whoever is taking care of your home to ensure that they are up-to-date on your plans.
If you have pets and will be leaving them at home, be sure to arrange for their care. Even if you only have a small pet like a fish or a gerbil, have someone check in to make sure that they have fresh water and food. If your trip is delayed, it won’t matter that you left them plenty of food and water before you left, they might be out by the time you get back.
If you have someone close by who you can ask, have them shovel and salt the walks while you are gone. It wouldn’t be much fun to come home to a pile of snow and a driveway that you can’t park in. If they’re able, ask if they can check on the house in the event of a power outage as well, to make sure that the heat kicks back on properly and that your appliances (such as your fridge) are back to working order.