One Man’s Story: Protecting a Vacation Home From Afar

One Man’s Story: Protecting a Vacation Home From Afar

Written By

Deborah Abrams Kaplan

When Joe bought his Utah vacation home in 2005, he knew he’d only be using it a few times a year since it’s a lengthy plane ride away. Joe and his family live in New York, but they enjoy the famed Park City slopes with their long ski runs, plenty of powder and beautiful views. After closing on the ski house, Joe hired a property manager to check in on the property occasionally, changing the heater setting if needed, retrieving any packages or newspapers from the doorstep. Joe paid the property manager a monthly retainer fee, which was expensive given how infrequently he was needed for the vacation home. But Joe and his family were happy to find things in order when they went to Utah for their trips.

Preventable problems arise

Eventually, Joe decided to rent out the ski house when he and his family weren’t using it, and had the property manager oversee the process. This manager booked the guests, gave the key to the renters and made sure the linens were changed in between stays. But the manager wasn’t diligent about the heater setting, which sometimes meant high heating bills in the winter. This was certainly better than pipes bursting due to low heat inside, but Joe didn’t like paying for heat that wasn’t being used.

More concerning, though, was that the door wasn’t always locked when the renters left, and Joe had no way of knowing if his home was secure. This didn’t help Joe’s peace of mind while he’s away. While he was glad there wasn’t more damage, if someone was paying better attention, it wouldn’t have occurred.

A smart solution

Soon after, Joe, his family and some friends went to Utah for their annual ski trip. He was happy to find the vacation home was in order, but was worried the whole flight about what he might find. Joe’s houseguest Larry told him about Vivint Smart Home, a home security system that allows the owner to control home settings from his or her smartphone or tablet app. Larry had been using the Smart Home system at his own house. Heeding the word of his guests, Joe made an appointment with Vivint to outfit his ski escape with home automation equipment. That summer, he went back for a week’s vacation and had Vivint set up the system. It didn’t take long, and he was surprised by how many things he could monitor and control from the app. He hadn’t realized what a life-changer it would be!

Be your own property manager

While testing out the system when he got back to New York, Joe realized he didn’t actually need a regular property manager to oversee rentals. To facilitate entry when visitors arrive at the house, they simply ring the doorbell like any other home. But with Vivint, the doorbell and video system are connected to the Smart Home app on Joe’s phone. While sitting in his living room 2,100 miles away, Joe can talk to the renters and confirm they’re the right people. While Joe tells the renters how it works when booking their stay, they’re still always amazed to be talking to him through a speaker system, hearing him clearly even though he’s across the country. Joe then disables the alarm and unlocks the door from his phone, making it convenient for the renters to get inside without having to stop by a rental office to pick up keys.

set of keys

Parting ways is a breeze

When the rental is over, the visitors let Joe know they’re leaving. He then locks the door behind them and turns on the alarm system, all from his app. If a guest is concerned he or she left an item in the house, he can see if it’s there by checking the video system in the house. He can also control the heating system from the app, setting it at 55 degrees when the renters leave. That’s enough heat so the pipes won’t burst, but not so much that the heat goes wasted.

Before his own family comes for winter or spring break, Joe programs the temperature for their arrival so they won’t show up to a chilly house. It’s easy to do with the app, and only takes a few seconds.

man on smart phone

Simplify life, even from afar

While the system makes his life a lot easier, he did hire one of the neighbor’s kids, Mark, to stop by and pick up newspapers or remove advertising fliers from the door, and this is a minimal expense compared to the monthly cost of a property manager. Mark makes sure the snow is plowed, as well. In an emergency, his neighbor Bob helps out, but Joe doesn’t call him unless it’s necessary so he doesn’t inconvenience him in any way. Having the Smart Home system mean that he and Bob are on better terms, since he doesn’t need Bob for little things.

When Joe bought the Utah house, he realized it would require some oversight, which can be costly. But with the right amount of foresight, all the hassles of owning a vacation home faded away, and he started enjoying his ski home even more.

Image credit: Flickr, Flickr

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