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12 Ways to Winterize Your Vacation Home

Sep 01, 2022|

Today, more people than ever own a vacation home. Historically low rates and the flexibility the pandemic provided allowed many people to purchase second homes, either as investments or getaways.

As summer winds down, school starts back up, and people return to their daily grind, it’s time to start prepping your vacation home. Empty houses are not only more susceptible to burglaries, but without someone there on a daily basis, little things like water leaks or maintenance around the house can quickly turn into expensive problems.

Here are our top 12 tips for securing and closing up your vacation home for an extended period of time:

Close-up of a person's hand locking their front door.

1. Secure your home inside and out

Want to cut your chance of being robbed by 30%? Lock your doors and windows! A shocking 30% of burglaries involved simply opening an unlocked door and walking in.

Before you close up for the winter, go through every room in your house and make sure all the windows and doors are locked. Don’t forget common entry points, like the garage service door or the garage door that leads into the house.

If you have valuables inside your home, make sure you lock those up in a safe or, at the very least, store them out of sight.

Let’s be neighbors.

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2. Consider a security system

Here’s something to think about—homes without security systems are 300% more likely to be burglarized. A professionally monitored security system will provide peace of mind that your home is protected while you’re away.

While you can technically DIY a security system and monitor it yourself, this will be very difficult to do for your vacation home. With a professionally monitored system, the monitoring center will contact local police or the fire department on your behalf if an alarm goes off, so you won’t have to do it from your permanent home.

3. Maintain your exterior

Nothing screams “No one’s home!” like an overgrown yard, bushes, or un-shoveled walkway. Maintain the exterior of your home and lawn by hiring a landscaping or mowing service to keep the grass mowed and shrubberies trimmed. If your vacation home is in a location that snows, make sure you stay on top of the weather and hire someone to clear the snow away from your walkway.

Keep mail from piling up outside by asking the post office to hold your deliveries and mail for you, so it doesn’t look like no one is home.

The outside of a well-kept home.

4. Minimize the chance of water leaks

Water is one of the biggest causes of damage to an unoccupied house. Burst pipes or leaky water lines can cause significant (and expensive!) damage to a home. You can minimize the chance of water damage by doing the following:

  • Turn off your main water supply. If your home is going to be completely vacant, many experts recommend you turn off the water supply and drain the pipes to prevent any water inside of them from expanding and damaging pipes during freezing weather.
  • Prepare your hot water heater. If your vacation home is in an area prone to freezing, drain your water heater. (Your water heater should have specific instructions on how to do this.) You should also insulate the pipes around your water heater to prevent freezing there, too.
  • Don’t forget the outside. If you have an outside water supply, make sure you turn off all sprinkler systems for the winter and disconnect hoses.
  • Get a water sensor. Water sensors are a great way to monitor your home for water leaks. These small devices can be placed next to water supply lines and appliances prone to leaks, like sump pumps, washing machines, or faucets. If moisture is detected, you’ll get a notification right away and can have someone turn off the water before the damage is too great.
  • Protect toilets and sinks from freezing. You can pour non-toxic antifreeze in toilet bowls, sinks, and showers to protect against freezing in cold temperatures.
  • Contact a plumber. If this is your first time preparing your home for vacancy, it’s a good idea to call an expert. A plumber can advise you, based on your home’s location and age, of what you need to do to eliminate risks.

Keep in mind if you vacation in a warmer location, like Florida or other southern states, minimizing the risks of expanding, freezing water won’t be necessary.

5. Monitor your heating and cooling systems

You can turn off your air conditioner to your summer home, even in warmer climates, but you may want to keep your furnace or heating system on to prevent your home’s temperatures from freezing. Setting your thermostat to a temperature of around 55 degrees won’t break the bank and will keep your home from dipping down to freezing temperatures. This also helps protects the plumbing located in walls.

A smart thermostat is a good way to continually monitor your home’s air conditioning and temperature from afar. You can also adjust the temperature with your cell phone, so your home is a comfortable temperature if you decide to visit if off-season.

6. Eliminate fire hazards

Protecting your vacation home from the risk of fire is particularly important in the fall and winter months, when house fires are more common. Eliminate fire hazards around the house by taking the following steps:

  • Unplug appliances that won’t be in use, including the stove and microwave
  • Have your heating system inspected and serviced by a professional, and clean and replace furnace filters
  • Turn off all non-essential circuit breakers to reduce the risk of electrical fires
  • Test your smoke detectors and batteries before you close up for the season

Another benefit of a monitored security system? If a fire alarm goes off, the monitoring center will dispatch the fire department to your home on your behalf.

7. Install security cameras

Smart security cameras are a must for anyone who owns a second home or vacation property. Doorbell cameras and outdoor cameras are particularly useful, allowing you to see who might be coming to your door or lurking around your property. For extra peace of mind, choose cameras that will notify you on your cell phone if there is activity on your property.

8. Clean out your home

Another important way to prep your house for being empty for an extended period of time is to clean it thoroughly. Not only will this discourage bugs and unsanitary conditions like mildew, but it makes it more pleasant to come back to next year.

Make sure you do the following:

  • Empty the refrigerator and throw out all perishables. (Tip: place an open box of baking soda in the fridge to neutralize odors.)
  • Cover mattresses with plastic mattress covers to keep dust out.
  • Check closets, pantries, and bedrooms for wrappers or anything else that might attract pests.
  • Clean the gutters, sweep the walkway, and empty outdoor trash.
Cleaning leaves out of the roof guttars.

9. Use smart lighting

Over 70% of all burglaries occur when the home is unoccupied, making an empty home an attractive target. When your home looks occupied, burglars are more likely to pass on it. A well-lit home is one of the best ways to discourage break-ins.

Smart lighting can help make your home look occupied even when you’re not there. You can automate the lights in your home with timers to turn on and off at different times, or you can control them from your phone. And because smart lighting uses LED bulbs, which last around 25,000 hours, you won’t have to worry about replacing bulbs.

10. Get rid of hide-a-keys

It’s tempting to put a hidden key somewhere easily accessible in case someone needs to get into your home while you’re away or if you lose your keys. Although hidden keys make access easier for you, unfortunately they’re not as hidden as you may think.

Keep your home secure by swapping out a physical lock and key with smart locks. With a smart lock, you can lock and unlock your door remotely and get notifications on your phone if a code is used to unlock your door, so you know who’s coming and going.

11. Find someone to check in on your home

Asking a neighbor or hiring a house sitter or property manager to check on your home at regular intervals is a great way to make sure your vacation home is safe. Make sure they know your alarm system’s code, where the water shutoff is located, and how to get ahold of you in an emergency. This will also provide peace of mind that someone is regularly checking in when you can’t be there.

12. Don’t forget about your garage door

Your garage door is a vulnerable entry point for your home, and breaking into it is surprisingly easy. Make sure it is secure before you leave for the season by securing it from the inside with a deadbolt or other device made specifically for garage doors. Smart technology that also allows you to remotely monitor your garage door, including opening and closing it, is also a good investment for your vacation home.

Prepare your home now for peace of mind

Take the steps to secure and prepare your vacation home for an extended period of time now. In doing so, you can make sure your home away from home is protected and ready for you again next year.

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