Homeowners insurance blog

What to do When You Leave Your Summer Property

The calendar in late summer really flies by, especially when you’re in a vacation home. Before long, it’ll be time to pack up and head back to work. This often means you must leave your seasonal respite for several months. How can you help ensure the summer property you return to is ready for another season of fun and relaxation?

You can’t just lock up the house and leave like you would for a weekend away. Here are tips on how to prepare your property for a season of inactivity.

Find a sitter

Do you have a friend nearby who can drop in every couple of weeks? Give him or her a key. Your friend can do a quick check for common household problems you’d be able to remedy if you were there, such as leaks and storm damage. Even a weekly drive-by can give you some peace of mind.

The stand-in should check for leaky pipes or ceilings, damage after storms, and problems with doors and windows.

Do this:

  • Set air conditioning to 80 degrees. You’ll save on utilities, and prevent mold build-up. If you have an older home with a humidistat, set it to read 60%.
  • Stop delivery of mail and newspapers. Nothing says absent owners like stockpiles of both. Shut the blinds, or have your caretaker open and close them occasionally to make the home look lived-in.

Don’t do this:

  • Leave patio furniture out. Unsecured items on porches can damage your home or others in a storm.

Winterize

Tour your house. What could go wrong in each room while you’re away? Make a list. Most U.S. climates are subject to at least a chance of freezing. Just one cold snap could mean trouble for your water pipes. Turn off your water supply at the home’s exterior so your pipes don’t freeze and burst.

In desert climates, leave the water on. Ask your caretaker to flush the toilets every couple of weeks so a calcium ring won’t form with the hard water. You also should open faucets and disconnect outdoor garden hoses, unplug all appliances and bind their cords, and turn off the gas water heater (or set to vacation mode if that option is available).

Do this:

  • Clean out your fridge. Empty your freezer, too. Don’t take a chance your food will spoil if it thaws out and refreezes. Prop the doors open to prevent mildew and mold growth.
  • Clean out your pantry. Lock dry foods in tin- or aluminum-lined cabinets. Store seeds and grain in metal containers with tight lids. Don’t keep canned goods.

Don’t do this:

  • Leave behind candles, soap or sponges. These could attract rodents. Use botanical rodent repellents in the garage, on counters, and under sinks, too.

Tie up loose ends

You might plan to return in a couple of weeks. Or, you might be gone until next summer. Whether your getaway is on the coast or in the high country, you’ll have maintenance exclusive to your property. What belongs on your checklist? Starters include cleaning and inspecting the roof for raised shingles that could signal a roof leak, using light timers and arming your security system, and letting local police know you’ll be away.

Do this:

  • Turn off the electricity. If you have a security system, leave the switch on for that circuit breaker. Keep the switch on for your porch lights, too.
  • Schedule some yard care. Monthly service should be enough to prevent overgrowth. In some climates, brush presents a fire hazard. Make sure it’s cleared for summer.

Don’t do this:

  • Forget about your home insurance policy. Now is a great time to review coverage on your seasonal home. Does anything need to update on your policy? Your secondary home typically isn’t covered under standard home insurance for your primary residence.

You’ll definitely need a secondary residence premises endorsement for your seasonal home. Many carriers offer this as a rider to insurance on your primary home. It’s often less expensive to cover your secondary home this way than through a separate policy.