It’s summertime! That means school’s out and many families across the U.S. are planning their long-awaited vacations. Whether it’s a few days or a couple of weeks, if you’re planning a vacation, it’s important to make sure your home is safe while you’re away. So, before you catch a flight, board a train, or drive off in your car, take time to protect your home against threats of burglary and damage. The last thing you want to do is worry about your home while you’re on vacation. Here are some tips on how you can protect it.
1. Ramp up your security: The presence of a home security system can help deter burglars. Smart security cameras can add another layer of defense by allowing you to see when someone is approaching your front door or surrounding areas. Yet, if not careful, you may run the risk of opening your home to harm. Connecting smart home devices to the internet runs the risk of exposing security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals, so be sure to take the appropriate steps to safeguard your devices.
2. Suspend mail and newspaper delivery: A pile of newspapers in the driveway and an overflowing mailbox are telltale signs that no one’s home. Putting your newspaper and mail delivery on hold while you’re away helps make a vacant home look occupied. Contact your local newspaper company a week in advance to make sure the hold is placed in time. The United States Postal Office offers USPS Hold Mail®, a free service to hold mail at your local Post Office™ for up to 30 days.
3. Have someone check on your house: Having someone keep an eye on your home while you’re gone can give you peace of mind. A house sitter can periodically stop by or stay in the home to help take care of plants, collect mail, turn on and off lights and conduct any other tasks you need to keep things running smoothly while you’re away. Turning to a trusted family member, friend or neighbor is the most reliable choice. If that’s not an option for you, there are service providers available. Before handing over your keys, do your research to ensure you’re hiring a trustworthy house sitter.
4. Set a timer for lights: A house without lights on in the evening hours, night-after-night, can be a dead giveaway that the house is unoccupied. Interior lighting reinforces the notion that someone is home. Setting a timer to turn on and off lamps or light switches throughout the day and night makes it appear as if someone is home. There are various types of light timers available, ranging from electronic socket dial timers to more advanced programmable light switches and smart devices that allow you to access your lighting from a smart phone.
5. Keep your vacation plans away from social media: Before you post your vacation pictures and videos on social media, keep in mind that your trusted followers may not be the only ones watching – criminals can watch social media as well. Posting pictures and videos while you’re on vacation is an open invitation for criminals to learn your whereabouts. Consider posting all the fun you had on vacation when you return. For more social media and cybersecurity guidance, review these tips from the U.S. National Security Agency.
6. Unplug non-essential electronics: Computers, televisions, coffee makers and any other non-essential electronic device should be unplugged to prevent damage caused by a power surge or to avoid a fire hazard. If you’re taking an extended vacation, unplugging these electronics may also save you money on your electric bill.
7. Switch your water heater to vacation mode: Most water heaters have a built-in vacation mode setting. If you find that yours doesn’t, manually lower the temperature to 50 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. You can also opt to turn off your water heater while away. Lowering the temperature or turning it off reduces energy consumption, lowers your energy bill and prevents potential damage if a leak occurs.
8. Shut off the water: Anytime you’re away from your home for a prolonged period of time, it’s a good idea to shut off the main water supply valve. Doing so can prevent serious water damage to your home, should a plumbing failure occur. To learn how to turn off the main water valve, click here.
9. Lock (or disconnect) your garage door: If your car will be parked in the driveway while you’re on vacation, do not leave the garage door opener inside. If you do, you’ll be providing burglars with easy access to the garage and possibly your home’s interior. Consider locking your system or unplugging it before you head out. It is relatively quick and easy for burglars to break into the garage by tripping the safety release mechanism. To prevent this from occurring, use a garage shield to cover the emergency release cord.
10. Secure valuables: If you don’t have a safe for your expensive jewelry and other valuables, consider placing them in unexpected areas like the kitchen pantry, laundry room or inside the fireplace. Another way to hide valuables is to use diversion safes that look like everyday household items such as canned food, sports balls and books but are used to conceal your valuables from unsuspecting burglars.
11. Lock all doors and windows: This may seem like a no-brainer, but the excitement of an upcoming trip can make you forget small but important details. Make sure all windows and doors are locked before you drive off.
A vacation is a time to relax and have fun. Taking the necessary precautions to protect your home before you head out on vacation can mitigate anxiety and distress. At Old Republic Title, we understand the importance of protecting one of your most valuable assets – your home. To learn more about title insurance and how we protect your property rights, visit Old Republic Title’s Homeowners Resources page.
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