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Keep your house safe during vacations

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House protection: unplug appliances or make sure they’re connected to a surge protector

Dear Heather,

We are planning to be away this summer, do you have any tips for keeping the house safe whilst we are gone?

Vacation Mode

Dear Vacation Mode,

Among the fastest ways to kill a post-vacation buzz is returning home and discovering your house is a shambles — you didn’t leave enough windows cracked and everything is covered in mould, perhaps a burglar got away with some of your most treasured possessions or a dripping tap caused the tank to run dry and the pump to burn out.

Just as it’s important to shop for an excellent vacation deal, it’s crucial to make sure returning from that well-earned trip isn’t a disaster. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you’re planning your hard-earned itinerary.

• Make sure somebody is home

Hiring a house or petsitter is easily the best method to ensure your home stays like you left it, but it can be costly. House sitters can vary from a trusted friend or family member to a professional.

Typically a house sitter will take care of any pets you’re leaving behind, water plants, collect the mail and sometimes other small tasks.

It’s challenging to trust somebody enough to be in your home for days on end, but their presence helps to ensure everything is looked after properly.

• Celebrate on social media after the trip

Booking a vacation is exciting, and that’s often something we want to share with our friends, family and acquaintances via social media, but you should probably hold off on announcing to the whole internet that your home is vacant.

Social media makes it easy for strangers to gather your personal information and find out where you live. If you must post photos, then do yourself a favour and restrict who can see and share the information.

The same plan of action holds true for automatic e-mail responses and voicemail. The rule of thumb is that if you’re not comfortable with somebody being in your house when you’re not there, then don’t tell everybody that you are off on an adventure.

• Burning the midnight oil

A home that is obviously empty is appealing to a would-be thief.

The best way to thwart this is to make sure it genuinely looks like somebody is there. Set up an app-controlled light timer. You can even set up a timer-controlled power supply to stereos or TVs, but don’t keep the same timer settings day by day.

Vary when lights come on, which rooms they appear in and for how long everything is running. Also, be sure to use compact fluorescent light bulbs to save electricity and your energy bill.

• Lock it down, regardless of where you live

It’s oddly common that in small, homey neighbourhoods where “everybody knows each other” that folks leave their homes and cars unlocked.

Unlocked doors or windows are the biggest “burglarise me” signals out there. Don’t be the person who forgot to close and lock the windows or sliding glass door. Put a dowel rod behind any type of sliding entrance, and be sure to lock the deadbolt.

• This needs power; this doesn’t

A power outage, surge or lightning strike could trip any electronics or appliances. If you’re leaving certain electronics on timers to discourage home invasions, make sure they’re plugged into a surge protector.

Think about how much energy appliances like your water heater or climate control equipment require and consume.

Unplug your water heater to reserve energy consumption, and leave one or two air conditioners on timed dehumidify (if you can), if you are not leaving windows cracked or no one is coming in to air out the house.

• A tidy home is a lived-in home

Sure, you have lights popping on and off at random times, but is your yard unkempt? Are mail flyers and newspapers building up on your doorstep?

These are signals to anybody paying attention that you’re not home. Either stop the newspaper and your mail from being deposited, or get somebody you trust to pick everything up for you.

Heather Chilvers is among Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty’s leading sales representatives. She has been working in real estate for nearly 30 years. Contact her at hchilvers@brcl.bm or 332-1793. All questions will be treated in confidence. Look for Ask Heather Real Estate on Facebook

House protection: it’s better to post your vacation photos on social media after you return from holiday