Seasonal Residents: Preparing Your Vero Beach Home for Vacancy

Spring is finally here and with that, many of our snowbird friends and neighbors in the Vero Beach area will be preparing to head back up north soon. In order to help make your transition as stress-free as possible, Oceanside Home Watch has compiled a list of tips for helping to ensure that your home in Vero Beach is properly protected against property damage and liability losses while you are away.

Vacant homes are much more susceptible to significant loss, simply because you are not there to protect your property or to catch any minor issue before it turns into a bigger problem. However, with careful planning, many of the increased risks can be leveraged and greatly reduced.

The most obvious peril for a vacant home is burglary. For this reason, steps should be taken to eliminate any blatant signs of vacancy.  Before departing for your summer home, be sure to stop all mail and newspaper delivery services, as unattended mail or newspapers is a clear and highly visible sign to would-be burglars that the homeowner(s) is away.  Occasionally, there may be unexpected deliveries that you cannot plan for, such as promotional flyers or door hangers left by local businesses.  If possible, these should be discarded or brought inside by a neighbor or Home Watch provider as soon as reasonably possible.  Lastly, if there are any valuable items or documents that will be left behind while you are away, we highly recommend moving those to a safe deposit box or fire safe to protect them from potential theft or damage.

Installing motion-detecting lights on the exterior of your home is an effective deterrent to anyone who does not belong on the property, and also may serve to alert a neighbor to the fact that someone is on your property. Additionally, setting your interior lights to a timer will also create the illusion that the home is occupied. The more random the timer sequence, the more convincing this tactic will be.

The next peril of greatest concern with a vacant home is physical damage to the exterior, particularly as we approach hurricane season. Preventative maintenance should be taken care of before leaving your Vero Beach home.  The exterior siding and roof shingles should be thoroughly checked to ensure there are no loose or missing materials that would allow for water or animal/vermin intrusion, either of which could cause extensive damage during your absence. If there are any trees in close proximity to the home, inspect and if necessary, trim back any branches that overhang the roof or otherwise touch the exterior of your home, as these branches could cause significant damage in the event of high winds or a hurricane.  Whenever possible, exterior patio furniture, grills, or any objects that could turn into projectiles during a strong storm should be stored in a garage or shed, or at the very least, secured and protected against the elements. We highly recommend having an emergency plan in advance with a  contractor or Home Watch provider in Vero Beach, to ensure that a local liaison will be prepared to shutter or board up your home should a severe storm be predicted.

The interior of your home is also more susceptible to loss while you are away. In addition to the more commonly known and widespread potential problems such a plumbing leaks, power surges, insect/vermin damage, those of us in FL also face unique risks due to our high humidity levels.  To reduce the risk of a plumbing related loss, we recommend turning off the water main and turning off your hot water heater at the breaker panel.  Another frequent cause of loss is power outages or surges, which can lead to widespread utility and appliance damage throughout the home.  Unplugging and/or disconnecting any devices that are extraneous while the home is vacant will greatly reduce your risk of loss due to an electrical occurrence.  If any devices or appliances cannot be unplugged, the use of a surge protector can help reduce or mitigate the damaging effects that could be caused by a surge.

Up to this point, everything that we’ve discussed have been risks and perils that could happen. The one thing that we know for certain will happen during a Floridian summer is humidity, which creates the ideal incubation condition for mold and mildew.  Mold is one of the worst perils in terms of its destructive power.  In ideal conditions, it breeds fast and it is extremely invasive, so much so that homes that sustain mold damage often need to be fully gutted to remediate the damage.  Leaving your interior doors and closet doors open will allow air movement throughout the home, which will help reduce the threat.  It is advised to leave the washer and dryer lids open as well, which allows air to circulate within the drum.  For toilets, adding 1 cap of Chlorox bleach to the toilet water and covering the bowl with saran wrap should prevent mold from breeding there.  If your home does not have a powered de-humidifier, there are several types of jarred dehumidifier products that can be found at most hardware stores.  For optimal performance, adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations as far as the square footage covered per container and plan appropriately for the size of your home.

If your home has a fire and/or security alarm system, fresh batteries should be installed (if applicable) in the detectors and all units should be tested to ensure they are in proper working order. It would also be prudent to make certain that your contact information is up to date with the alarm company, local authorities and neighbors, should they need to reach you in the event of an emergency. If you also have a Home Watch company monitoring your Vero Beach home, make certain that they have current, up to date contact information for you as well.

If you are leaving any vehicles behind, it is also important to prepare those in advance of your departure. If you have someone local who will be starting the vehicle(s) on a regular basis, the following recommendations are not quite as important. However, if the vehicle(s) will be sitting for an extended period, it is best to disconnect the battery so it is not draining the whole time you are away.  Gasoline breaks down over time and can be very destructive.  Flushing the gas tank and fuel lines of stale or “varnished” gasoline is a costly expense that can be avoided easily enough by adding a gas stabilizer to your fuel tank prior to parking it for an extended period. Parked vehicles also make for attractive bedding and breeding grounds for mice and other unwelcomed vermin, all of which are capable of copious levels of destruction once they start gnawing through wiring and hoses.  We recommend using a repellant in and around the parked cars to discourage wildlife from entering.  Lastly, if you have an electric garage opener, consider disconnecting it and manually locking the overhead door, as a power outage could compromise the integrity of the automatic opener and create a security risk.

Once you are ready to depart, a final check should be made to ensure that all windows and doors are secured and locked. Sliding windows and doors can be further protected by placing a wooden dowel or pvc baton along the lower track. If there is a spare key that is typically hidden outside, this would be the ideal time to bring it inside.

We hope that you have enjoyed our tips for protecting and securing your Vero Beach home while you are away. For your convenience, please feel free to download a PDF checklist of our recommended “To Do” list to keep as a handy reminder each time you travel between homes. We wish you a safe trip and joyous months at your summer home!

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