Author Topic: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip  (Read 3145 times)

BlueHouse

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Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« on: October 24, 2016, 11:34:28 AM »
Family member is leaving the country for 6-8 months.  Trying to decide how best to care for their huge house.   House-sitter is probably out of the question because it's in an inconvenient place and no one wants to live that far out as a house sitter.   

All mail will be forwarded to my house and I'll shred, pay, or toss. 
All plants will be given away before their departure.

I'm willing to go over once every two weeks, check all sinks and showers for leaks, flush all toilets to keep stains away, change some things around to make the house look lived in, etc.   

What else would you recommend to look after their house? 
Water -- turn off or keep on?  (just at the house' water main)
Heat -- turn down to what temp?  They have a Nest so can be controlled remotely. 
Security -- They have a monitored home alarm system.  They're also getting a three pack of Nest Cams.  Possibly one outdoor Nest Cam.  (I think the cameras are to check to make sure all family members are doing what they agree to, and that one in particular isn't throwing parties in the house).
Lighting -- outdoor lighting is on timer.  I'm also giving them a few mechanical timers for lights.
I also have a "Fake TV" that I think is awesome, but I'd be devastated if it caught fire and burned their house down, so I haven't offered it to them.  Plus, they don't really like my ideas about security.
 https://www.amazon.com/Hydreon-Corporation-FTV-10-US-Burglar-Deterrent/dp/B003S5SOLG/ref=pd_sim_421_3?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=FAB8KK1MMBS6FP31B3HT
Cars -- keeping one at my mom's and asking her to drive it occasionally.   The other car, I have said I will swap out with mine every two weeks just to keep it moving, but I really don't want to do this if I don't have to.  I don't mind starting it up when I go to their house every two weeks, or even taking it for a 5-10 minute drive while I'm there.  But it's a much more expensive car than mine, and much more fancy and I just don't feel comfortable driving it (I don't like to use things that I can't afford to replace if I break/crash). 

Any other ideas?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

« Last Edit: October 24, 2016, 07:01:14 PM by BlueHouse »

MsPeacock

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2016, 12:22:33 PM »
Definitely turn the water off at the main and drain all the pipes.

Not sure of your climate,  it is there any reason to leave the heat or a/c on?

Do they have neighbors that will at least have an eye out on the house and notice if anyone breaks in or a tree falls on it or something?

mskyle

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2016, 01:23:19 PM »
Be sure to turn off the hot water heater, especially if you turn off the water. Don't want to burn out the heating element if all the water leaks out of the HWH.

In my family we usually set the heat at 50 or 45 if we're going to be gone a long time.

I'd at least try and find a house-sitter. Pitch it as a quiet retreat!

GuitarStv

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2016, 01:27:16 PM »
Check the insurance policy very carefully.  Your friend probably won't be covered for this time.  Most of the insurance policies around here will not cover damage in the winter if your home is unattended for more than four days . . . according to our policy someone must inspect the house daily for it to remain covered.

If your friends are not going to be covered by the policy but are still planning on leaving their house alone, cancel the home insurance.  They'll have the same coverage, but won't be paying anything.

mskyle

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2016, 01:31:46 PM »
Oh, yeah, some people I know had huge damage to their house during the winter because they ran out of heating oil during their vacation during what turned out to be one of the coldest weeks of the year and all their pipes froze (I think it was hydronic heating, too, so there were A LOT of pipes - the house had to be completely gutted). They had trouble with their insurance company, not sure how it all worked out. So, yes, see if insurance coverage will still work and also if there's a gas or oil tank powering the heating make sure it is full up before they leave.

trashmanz

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2016, 01:32:29 PM »
You might be surprised who would be available to house sit.  No matter the place, if the setup is a match if the house isn't in a war torn area you should be able to find someone. 

Also, you can look into WiFi IoT type lights etc.  Regular timers may be too obvious but with remote controls they can turn things off and on whenever they want. 

Mtngrl

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2016, 02:12:46 PM »
I would at least try to get a house-sitter. Advertise on some of the vetted house sitting sites. I know artists and writers for whom a remote location would be seen as an advantage.

PhysicianOnFIRE

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2016, 02:14:18 PM »
If you could kindly post the address, I can help unsure the home's safety. ;)

There are online house-sitting matchmakers that I've read about. There are plenty of people who might like to live far away from it all in a huge house. It might be worth looking into.

BlueHouse

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2016, 07:06:00 PM »
Definitely turn the water off at the main and drain all the pipes.

Not sure of your climate,  it is there any reason to leave the heat or a/c on?

Do they have neighbors that will at least have an eye out on the house and notice if anyone breaks in or a tree falls on it or something?

I probably made this sound more unappealing than it is.  They have a great house, about 45 minutes outside of DC, in a nice golf course community.  But their golf membership wouldn't be open to guests, so that's not really a draw for a house-sitter.  I guess I'm just thinking of the types of house-sitters that are available where I live (personal or professional references abound), but out there, it's unlikely to find someone that is personally known to anyone in the family. 
I'll mention it to them as an option though. 
They do have neighbors, but I'm not sure they would want to burden an acquaintance with anything other then "if you see anything, here's a number you can call". 

lhamo

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2016, 07:34:14 PM »
HELLLO!!!!!!  You are on the PERFECT site to find reliable housesitters who don't give a whit about golf club access.   Financially responsible people, many of whom are location independent and have WFH arrangements or don't need to commute to a job because they are FIREd. 

Another option would be to look for writers or grad students working on a dissertation.


Villanelle

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2016, 01:53:21 AM »
This could just be an incorrect impression based on one internet post, but it seems like you care more about this than they do.  If they aren't out asking these questions, you shouldn't care more about their house than they do.  Not your circus, not your monkeys.  Ask the what they want you to do on your bi-weekly visits, and then do it.  If you don't want to drive their car, don't offer to do that (or since you've already offered, tell them you aren't really comfortable driving their fancy car, but that you are willing to take it for a spin around the block and let it run for 15 or so minutes during your visits.  If they are't happy with that, let them find an alternative plan.)

If they don't want to "burden" a neighbor, perhaps offering a $100 grocery gift card (purchased on cardcash.com or a similar site for a discount, of course!) for someone to stop by every other day and simply walk the house for 3 minutes to look for issues would probably make it far less of a burden. 

former player

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2016, 04:22:07 AM »
I agree a housesitter is the best option.

If not, then turn the water off at the mains and drain the system.  Empty the toilet pans and the ubends in the drains.  Turn off as much of the electricity as possible at the main board, leaving only the security system.  If the security system is one which reports to a company, make sure they are aware the house is empty, false alarms are unlikely and that you are the contact in case of trouble.

Put the car up on blocks to save the tyres, rather than going to the bother of driving it around every so often.  It sounds as though it is fancy enough to be computerised, so probably need to put the battery on a tricklecharger - check the manual for advice on this and advice on appropriate fluids for the engine, or contact the manufacturer.

GuitarStv is right about standard house insurance probably having an exclusion clause, but an insurance broker will be able to find an appropriate policy.  Small valuables and irreplaceable papers should be kept at a different secure location.

Then forget about it all and get on with your own life.

BlueHouse

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2016, 10:49:23 AM »
This could just be an incorrect impression based on one internet post, but it seems like you care more about this than they do
Yep.  Incorrect.

Quote
  If they aren't out asking these questions, you shouldn't care more about their house than they do.  Not your circus, not your monkeys. 
They are out there asking questions.  One of the people they asked was me.  I have a resource where a bunch of very intelligent people share information and ideas.  This resource is usually helpful and polite to others. :)

These are very close relatives who have done enormous things for me in the past without ever asking for payback. Not only am I going to do whatever I am asked, I'm going to go above and beyond to make sure they can enjoy themselves while they're gone for a long time.    So I'm trying to find ways that can give them 100% confidence, while inconveniencing me as little as possible.  So in that respect, the post is really all about me. 

Thanks

Candace

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2016, 10:59:15 AM »
+1 for the house sitter. My ex and I had a first-rate experience using a retired couple. And it sounds like your relatives' house would appeal to plenty of people. Our house sitters were previously unknown to us, but after getting acquainted, we figured out the gentleman knew my husband's uncle. It's a small world. Plus, you can still go check on things to make sure all is well.

Best wishes!

BlueHouse

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2016, 11:11:23 AM »
It seems most are recommending house sitters.  I'll pass that on and see if we can find someone we all trust.  (Including me, as I would like to stop in to look over things on a schedule).

Thanks everyone for your very helpful comments!  (I was suggesting to keep the water ON, so I'm glad I didn't give that advice)

lthenderson

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Re: Safeguarding a home while on extended trip
« Reply #15 on: October 25, 2016, 11:27:39 AM »
I have a cabin that remains empty 10 months of the year or more.

Turn off water and drain if expecting freezing temperatures. Make sure to flush toilets and pour a little antifreeze in the bowl to prevent freezing if that is a problem (along with anything that has a P-trap). The other big thing is to open all faucets to allow to drain fully.

If it was just for one period of 8 months, I wouldn't bother heating or air conditioning. However, if it were going to occur fairly frequently, I would heat or cool just a touch. Repeated expansion and contraction can cause damage to a house over time. In my case, the cabin has plywood walls with visible seams so there isn't drywall cracking, etc. to worry about.

Get to know your neighbors and have them call if they see anything suspicious happening. These days with ubiquitous security cameras that can alert to a smart phone, I would probably do that as well. Still need a good neighbor though to go check it out. I always give my neighbors something over the holidays as thank you for watching over the cabin. I would probably install on an isolated circuit though so I could turn off all the electricity that I could at the main breaker panel.

Make sure all perishable items are taken out of the house. You don't want to come back to a house full of funky odors. If you have a rodent issue, they can do a lot of damage to things in an unoccupied house. Invest in some 55 gallon plastic containers with lids to put linens, beddings and such in while gone.