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Vacant Home Preparation Tips

Vacant Home Preparation Tips

Vacant Home Preparation Checklist

Whether for vacation purposes, temporary change of location due to employment or some other reason homeowners may need to leave their home vacant for a while.  Short-term leaving a house vacant is usually not much of an issue and does not require much preparation.  Long-term leaving a home vacant though requires the home to be properly prepared otherwise the homeowner could come back to disastrous conditions.  This article provides some tips on what homeowners should be doing when leaving their home vacant for an extended period of time.

Security Tips

Some people opt to turn off power and turn off internet connections to the vacant house.  By doing that though the homeowner is limiting their ability to monitor their home remotely with security cameras and security systems.  While there are home security systems that can run on cell phone service they still need power for the monitoring system and sometimes they charge more for continual cell phone monitoring versus using an internet or phone (land line) connection.  By having a monitored security system the homeowner can have peace of mind that if someone does try to break in the police can be called to check out the property.

Always on security cameras also need an internet connection so the homeowner can monitor the home from anywhere they can get access to internet and a cell phone.  Different parts of the home can be monitored so if the alarm does in fact go off the lighthomeowner can check right away if it is a false alarm or not.  Homeowners should prominently posts signs about security cameras and also making them easily seen by others is a great way to deter the casual criminal looking for an easy target.

Homeowners should also check with their local law enforcement to see if there is a way to let them know the home will be vacant and how long it will be vacant for.  During routine patrols, police can check on vacant homes to make sure things are locked up and that no squatters have suddenly taken up residence.  Vacant homes are an easy target for those looking for a free place to squat in and call their own without having to pay any rent. 

Plumbing Tips

If leaving the home for some time it might be advisable to have the water shut off and all water lines drained of water to prevent the possibility of damage from water leaks.  It only takes a little bit of water leakage over time to cause mold, wood rot and more issues.  Left unchecked too long that wood rot and mold can result in an unlivable house.  Hiring a professional to shut off the water and drain out the water lines can save a lot of money in the long run.

Drain lines also need to be addressed too as usually there is water in the drain lines that keep the sewer gases out of the home.  When the water in those drain line dries up due to evaporation sewer gases and insects canl enter the house.  In an actively used home, water is continually being used to fill up those drain lines so the sewer gases do not enter the home.  The company who takes care of the regular water line should also be taking care of the drain lines as well.  Some DIY websites suggest adding one to two ounces of vegetable oil to each drain line to form a cap on the water which can prevent evaporation.  There are also hardware solutions the homeowners can use to close up drain lines which will prevent gas and insect intrusion into the home.

Stop Mail/Package Delivery

While bills can be redirected to a new address, junk mail usually cannot be redirected.  Mail, papers dropped off on the driveway, packages and more that stack up in the mailbox or on the front porch is a clear sign that no one is home.  Homeowners can ask the post office to stop delivering mail to their home and either have the mail held or have everything forwarded to another address.  If there are any regular delivery services in place, stopping those or redirecting them to the new address is important.

Heating/Cooling System

During wintertime in the Cincinnati area temperatures can drop below freezing temperatures which can mean frozen and damaged pipes if water is still in them.  Hence the importance of shutting off water and making sure all lines have the water removed (also known as winterizing the home).  The homeowner can leave the heating system on at a low setting in order keep the temperature in the home above freezing if the cost of keeping it on is not a concern.

For the warmer days while the AC may not be needed the homeowner may want to consider having dehumidifiers running in the home to keep the humidity down.  Especially in humid climates, that moisture can find its way into the home and cause all sorts of issues with mold, wood rot and more.  In an actively used home the homeowner is running the AC, heat or opening windows to allow air circulation.  A closed up vacant home does not have that air flow which will cause problems over a period of  time.  With a dehumidifier the homeowner needs to make sure they are draining properly so that the water does not build up in the home and cause damage.  Homeowners should discuss their dehumidification needs with a professional HVAC company.

Sell the Home

Unless the homeowner is very certain they will be returning to the home sometimes it is better to sell the home now while it is still in good shape.  Leaving a home unattended for some time increases the risk that something can go wrong and no one will notice.  If a pipe leaks and no one is around to fix it the damage will add up over time.  A broken window due to weather or vandalism scaleinvites all sorts of critters into the house and they are not known to keep things clean.  Squatters seeing a vacant home see an opportunity to hang out somewhere rent free and also don’t care how they treat the home since they don’t own it.  By selling the home the homeowner does not have to worry that the home they comeback to is now uninhabitable and will take a lot of money to get back into good shape.

According to home sales expert Bill Gassett, owner of Maximum Real Estate Exposure, selling a home vs leaving it unoccupied for some time might make more sense.
"One of the things many people do not realize about vacant homes is that you are supposed to notify your insurance company when you move out. Insurance companies see this as a much riskier situation, as potential problems can occur quickly, and nobody will be there to address them.
If it is winter, imagine one of the pipes freezing. The consequences can be disastrous.
When homes are vacated, insurance companies want you to change your coverage, which is more expensive with vacant properties. Unless you have an excellent reason for holding off selling, I would not leave your home vacant for much time."

Final Thoughts

Proper home preparation for a vacant home can mean the difference of coming back home as usual versus coming back to an unlivable problem house.  The expenses associated with preparing the home to be vacant are cheap compared to the costs associated with repairing damage.  Sometimes it makes the most sense to sell the home rather than leaving it vacant as the homeowner can better protect their interests that way.

Additional Resources

About the author: The above article “Tips For Preparing A Home To Be Vacant” was provided by Paul Sian. Paul can be reached at paul@CinciNKYRealEstate.com or by phone at 513-560-8002. If you’re thinking of selling or buying your investment or commercial business property I would love to share my marketing knowledge and expertise to help you.  Contact me today!

I service the following Greater Cincinnati, OH and Northern KY areas: Alexandria, Amberly, Amelia, Anderson Township, Cincinnati, Batavia, Blue Ash, Covington, Edgewood, Florence, Fort Mitchell, Fort Thomas, Hebron, Hyde ParkIndian Hill, Kenwood, Madeira, Mariemont, Milford, Montgomery, Mt. Washington, Newport, Newtown, Norwood, Taylor Mill, Terrace Park, Union Township, and Villa Hills.

Vacant Home Preparation Tips

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