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Preparing Your Home For Long Term Vacancy

May 5, 2018


Plan in Advance for Long Term Vacancy!!

Preparing your home for long term vacancy may save you from facing costly repair expenses and/or coming home to unwelcome surprises.

  1. Turn Off The Water Supply If Possible

  • A burst pipe or water leak can cause tremendous damage to drywall, ceilings, hardwood floors, carpeting, and belongings. When you are away from home for extended periods, we recommend turning off the water supply completely.  This may be done either at the street or at the main valve within your home. Turning off the water at the street may require assistance from the water company..
  • Drain your water pipes (bathroom, kitchen, sinks) by opening all of the faucets and flushing all of the toilets. You you may consider pouring plumbers antifreeze into the toilet tanks.

There may be circumstances when turning off the water is not an option. If your home has a steam heating system, fire sprinkler whole house humidity systems (for artwork, plants) and irrigation systems, all may be dependent on having an active water supply.

When the water must stay on, take steps to keep your plumbing from freezing

  • If you decide to not shut off the water, then keep the furnace ON to make sure your home stays warm enough to prevent the pipes from freezing.
  • Set the temperature at 55°F (12°C) or higher to help keep the interior wall spaces above freezing.  Also, open all cabinet and closet doors to allow warm air to circulate to areas where the pipes may be located.
  • Turn off the water to washing machines, dishwashers and ice makers to avoid any leaks from burst or leaking hoses.   Turn off the heat source and water supply to hot water heaters (if separate from your boiler/main heating system).
  1. About The Electricity - In most cases, the electricity should remain ON.

  • HVAC (systems that heat and cool a house as well as the blowers that circulate air require electricity. Lights, alarm systems, and timers etc. need electricity to function.
  • Unplug any appliances that will not be in use. If a refrigerator is unplugged, then wipe up any moisture and prop the door open to prevent the growth of mold.
  1. Cancel unneeded services, subscriptions and deliveries

  • Cancel or forward your mail so junk mail does not pile up and your bills reach you in a timely manner. Also, most utilities and financial institutions offer on-line account access and payment via the internet.
  • Stop unnecessary delivery services that may include things like newspapers or drinking water.
  1. Cold Weather Home Preparation

  • Drain outdoor water faucets to prevent vandalism and cold weather damage.
  • Keep in mind that every house has cold spots. The temperature in those places may be far lower than the thermostat setting. Examples of these may include but are not limited to: The upstairs/basement bathrooms, rooms over an unheated garage, additions, rooms over a crawl space.  Set the temperature on the thermostat to  55°F (12°C) or higher, but think about those cold spots.  Open cabinet doors under sinks to circulate air and warm the areas where water pipes may be located.
  • Hire a professional to inspect and service your heating system before winter. Make sure that fuel tanks (heating oil, propane) are filled before you leave.
  1. All Home Systems Need to be “Go”

  • Have HVAC and Electrical systems inspected and any issues addressed by a licensed professional.
  • Install new HVAC filters.
  • Replace smoke detector batteries.
  • Clean or replace the dehumidifier filter and make sure that the water discharge hose is unobstructed
  • Make sure the back-up generator inspected and serviced
  • Hire a professional to inspect the roof and remove any leaves and debris from the gutters.
  1. Clean Your Home and Then Some…

  • Have the carpets thoroughly cleaned well in advance of your departure so they have time to completely dry
  • Replace air filters so the circulating air is fresher.  New filters also filter more dust
  • Clean the toilets and sinks to make sure that mold does not grow. Leave toilet lid(s) open for airflow
  • Vacuum to make sure that no crumbs or food sources are left that will attract insects/pests
  • Prop open any appliances that will close completely to prevent mold growth
  • Cover beds, furniture, lamps/shades to protect from dust and effects of sun
  1. Knock, Knock –Is Anyone Home?

  • Cancel (or forward) newspaper delivery so they don’t pile up in your driveway. Some newspapers will arrange for your subscription to be delivered to a charitable institution while you are gone.
  • Hire a contractor for snow removal services. Provide explicit instructions re: if/when driveway is to be plowed.
  • Have motion lights installed to discourage burglars . Apps on your smart phone can provide alerts.
  • Use multiple light timers, programmed to turn on/off at different times.
  • Be certain to check your phone for messages daily. You never want callers to hear “Your mailbox is full”
  1. Protect Your Castle from Thieves, Vandals and Break-in’s (Oh My!)

  • Get an alarm system installed and/or make sure the current system is in good working order.
  • Consider installation of motion cameras.
  • Make sure external doors are locked and secured.
  • Install dead bolt locks on doors. Make sure the strike plate screws are at least 3 inches long  to prevent the door from being forced open easily.
  • Consider door security bars on side or back doors
  • Do NOT post your vacancy plans on social media sites. It is becoming increasingly easier for thieves to intercept such information.
  • Store valuable assets off site in a safety deposit box.
  • Trim large shrubs to prevent giving an intruder a place to hide.
  1. Rodents, Insects and Spiders…Keep Them Away

  • Make sure that there are no open spaces around doors, foundation.
  • Check weather stripping for gaps since insects and mice can squeeze thru very small spaces
  • Clean up any leaves or debris around exterior of house that would provide a place for insects to nest.
  • Make sure the fireplace flue is closed.
  • Have Chimney(s) inspected for birds or other inhabitants. Chimney should be covered with a chimney cap.
  1. Have An Emergency Plan

  • Let the local police know that your house will be unoccupied and give them your contact information.
  • Establish a list of contractors should a problem arise (HVAC, Electrician, Plumber, Roofing Company). You do not want to have to figure this out when half way around the world.
  • Enlist the help of a Professional Home Watch Company to watch your home for you and be your agent while you are away.


Golden Rule Home Watch & Concierge can be your back up when you are away.  We use environmental monitoring sensor technology that monitors your home’s interior temperature and humidity 24/7.  Our sensors also detect water leaks and the presence of water where it should not be.  The staff of Golden Rule will visit your home on a regular, scheduled interval to visually monitor both the interior and exterior of your home.  After each visit, a detailed time and GPS stamped report will be emailed to you with pictures and details as appropriate.

Our goal is to treat your home like we would want ours to be treated….and we have very high expectations.  Contact us at: 855-928-2424 or at [email protected]