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Best Practices: How To Close A Seasonal Home
If you’ll soon be leaving Southwest Florida for a home to the north, there are a number of important issues that need to be addressed before you depart. Too many things can go wrong when a home is left unattended for an extended period of time.
Rick Virdinlia, owner of Property Service of Naples, LLC, a licensed, insured, and bonded company that offers Home Watch services to Southwest Florida homeowners, recommends these five must-do suggestions.
1. DECIDE WHO WILL LOOK AFTER YOUR HOME WHILE YOU’RE AWAY
Who will you entrust with monitoring and maintaining one of your most treasured possessions - your home? Is this going to be a family member, a neighbor, a friend, or a company that specializes in this service? Monitoring and maintaining a home is a big responsibility and can require a lot of time. Be sure your choice is willing to accept the responsibility and capable of handling issues that may arise.
With whomever you select, be sure to have a written outline of your expectations. Many friendships and family relationships have been ruined over issues lesser than what may occur to your home. Choosing a company that specializes in monitoring and servicing homes will ensure that responsibilities and liabilities are clearly defined.
Finally, your home should be checked at least once a week. A faulty air conditioner left unattended at the height of Summer could prove disastrous. So, too, could be a leak from the vacant unit above.
2. MAKE LISTS
First, make a list of contact information (names. phone numbers, etc.) of everyone who has keys to your home. This list should include: Homeowner Associations, property managers, friends, family, neighbors, and service personnel. Are there individuals with keys that don’t need them? Have you terminated the services of a key holder? Perhaps it’s time to consider updating your home’s access security, such as changing locks and codes.
Second, make a list of all the companies that service your home. These companies include: alarm (don’t forget the code and password); air conditioning; cleaning service; electrician; plumber; pool; lawn maintenance; pest control; and irrigation. Include your handyman, window cleaner, and pressure washing company.
Then, attach copies of contracts you have with the services on your list. Now, duplicate the package you just made -- contacts and contracts. You’ll want to leave one at your home here and take one with you. The package you leave behind is for those looking after your home. Should a problem arise, they’ll have the information needed to help resolve the situation. Take a copy with you because your home watch person may suddenly not be able to do so. Friends and neighbors get ill or could be called away for their own family emergency. Companies go out of business. If this happens, you’ll want the contact information at your finger tips.
One last list you need to make is of all the settings of your home. This includes your preferences for air conditioning and humidistat; light timers; sprinkler systems, etc. If your home loses power for an extended period, timers will need to be reset. Don’t forget to have timers adjusted with the changing sunrise and sunset times.
3. TAKE PHOTOS
Take photographs or video of your home and its contents. Don’t forget the exterior. This will help with any insurance claims,should they arise.
4. PUT YOUR HOME TO SLEEP
You have someone who will care for your home while your away. All the needed information is at their finger tips and yours. All that’s left is to put your home to sleep and walk away. Here are some important items to address.
- Change all batteries and purchase backups where applicable: smoke detectors; thermostat/humidistat; alarm (main and key pads). You’ll be assured backup power is available. The availability of additional batteries for the person monitoring your home ensures minimal downtime.
- Inspect all plumbing fixtures and address potential issues before you depart.
It’s easier now then when you’re 1,500 miles away. A professional home watch company can help here. With their experience, they know what to look for.
- Ensure security of your home. Check all windows and doors for defects. Are the locking mechanisms in good order? Are the alarm-monitored entry points working properly?
- Electrical considerations. Power surges, especially from lightning strikes, are a common occurrence in Southwest Florida. The surge can enter your home through phone, electrical, cable, and data lines. It often damages electrical appliances. One can either unplug everything or contact FPL regarding their SurgeSheild program: a meter-located protector that, according to FPL ,“protects your home’s major motor-driven appliances.”
- Refrigerate or Not? Whether you chose to leave your refrigerator operating or not, always remove perishables and turn off the ice maker (be sure to empty the tray). If shutting down the appliance, be sure to clean the unit and prop the doors open to allow for air flow.
- A/C, Fans, Natural Light. The control of your home’s temperature and humidity is a must. Keep in mind that a dark, cool, stagnate, and moist environment is prime breeding ground for mold. If your home is equipped with a humidistat, set it between 45 and 55 percent. Your thermostat can be set between 80 and 84. Do not prevent all natural light from entering your home. Allow about 25 percent to filter through your window treatments. When it comes to overhead fans, it is not common that they be left on.
- Water Heater. Never restrict water to the water heater if power is off! Just prior to walking out the door on departure day, turn off the power to the water heater at the circuit breaker.
- Cleaning. Give your home a good cleaning. Removing the remaining remnants of your stay will help to minimize pests. It will also make it easier to freshen-up upon your return.
- Outside The Home. Be sure to secure all lanai and pool furniture. Store these items in a garage or a lanai with hurricane shutters. You’ll then need to decide whether or not to install your hurricane shutters. If you don’t do them now, you’ll need someone who will do so in the event of a pending storm.
- Final Steps. Discontinue mail, newspaper and other deliveries. Share your departure date with neighbors and friends - they’ll help monitor your home. On the day you leave, don’t forget to take important documents, such as new prescriptions and home insurance information. Turn off the water at the main valve. Turn off all unnecessary lights. Set the alarm. Lock the door.
5. Have A Wonderful Summer! If you’ve combined these tips with advice longtime seasonal residents have shared, you can relax and enjoy the coming months. You’ve done everything you possibly could to ensure your Southwest Florida home will be a sanctuary again next season.
Have a wonderful Summer. We’ll anxiously await your return.
About the author:
Rick Virdinlia is an owner, along with his wife Karen, of Property Service Of Naples, LLC, a Naples-based, property services company offering Home Watch, Handyman, Pet Sitting, Personal Shopping, and other services. Originally from Massachusetts, he has lived in Naples since 1998. He can be contacted at: (239) 537.3503 or www.PropertyServiceOfNaples.com.