Whether you just moved and your property is now vacant or you inherited a home from a loved one, the fact is you’re now responsible for a vacant property. And that comes with its own set of responsibilities.
Maintaining a vacant home is similar to maintaining a home you live in or have rented, except there are a couple of extra things you should consider.
Keep The Power On
- This one may seem straightforward and yet, you’d be surprised how many people either turn the power off because they moved somewhere new or forget to put the power in their names. Keeping the power on allows for the heat and air to still run maintaining climate control and for security measures such as exterior lighting to still work.
Set The AC/Heat to a Reasonable Temperature
- We get it. No one is living there so no need to crank the AC, yet you do want to keep the property climate controlled. Too hot in the summer could yield mold/mildew and too cold in the winter could cause pipes to burst. We recommend setting your thermostat to 80* in the summer and 55* in the winter. It’s just enough to maintain climate control without receiving excessive utility bills.
Maintain The Yard
- One of the easiest ways to tell a home is vacant is to look for the overgrown yard. You don’t have to get fancy, but definitely hit it with the mower. Whether this means doing it yourself, hiring the kid down the street, or getting a full on yard service company to take care of it, it’s worth it.
Stop The Mail
- You’ll want to either stop the mail with the USPS or set up mail forwarding. A stack of mail overflowing in the mailbox is like a neon sign for potential burglars. Keep in mind it will take a week or two for the USPS to catch up and, even then, some things will still show up at the property. We recommend regular visits to gather any missed mail.
Keep A Light On
- Lights are one of the easiest ways to deter criminals. Pretend you’re Motel 6 and keep the lights on, at least the exterior ones. A porch light on the front, an exterior light on the back, and a lamp inside on a timer are the simplest.
Cover The Windows
- If your property has blinds or curtains go ahead and close them. This will help keep looky-lou’s and criminals from peeking in and seeing you’re not home. And if your windows don’t have shades/blinds we recommend the easy to install and affordable paper shades that you can get at any home improvement store.
Check Your Insurance Policy
- Some insurance companies will only let a house be vacant for a period of time before they are required to adjust the policy and subsequently the rate. This is especially true if the property was a primary residence and is now vacant. Check with your insurance provider for more details.
Perform Regular Visits
- Complete frequent visits to the property. Here’s a simple checklist to know you’ve covered all your bases. These simple things can help the systems working properly and address any issues while they are still minor.
- Gather the mail.
- Sweep off the front porch.
- Check the yard.
- Make sure all doors and windows are secure.
- Look for any signs of rodents or bugs and address them immediately.
- Make sure the AC/Heat is still working and set to the proper temperature.
- Run the faucet in the sink and bathroom for a few minutes to keep the pipes clear.
- Flush the toilet.
Empty The Contents
- It is not uncommon to have a home filled with contents especially if your loved one recently passed. It’s important to go through the home and empty it as much as you can. You don’t want rodents or criminals to think they’ve landed on a gold mine. We recommend the following phases of clean out:
- Phase 1 – Clean out the refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets of food. Be sure to take out any trash. Additionally, remove any valuables or important items (jewelry, legal documents, the wedding china, sentimental heirloom items, etc).
- Phase 2 – Remove any large furniture or items that you and/or family members might want.
- Phase 3 – Start working on the closets and cabinets. This phase is painstaking, we know. Pick one room at a time and go through the closets, the drawers in the furniture, and the cabinets. You’re probably going to find a lot of things that can be thrown away and that’s ok. Set aside things that can be donated or given away to friends or family. Make the trips to the dump and donate clothes to Goodwill or similar.
- Phase 4 – Bring in the Estate Sale Company. If you’ve done all three of the steps above and there’s still furniture and salable items in the home you’re ready for an estate sale. Hire a local and reputable Estate Sale Company to handle the rest. Think of this as “everything must go.”
- Phase 5 – Give the home a quick cleaning. A lot of people have been in and out and you’ve probably created some dirt. Sweep the floors, vacuum the carpets, and wipe down the counters. No need to get crazy, just a simple cleaning will do.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a great starting point. If you have questions on maintaining a vacant home or need recommendations for local vendors to help, please reach out!