Summer vacation: how to safeguard your home

Vacation talk is in the air and your own time off is fast approaching.  Add safeguarding the house to your to-do list before you leave. You will then reduce the risk of returning home to a nasty surprise: theft, vandalism, water damage... We will walk you through the process step-by-step.

1. Invite your neighbours or relatives to come over while you're away

An empty house quickly attracts the attention of thieves. Ask one or two people to stop by your place. For example, a neighbour can...

  • pick up the mail so the mailbox doesn’t overflow
  • park their vehicle in your driveway
  • water your garden and pick any ripe fruit and vegetables (no point leaving them to rot!)
  • report any strange activity

A friend or parent can occasionally...

  • go inside to water your indoor plants
  • ensure there is no new damage in the house
  • mow the lawn as needed

Help your guardian angel help you

Give that person a key and explain how to reach you if needed.

If you have an alarm system, demonstrate how to use it. Also provide that person with a temporary access code.

If your system is connected to a central monitoring station, give that person’s number to your alarm monitoring service. Indicate that this is the person to contact in the event of an emergency.

2.    Make your house come alive remotely

Relatives and neighbours can’t be expected to watch your place 24/7. But we live in the 21st century! Home automation solutions and smart systems can easily help you make it look like you're at home, even when you're not

Don’t have such a system? No worries, other simple solutions exist. Buy electronic timers.  They light up your house at night while you’re away - because keeping lights on all the time doesn’t fool thieves. 

Also install one or more motion sensor lamps to light up the darkest corners of your property.

Creating ‘life’ in the house: a concrete case

Malika is going on vacation in three weeks. Her neighbour will pick any ripe tomatoes on her deck and her brother will pass by every now and then to make sure all is well. This is not enough to make the house look lived in. 

So Malika will use timers to create some movement; 

- She programs one of them to turn on a radio at night to a talk station.  This will make it seem like people are talking in the room.

- Other timers can be used to turn on indoor lamps and outside lighting to illuminate the night, and not all at the same time.  

Timer batteries are freshly replaced so that everything works well when the time comes.

3.    Keep a low profile: don’t post about your departure on social networks

Don’t post photos until after you return! Posts can travel over social networks too. Your property is safe with your friends but thieves track empty houses all sorts of ways, including social media like Facebook. 

You may have contacts who post videos live from Barcelona, the Mayan Riviera or Ogunquit.  They forget that friends of friends can also see their tan. The problem is that complete strangers can find out that there’s nobody home. It’s not worth the risk!

4.    Use less energy

Save money, less waste, prevent risks: these are all good reasons to conserve energy. 

You’ll be away, so why keep the air conditioning on? Better to turn it off before you leave. 

If you own a pool, don’t heat it! Just leave the filter running. Also lower the hot tub temperature. 

Unplug some appliances, such as the toaster, TVs, microwave and computer. You will save on your electricity bill and prevent the risk of a power surge (during a thunderstorm, for example).

5.    Prevent water damage

Pipe problems are most likely to occur in the winter but don’t leave anything to chance: shut off the main water valve. Then let any remaining water run from the taps and flush the toilets.

Turn on the dishwasher so the cycle ends before you leave the house. These handy machines sometimes spring a leak.

6.    Check off your list 

Has the long-awaited day of departure arrived? 

  • Find out what your home insurance company requires if you leave the house for more than 30 days.  
  • Lock up your valuables (important documents, jewellery...), ideally in a safe box. 
  • Give away or throw out any remaining perishable food, depending on freshness.
  • Empty garbages to avoid bad smells when you return.
  • If you own a garage, consider locking it and disabling the automatic door opener.
  • Before blocking shed access, store outdoor items there that could fly away or cause damage in the event of a storm. 
  • Lock doors and windows. Don’t leave a key hidden outside: thieves know all about the key-in-the-flowerpot trick (in all its forms).
  • Do you have an alarm system? All that’s left is to activate it and then lock the door on your way out.

Your home is secure, your real vacation can begin... enjoy!