Don't let Burglars, Floods and House Stink Ruin your Return Home for the Holidays
This weekend, my family and I will embark on a 1,100-mile journey to our vacation place in Florida. According to AAA, we'll be joining some 93.3 million other road warriors who will be going somewhere else for the holidays, in what is shaping up to be the busiest travel season in six years.
So I'm making a list—of things I need to do to button down the house before leaving—and checking it twice. But my list may be more extensive than some because I want to avoid some horrible postholiday surprises that I and others I've known have experienced after returning from the merriment of our getaways.
I presume you already know the basics of what you should do to while you're away: stopping your mail and newspapers; unplugging electronics; turning down the thermostat and water heater; setting lights on timers; turning off the stove and telling trusted neighbors that you're away so they can pick up packages and fliers left by your door.
But have you considered adding the following to your checklist?
1. Put holiday lights on timers. If your house was formerly festive but is suddenly dark, it is a tip off to thieves that you're not home. Because he once was burgled while he was away, a friend of mine now takes down his holiday decorations before he leaves on his trip. As a bonus, he has one less chore to do once he has returned from his trip.
2. Hire someone to shovel your walk if it snows. Besides making your home seem occupied, clearing a walkway could save you from a lawsuit. Some jurisdictions hold homeowners responsible for keeping sidewalks and walks snow-free, whether or not they are at home.
3. Remove house keys hidden outside your house. You may think you're safe leaving a spare key in the holly wreath, but burglars are wise to common hiding places, including decorations, fake rocks, planters, and, of course, doormats. In fact, in nearly 12% of all burglaries, the thief had a key, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
4. Turn off the main water valve. As we discovered to our expensive horror ...