How to Take Care of Your Vacation Home in the Off-Season

As summer winds down and you soak in the remaining days of sunshine, you’ll want to start thinking about preparing your vacation home for the off-season. Properly closing everything up is essential, whether you host short-term rentals or live there part time. Ensure your vacation home remains safe and secure for months of vacancy with these 10 tips.

1. Make Necessary Upgrades

The off-season is the perfect time to upgrade your holiday dwelling. As life becomes more hectic and bookings slow down, you can take better stock of what you need to fix. Perhaps you’ve wanted to give the house a fresh coat of paint or renovate the kitchen. If you’re a host, imagine how many renters you’ll entice with a newly renovated home in the coming season.

Hiring a property management company may also be worthwhile in taking care of housekeeping, landscaping and maintenance for you while the house is unoccupied.

2. Reset the Thermostat

Even Florida is known for having occasional freezes with bursting pipes, but setting your thermostat too high will result in unnecessarily high heating and cooling costs. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends programming your thermostat back 7–8˚ Fahrenheit for eight hours daily from its typical setting. Another rule of thumb is to leave it at 68–70˚ F in the wintertime.

A smart thermostat allows you to manage your vacation home’s indoor temperature remotely using your smartphone. You’ll no longer have to worry about traveling to the property when the weather turns, reaping the benefits of energy savings.

3. Double-Check the Windows and Doors

It would be an unpleasant surprise to reopen your vacation home months later and find it torn apart or sheltering squatters. Checking the locks on windows and doors could be your saving grace for preventing theft during the off-season.

The garage door also needs securing — approximately 9% of break-ins occur through it. Many garage door openers have a “vacation mode” you can press to prevent access from the outside.

4. Unplug Devices

Unplug appliances, televisions and other devices — including alarm clocks and coffee makers — before closing up your vacation home for the winter. This will prevent phantom loads from driving up utility costs and avoid damage from electrical surges.

A coffee maker isn’t going to break the bank on its own. However, when you factor in other kitchen appliances — like the microwave, toaster oven and the small countertop television — you could save $10–$20 in electricity expenses annually.

5. Use Smart Home Technology

Aside from smart thermostats, there are other modes of smart home automation to help you care for your vacation property during the off-season. Smart lighting gives the impression your home is occupied by allowing you remote access to switches, deterring potential burglaries.

You can also set up a smart home security system with remote surveillance and control over the alarm. Keyless door locks, motion sensor outdoor lights and security cameras are other effective technologies you can utilize during the off-season.

6. Contact Your Insurance Company

Most vacation homeowners might not consider contacting their insurance providers to let them know the home will be vacant for the coming months. However, the company might have specific demands to maintain your home’s coverage while you’re gone.

There’s a good reason why homeowners insurance premiums are 2–3 times more expensive for a vacation home — there tend to be more claims during off-seasons than at a primary residence. Yet, off-season coverage usually includes fire- and weather-related property damage, theft, and loss of personal belongings. Likewise, it protects other property structures like poolhouses, docks, sheds and detached garages.

7. Seal Toilets, Drains and Pipes

The last thing you want is to return to your vacation home at the start of the next season, only to find your property crawling with critters. Pests and rodents find sneaky ways to enter an unoccupied house, including toilets, drains and ventilation pipes.

For example, snakes may crawl into vent stacks for food and shelter, but these pipes usually connect to home plumbing fixtures. Rats may also enter your vacation home through toilets. In fact, they can squeeze their way into any ½ inch opening easily or by gnawing and climbing.

Remember to close toilet bowl lids and plug sink drains before closing your vacation home for the off-season. Some people seal the toilet bowls with plastic wrap or secure mesh around ventilation pipes to close off all access points to the house.

8. Store Any Valuables

Most vacation homeowners have an owner’s closet to store their personal effects for safekeeping during short-term rentals. This closet usually remains locked unless the homeowner stays at the property.

Although hosts know better than to keep expensive items lying around during bookings, there may still be things you want to protect. Place all valuables in the owner’s closet during the off-season. Although you’ll take other precautions like locking doors and setting the alarm, you can never be too careful. Whatever doesn’t fit in the owner’s closet should go home with you.

9. Dispose of Trash

Before vacating the property, go through the refrigerator and cabinets to ensure you don’t leave any food behind. It could be months before you return and you don’t want to find mold or foul odors.

Likewise, check the garbage bins throughout each room and dispose of all trash. Even bathroom debris will attract bugs.

10. Do a Deep Clean

Once you’ve finished preparing your vacation home for the off-season, give it a deep cleaning. Even if you keep up with housekeeping during your extended stay, it’s best to sanitize thoroughly — this is especially true if you’ve had short-term renters.

It’s worth hiring a cleaning company to come in and do the heavy work for you. You might also want to consider bringing in another crew before you reopen the following year. Your vacation home will look and feel fresher when it’s spotless, and you can rest assured you’re closing a germ-free house.

Close for the Off-Season Without Worry

Closing your vacation home for the off-season may make you feel vulnerable — after all, anything can happen when it’s vacant for months. Fortunately, when you take care of the essentials beforehand, you can lock up without worry.

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