You’ve been planning your magical summer getaway for months. You’ve worked out every detail, from travel, to accommodations, to food and entertainment. But have you taken steps to protect your home while you are away?

Nothing is worse than coming home from the trip of lifetime to find a disaster of a lifetime at your doorstep. So here are some things you can do to help ensure peace of mind while you are on the road.

Quid Pro Quo

Chances are, if you have a vacation planned, so does your neighbor or close friend. If so, you can suggest a little trade: your friend or neighbor watches your home while you are away, and you do the same when your friend or neighbor is away. Of course, a plate of fresh cookies doesn’t hurt, either. Have your friend bring in your mail and newspaper, water your plants, turn lights on and off, feed the cat. This helps make your home look lived in, plus your friend may notice things, like a leaky faucet or gas fumes, before it becomes a catastrophe.

Keep Your Trip Deets Private

In the Instagram world, “keeping up with the Jones’s” has gone to an all new digital level…especially when it comes to vacation pics. It can be way too tempting to post your exotic photos in the moment.

But do you really know who’s following you? Nothing says “come rob me” like an Instagram post that tells would-be thieves that you are not home and won’t be for a couple weeks. Don’t announce when you leave, don’t post your itinerary, and save the pics for when you are safely back home. If you need to send your itinerary to friends and family, send it privately via email or instant message.

Don’t Make Drastic Changes

People who case neighborhoods look for noticeable changes. If curtains that are usually open are now closed all the time, or lights are suddenly burning 24/7, that’s a pretty good indication that the homeowner is trying to make it look like someone is home.

Grass that gets unusually long, or piled up packages, or newspapers by the door are also a big tip off.

So if your curtains are often open when you are home, leave them that way. Put your lights on a timer, to go on and off periodically in the evening. If you have a Smart Home system, you can also control this with an app on your phone. Temporarily stop your mail and newspapers, and hire someone to mow your lawn.

Bonus: By putting your lights on a timer, you will avoid coming home to a HUGE electric bill, after you already spent your vacation savings!

Adjust Your HVAC

You may think, “no one’s home, why does the A/C need to run?” The thought of saving a lot of money is a compelling one. Resist the urge, though. Your A/C does more than make the room cool. It also removes humidity from the air, which is especially prevalent in the summer months. Heat, coupled with humidity, is the perfect incubation pod for all sorts of mold and mildew. If you turn off your A/C completely, you may come home to a gross mess.

Instead, set the thermostat to 82. This will help you save some money, because the A/C will run less often, but it will still keep a lot of the heat and humidity at bay. Plus, when you get home, it won’t take as long for your home to cool down again.

If you plan winter travel, the concerns are slightly different. The heat from your furnace also helps prevent your pipes from freezing. If you turn your heat off, a good cold snap could have you coming home to an expensive clean-up and huge water bill. Set your furnace down to 55 or 60, which will save money but keep some warmth circulating through your home. You can also leave the cabinet doors open, so warm air can circulate around the pipes easier, and make sure that all your pipes are properly insulated.

Unplug Appliances

One of the big energy hogs in the home is “idle energy”, which is the electricity used by appliances even when they aren’t in use. TVs, computers, stoves, microwaves…they all suck power, even when off. Unplugging them before you leave could save your energy bill, AND it will help protect your appliances from power surges.

Don’t Hide Under a Rock

For people who make a habit of burgling, they know all the places where homeowners might stash a key: under a rock, under the door mat, above the door frame, in a magnetic case under the car, under a flowerpot. So if you routinely keep a spare key in one of those places, you are basically giving away the key to your castle. Remove any spare keys before you leave, or give the spare to a trusted friend or

neighbor who is watching your house.

We hope that everyone really enjoys their time away this summer, with the peace of mind that your home will be the same as you left it when you return. Safe travels! When it comes to buying or selling your home, we are here to help answer any questions and guide you through a better understanding. Please do not hesitate to contact us at or phone us at 202.800.0800.



Tags: Tim Pierson, Northern Virginia, Homeowners, Home Ownership, Vacation Safety, Protect Your