Don’t Come Back To Home To Supprises this Spring
Ever wonder how to be a snowbird? We get it. Who wouldn’t want to get up and leave whenever the weather gets rough (or better yet, before the bad weather even rears its head)? That said, there are some things you’ll need to know before packing up the RV and heading out.
Some of the most critical things snowbirds need to consider involve the preparation of their house. After all, you wouldn’t want to come home to busted water lines, a break-in, or some other horrible thing. Luckily, you can take steps to help prevent these issues.
The list below will tell you exactly how to prepare your house before you hop in your home-on-wheels and make your winter escape, and it is a great place to start learning how to be a snowbird.
Talk to the Insurance Company
First, we highly recommend talking to your home insurance company. Let them know you’ll be gone for quite some time, and ask them if there are things you do to ensure continuous coverage while you’re away.
Create a Facade
You don’t want people driving by to know you’re away. You can make it look like you’re still at home by putting lights on timers and having your neighbor park one of their vehicles in your driveway. This is key when it comes to learning how to be a snowbird.
Invest in Security Cameras
You’ll want a way to keep an eye on your home. Security cameras are ideal for this. Not only will they deter people from breaking in, but they will also allow you to see how things are going wherever you are. Set up cameras in the basement, bathroom, and kitchen to watch for water leaks, and put one by the front door so you can see people come and go.
Make Systems Wireless
In this day and age, you can make almost anything wireless. You will want the cameras mentioned above to be linked to your phone. From there, you can also have some lights that you operate from your phone, making it easier to check your security footage. Make the thermostat operable from afar, so you can set the house to a comfortable temperature before arriving home.
Turn Off Your Water Supply, Water Heater, and Ice Maker
Busted water lines are one of homeowners’ biggest fears when considering how to be a snowbird. To avoid this (and other potential water problems), turn off the water to the house. You’ll also want to relieve the water pressure in the lines after the water has been switched off and turn off both the water heater and the ice maker in your fridge.
Note: Some people also recommend letting the water company know you’ll be gone. Otherwise, they might assume your meter is broken and bill you based on historical averages.
Cover All Drains and Toilets
Water tends to evaporate over time, something that can let some pretty awful smells into your home. Avoid this problem by covering all drains and wrapping each toilet with Saran Wrap. This will also help remind people not to use the toilet while the water is shut off.
Clean Out the Fridge
Food can get pretty funky if it’s left sitting for weeks on end. This is true even if the food is in the fridge, especially if the power happens to go out for any reason. To avoid returning home to some nasty science experiments, be sure to clean out your fridge entirely before you leave.
Adjust the Thermostat
When leaving your house in winter, your thermostat should be set to around 50 degrees (°F). This ensures the house will stay warm enough to keep interior plumbing from freezing but won’t leave you with an insane gas or electric bill from a furnace that runs constantly. Having a WiFi-enabled thermostat will allow you to adjust the thermostat as needed from anywhere in the country…provided your internet stays on.
Leave Cabinet Doors Open
You can help protect plumbing under sinks by leaving the cabinet doors under sinks open. This allows warm interior air to circulate over the water lines there.
Test Smoke Detectors
You will want your smoke detectors to go off should a fire occur. You can help ensure they function properly by replacing their batteries and testing them before you leave.
Unplug Unnecessary Electronics
You can also help prevent fires from happening at all by unplugging all unnecessary electronics. Phone chargers, home phones, computers, televisions, etc., should all be unplugged from the wall.
Check for Pest Entry Points
A house full of mice is not a nice welcome home. Do your best to avoid pests by inspecting the outside of the house from possible entry points, covering vents with mesh, and filling holes with steel wool.
Put Outdoor Furniture Away
If you have furniture or other items that could blow away or be damaged by winter weather, you will want to make sure to put those away or at least secure them.
Hire a Snow Removal Service
This only applies if your house is in an area that sees a lot of snow. If it is, you might want to hire someone to come out and remove snow from your roof after big storms to prevent damage. You might also ask this person to remove snow from the sidewalk and driveway, making your absence less noticeable.
Figure Out What to Do about Mail
Mail is a biggie when figuring out how to be a snowbird. You clearly can’t have mail delivered while you’re gone unless someone is willing to pick it up for you. Most post offices will hold your mail while you’re out of town, but many will only do this for up to 30 days. If you are gone longer, you can have someone pick your mail up from the post office and ask for another 30 days each month.
Alternatively, if you will be at your snowbird location for six months or less, you can get a temporary change of address with the United States Post Office. More information about forwarding mail for Canadian residents can be found here.
Get Set Up to Pay Bills Remotely
Let’s be honest; most of the mail we get is junk and bills. You don’t need the junk, and the bills can be taken care of remotely.
This will sometimes involve turning on auto-pay and having the money taken directly from your bank account each month. In other cases, you will need to go in and pay the bill manually online. Either way, you don’t need those paper bills you receive in the mail, nor should you even need to leave your RV to pay them.
Make Arrangements for Pets
If you have a cat or a dog, you’ll probably want to take your furry friend with you. That said, some pets cannot travel. In this case, be sure to make arrangements for the care of your pets!
Hand the Key Over to a Trusted Person
It’s good to leave a house key with at least one trusted friend or family member and ask them to check up on the house once a week or more. This ensures issues that can’t be seen on your security cameras are caught sooner rather than later and is a crucial step when learning how to be a snowbird.
Finally, we recommend sharing a contact list with neighbors, so they know who to call should they see anything out of the ordinary. This list should include your number, of course, but also the number of the person you gave a house key.
There you have it, our top tips for being a snowbird and preparing your house for the winter! Do you have any additional tips and prep that you do before heading south for winter?