If you'll be using your home as a second home, or you'll be leaving for extended lengths of time--here are some tips to consider. I'm writing this most specific to our St George, Utah area; however, many of these tips will work for any area. Keep in mind that these are suggestions and things that I do for my own home. Each home is different, and it's possible that your particular home or appliances could be negatively impacted by doing something from this list. Please be sure that anything you do will work for your home and your appliances or components.
Neighbors are your closest alert system
~Let a trusted neighbor know you'll be gone. Neighbors are a fantastic watchful eye for issues that could arise while you're away. Neighbors can retrieve any unexpected packages or door notifications that may arrive while you're gone. If you're uncomfortable telling a neighbor that you'll be gone, ask if you can exchange phone numbers. If there is an emergency at your home, at least someone will be able to reach out.
~If you'll be gone longer than 10-12 days, you can request the post office place a hold on your mail. Having a mail hold will prevent the box from becoming overfilled with mail (and junk mail).
~Turn off the water. You won't need to turn off the "main" (out by the street) in most circumstances. Shutting off the main will shut off everything from the curb (including your lawn). You should turn off the "house" water, typically a valve near the hot water tank. That will allow your outside water to run (hoses and sprinkler), but anything inside is off.
Having your inside water off helps if a water line fails (under the sink or behind the toilet); you'll only lose the water left in the line rather than full power, continuous flow. Turn on a faucet or two to release the remaining water and leave a couple of faucets in the open position so when you turn the water back on, it will bleed the air from the line. We rarely get below freezing here in St George, but it's not a bad idea to have outdoor foam (or insulated faucet socks) faucet covers. Local home improvement stores have them; you can find them on Amazon too. (photo on left)
Once your house water is off, turn off (unplug) a recirculating hot water loop (if you have one), unplug the water softener, and turn off the ice maker.
~Turn the water heater to "vacation" mode.
----When you return home and turn the water back on, do it very slowly. Slightly rotate the valve, and when you hear the water begin to flow--leave it in that position for a while. If you abruptly open the valve fully--that will send a rush of water through your pipes, and high pressure could initiate a leak.
SIDE NOTE…Pressure reducers near your water heater (cone-shaped) do have a shelf life--so if you're noticing extreme pressure, you may want to have a plumber check the pressure and potentially replace the pressure reducer. Excessive water pressure causes appliance and water line failure.
~THERMOSTAT AND TEMPERATURE...
depending on the season you'll be gone; adjust the thermostat to prepare for the season coming. "Smart" thermostats allow you to check and change the settings from your phone from any location, which can be the most useful. However, if this is not possible, you'll want to adjust accordingly. In the winter (cold) season, set it to 62-65. This temperature will keep it from getting too cold and prevent excessive energy loss as the heater will not frequently be running.
--leave the blinds open a bit to allow for some sunlight, which offers "free" heat. Close them tight in the summer to keep the sun out.
--in the summer (hot) months, you'll set the thermostat to "cool" at 85-88. The HVAC will kick on intermittently on the hottest days, but it won't run continuously. The air conditioning helps keep the house from getting too hot, damaging the home (and some decor).
~Do you have a drain on the floor of your laundry room? You'll have to pour water down that drain every 4-6 months. Water in the "P TRAP" prevents the sewer gasses and odors from backing up into your home. You may suddenly get a stinky smell (ours seems to happen on a windy day), and I always know it's time to add water. I like to add a bit of olive oil to the water, this slows down the evaporation process, and olive oil won't harden within your pipes. I usually run 2-3 cups of water, then a final cup adding some oil.
My drain is under the washer--so it's nearly impossible to pour it directly in (and moving the washer a few times a year isn't ideal). I purchased a cooking funnel (small) and a small plastic tube from a local home improvement store which fit snugly with the funnel I selected. I ran the tube down the drain (we may have used a drill to make a hole for the tube to fit through the cover--honesty, I don't recall (I ran it down the drain several inches). I leave the tube in place and wound it around the foot of the washer (so it won't inadvertently pull out), and the length gives me some room to work, making it easy to access (and it's not visible). I detach and store the funnel nearby, making it simple to access.
~if you're going to be gone longer than a month...you may consider using plastic wrap or "press and seal" and seal it over the toilet bowls, thereby prolonging evaporation in the bowl. Dried out toilet components can reduce their life. You can also place a cup (or drink glass) over the sink and shower/tub drain hole, prolonging evaporation and preventing the fumes from overtaking the house.
~Interior cameras that work on wifi and allow users to connect with a phone are a fantastic asset. We have a couple at our house; they are affordable, send alerts with any motion, best of all, there is no monthly fee. I'm able to check on the house while we are gone, and of course, if you have anyone over to check on it--you can see that activity too. Mine are tabletop--so I set them wherever I'd like a vantage point. When I'm home, I point them out the window to see any packages or activity on my porch. One of my clients has a great view, so they point theirs at the view to still see it when they are away. Seeing your yard isn't a bad idea either--if you notice the grass or shrubbery is struggling, you can have it addressed before it becomes non-repairable.
--Make sure rain gutters are clear, and if the rain gutter ends at the foundation, it's not a bad idea to add gutter extenders to get the rain runoff to push out a little further away from the foundation.
--we do get some excessively windy days. Place an umbrella on the ground, or ensure they are wrapped tight (to avoid the wind creating a sail) and ensure the table is strong enough to hold them up in a strong wind. Ensure items won't blow over and break or cause other issues—Batten down the hatches. Even patio furniture cushions and dog beds will be carried off in the wind.
--Birds. Ugh...birds...when you're gone, they make themselves at home and leave droppings, which seemingly turn to superglue on anything they land. We purchased small hanging mirrors for a porch light fixture the birds were using as a hotel. The movement of the mirrors (like a windchime) keeps them away, and they aren't very noticeable. If you have large windows, you may find bird marks (or corpses) from them hitting the glass. I use these small decals, they cling to the exterior, and they aren't noticeable. There are many designs. I selected "leaves" and placed them around the top half of the glass (where they are more inclined to hit). The decals are an obscured, semi-transparent cling--but they have colors that birds can see, but humans do not, which allows the bird to realize that the reflection they are seeing isn't a horizon. Birds recognize the glass solid. They WORK! Very few people ever notice the cling designs, but everyone notices dead birds on your porch. Save the birds! You can get them on Amazon--they are around $10. They are called anti-collision window clings. Removing them leaves no residue (they are static cling attached)
Most importantly, when you return home, take a moment to go back through the list to return the settings to normal. There is nothing worse than when you're finally enjoying being home with a hot shower only to remember halfway in that the water heater is set to "vacation," and now you're involuntarily partaking in the polar plunge.
I am Paula Smith, Associate Broker with RealtyPath of St George. I have been a licensed, full-time real estate agent in Southern Utah since 2006. I have been selling residential real estate during all of the changes in the market and witnessing our St George area grow to become one of the fastest-growing cities in America. I keep my finger on the pulse and not only pay attention to what is going on, but I've also accurately predicted future market conditions.
Allow me to be of assistance and earn your business. If you've got a home in Southern Utah that you're thinking of selling and you'd like a property market report, I can send that to you.
If you're ready to buy or sell, I'm prepared to make it happen. 435-773-3751