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How to Manage Your Second Property During the Off-Season

How to Manage Your Second Property During the Off-Season

Image of a house next to a forested lakeA vacation home is great when you need to escape, but maintenance can be a headache – especially when you are not there for prolonged periods of time. Not only is the process of closing up your home at the end of the season tedious, but you’ll also need to make sure your property is safe while you’re back at your permanent residence. Follow our tips to keep your vacation home in good shape while you’re gone.

It’s time to batten down the hatches and make sure your house is prepped and secure. Use our checklist for closing a vacation home to cover all your bases.

Interior Maintenance: Room-by-Room Vacation Home Maintenance Tips

Follow these steps to come back to a clutter- and odor-free home after months away and prevent burglars from knowing you’re not there.

  1. Kitchen:
    • To avoid odors, clean thoroughly and make sure everything, especially food, is stored properly or thrown away.
    • Clean out the disposal.
    • Turn off and unplug appliances.
    • Toss perishable foods from the pantry.
    • Empty and clean the refrigerator, and prop the door open to prevent odors.
    • Pro-Tip: Leave a few boxes of open baking soda in the fridge to absorb any lingering odors.
  2. Living room: When you get back to your vacation home, you’ll likely want to jump right into relaxation mode, so make sure the living room is ready for you to easily settle back in with a good book.
    • Clean ashes out of the fireplace and close the chimney flue.
    • Move furniture away from the walls.
    • Pull out loose cushions on couches and chairs to allow air circulation.
  3. Bedrooms: Take these easy steps to come back to that hotel feeling.
    • Strip and clean the bedsheets.
    • Put linens away or leave clean sheets on the beds.
    • Leave closet and dresser drawers open to allow air to circulate.
  4. Laundry room: The biggest goals in the laundry room are to prevent mold or floods and to avoid unnecessary power usage while you’re away.
    • Make sure there’s no water left in your washing machine.
    • Disconnect the hoses to your washer and dryer, and unplug them.
  5. Bathrooms: The bathroom has a potential to accumulate awful odors. Don’t let sewage back up into your toilets and stink up the whole house. If you don’t feel comfortable prepping the toilets and taking care of the pipes yourself, call a licensed plumber to make sure everything is in tip-top shape when you leave.
    • Clean shower drains.
    • Shut off the water supply under each toilet tank and flush to drain the water, or add non-toxic antifreeze rated for plumbing systems to the tank and toilet bowl.
    • Pour half a cup of chlorine bleach into the toilet bowl to prevent stain-causing bacteria.
    • Pro-Tip: If you work with a property management company or have a neighbor look after your house, see if they can let the plumber in while you’re gone so you can avoid taking care of it during your vacation.
  6. General Around the house – Interior:
    • Don’t forget to take care of easy-to-forget tasks around the house like turning off all the lights and setting security devices.
    • Empty trash cans.
    • Cover furniture with dust covers.
    • Clean the whole house thoroughly.
    • Leave containers of baking soda, charcoal or cat litter around the house to absorb odors and moisture in the air.

Download Clark’s comprehensive visual vacation home maintenance checklist today.

Other helpful interior home tips:

  1. Remember to Turn Off:
    • Gas
    • Lights
    • Water
    • Water heater
    • Non-essential electrical circuit breakers
    • Pro-Tip: Shut off the main water valve, and open all faucets and showers to let them drain out. This is especially important in areas with freezing temperatures.
  2. Safety Precautions to take:
    • Check the sump pump. Consider adding battery back-up, or a water-powered sump pump if you’re on municipal water supply.
    • Close shades and curtains.
    • Have the chimney inspected, and cleaned, if necessary.
    • Set alarms, light timers, cameras or home-away devices.
    • Test detectors. Replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
    • Lock doors and windows and put wooden dowels in sliding door tracks.
    • Minimize public posts on social media that could provide clues to a would-be burglar about when your homes are unoccupied.
    • Tell the local police department the property will be vacant. Leave them with emergency contact information.
    • Pro-Tip: Install moisture or water-level sensors, especially if you’re in an area prone to flooding. These will alert you if water begins to accumulate in the home, either due to weather or leaks.
  3. Energy Efficiency Tips
    • Change air and furnace filters.
    • Unplug appliances, electronics and anything non-essential.
    • Set the thermostat to 50 degrees for heat and 80 degrees for air conditioning.
  4. Pause Regular Services
    • Have the local post office forward your mail to your home address.
    • Ask your waste management company to hold trash pickup until next season.

Exterior Projects & Tips to Consider Before You Leave

Make sure the outside of your home is in good shape before you leave to prevent major issues.

Image of a person cleaning leaves from their roof gutter

  • Fertilize the lawn.
  • Trim trees and bushes.
  • Weed and clean up the yard.
  • Drain the pool.
  • Empty and store garden hoses.
  • Check caulking around the windows.
  • Cover the grill and disconnect the propane tank.
  • Secure the shed and any other outdoor dwellings.
  • Store patio furniture, hammocks, flags, lawn decorations, etc.
  • Make sure the paint around the outside of your house isn’t cracked. If you see a spot, push it in with your fingers to make sure the wood isn’t rotting underneath.
  • Throughout your vacation, check the roof, foundation, driveway, etc. to make sure they’re not damaged, cracked or leaking. Make sure to fix any issues before you leave.
  • Clean storm drains and gutters
  • Seal your deck to protect it against wind, rain and snow.
  • If heavy snow and wind are common in your area, wrap trees or bushes with burlap or twine to prevent damage.
  • Install storm windows or hurricane shutters if you have them, or board up windows if your area gets a lot of wind or snow.
  • Consider taking steps to maintain access to your driveway during the winter months so that emergency responders can quickly respond in the event of a fire or other emergency.
  • Take the keys out of mobile equipment (snowmobiles, ATVs, tractors, etc.) and store them in a secure area.
  • Consider installing hitch locks on any trailers (i.e., boats, utility trailers, etc.) that are stored on your property to deter theft.

For additional second home safety and maintenance tips, be sure to download Clark’s vacation home maintenance checklist.

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