As the winter finally settles onto more begrudgingly seasonable temperatures, and the last of the Christmas tree skeletons is cast onto the curb for several weeks, for some the response is to pull out the toques, gloves, and those awesome snow pants. Other people have a very different response, which is to pack up their cabana clothes and get the next ticket south. Whatever the reason for leaving your house, this winter, or any time, here are few tips you should follow when leaving your house for a trip longer than a week.
1. Don't tip off criminals on the web - Instead of blasting a public status update that you are going south for a few weeks, opt for rubbing your glorious plans in your friend's faces with a private message instead. You may have a very private Facebook profile, but anybody who 'likes' or comments on your update has just undone all of your painstaking work of clicking those little boxes on your settings.
2. Have a close, trusted friend check up on your house every few days. It is good to check and make sure the doors do not appear to be tampered with, and windows are intact around parameter of the house. Make sure they have a copy of your key so if they need to, they can enter the residence to check the thermostat or feed your goldfish.
3. Leave the curtains how you usually keep them. If they are always closed, then close them. Always open, leave them open. Some people prefer to close the curtains so people can't peer in to see what they have. Just remember, if closed, nobody can see if someone is walking around inside either. A good defense to this is to keep valuables like computers and jewelry out of sight.
4. Use light switch timers. It looks odd to have your lights on all hours every day, and is certainly a giveaway to intruders. Get a couple of timers and use them on your preferred lights (if you use your reading lamp every night between 9:00pm and 9:45pm think about putting a timer on it). Another good tip is to have motion sensor lights on the exterior of your house. These are great for safety and energy efficiency, but also great to illuminate potential intruders as they attempt to lurk about.
5. Your mail. Another dead giveaway that you have flown the coop is a pile of week old flyers all over your porch, or exploding out of the mailbox. Have the same friend who checks up on your place grab your mail for you, OR have your mail put on hold while you are gone.
6. Unplug everything to protect from power surges. Maybe this is over-kill, but probably not a bad idea for thunderstorm season. Even items that are turned off can still draw power if plugged in, so energy savings are still a plus if you decide to do it.
7. Remove your spare key. If you keep a spare key under a rock next to your front door, it might be wise to put this in safe keeping while you are gone. Your basically just giving people your stuff if you leave it in an obvious spot for your trip.
8. Back to that good friend of yours. If you or them is concerned about a possible power outage, or it has been raining for a day or two, it can't hurt to have that friend come into your house and check on your faucets to make sure the pipes didn't freeze, and that your basement isn't flooded (a good defense for power outage floods is to get yourself a battery back-up system for sump pumps)
9. Snow removal. Have your friend shovel fresh snowfall from your front steps, and if they are really great, they will shovel the snowbank from the end of the driveway for you too. Having virgin snow all over the front porch, steps, and driveway, with a huge snowbank in front of the driveway two days after a snowfall is pretty big giveaway that nobody is home. If your friend can simulate someone living there by making footprints and shovel marks, then you are in good shape.
10. This one is easier said than done. Have a detailed list off all assets inside the house drafted in case you are broken into while you are gone. If the worst case scenario does happen, at least your will be ready for it.