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Leaving a house unoccupied for long periods
Old 05-24-2015, 04:49 PM   #1
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Leaving a house unoccupied for long periods

We will likely be leaving our house unoccupied this summer for a couple of months - maybe 3. We'll have somebody check it once a week or so, but other than that it will be on its own.

A couple of questions for those with experience doing this.

- Should I turn off the water to the whole house? My first thought was yeah, of course do this. But then I started to wonder if the pipes rust too much if you do this for a long time. I know I see rust in the water after I turn it back on after being off for just a short time. The house is in the Northeast US.

- How about insurance? Will a standard plan cover you even if you're absent for a couple of months? It should be under 90 days, if that's a relevant time period. Yeah, I'll call my carrier to make sure, but I thought I'd ask what the experiences are here.

- Has anyone tried those wifi enabled security cameras? I can see how it would give me peace of mind to be able to see interior shots of the house whenever I wanted to. Of course I'd have to leave my internet connection on, but maybe that's worth it.

- How about mail service? Does the post office have a temporary forwarding service or do we have to do change of address forms as if we were moving?


I'm sure I'll have other questions as I continue to think through this. Thanks in advance for your help.
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Old 05-24-2015, 05:04 PM   #2
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Personally when I leave the house for more than a few days, I'll turn off the water at the entry to the house and partially drain the pipes. I also trun off all the electricity at the main panel except for the refrigerator/freezer and one or two lights that are on timers. (No gas appliances in my house so I don't worry about that) Takes me all of 5 mins. Not sure what else I might do if I were going away for months but I'm sure I'd empty the refrigerator as one of my extra steps.

The post office should be able to forward your mail, but you might still want to have someone pickup any papers or anything else that is dropped in your yard or at your doorsteps. I have heard of some people asking the local police to keep and extra eye on their house while they are away but I don't know how well that works.

I'm sure there are folks on this board that have several homes in different locations (e.g. winter and summer homes) that can comment on how to handle such a situation.
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Old 05-24-2015, 05:15 PM   #3
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I'd call the insurance agent/company about the insurance - I seem to recall that most charge a slightly higher rate if the house is to be empty for more than 30 days, which seems reasonable. IIRC the increase isn't much but there is a higher insurance risk.

It would be a bummer not to pay the increase, then have a flood from broken pipe or a fire and have the claim denied because you didn't do that.
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Old 05-24-2015, 06:07 PM   #4
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When the company paid for us to work in Ireland for several months a few years back we shut off the water, installed a 4 camera security system from Coscto that allowed us to check the front driveway, back yard, living room and great room over the internet. It was very neat to log on from Ireland and know everything was ok (I left $40 in cash on a small table in the middle of the living room in the camera view...I figured nobody who broke in would pass that up so it was a fast check to see if anyone had entered the house).

We got back home and everything was just fine.
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Old 05-24-2015, 06:08 PM   #5
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We left our house from just after Xmas to early April this year for the first time.

These are some of the things we did:

Drained the water heater

Installed new steel wrapped hoses on the clothes washer and turned the taps off

Bought and installed a wifi thermostat to monitor our 23 year old boiler (it worked great
and we were able to set alerts and change the temp from our smart phone)

Thermostat was set to 50 degrees ( we had to keep it running because we have 100
year old radiators throughout the house)

Hired someone to do a walk through of the weekly to shovel snow, flush toilets, etc.

Installed interior window hardware to prevent anyone from gaining access

If I were to leave the house unoccupied in the summer, I would hire the same person to
walk through periodically, and would probably drain the water heater and shut off the
clothes washer valves. Since it doesn't stay hot for weeks on end around here, I would
probably not run the air conditioner.

It never occurred to me to inform our home owners insurance company that the house
was unoccupied for three months this winter.
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Old 05-24-2015, 06:19 PM   #6
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Wow you guys are way more security conscious than we are. Last time we traveled for 3 months we just turned off all the climate control, cancelled internet and phone and handed neighbors the keys and asked them to take a look every week or so. Didn't worry about turning the water off since I figured our absence wouldn't make the house any likelier to flood than on our innumerable 2-3 week trips - I dunno maybe I should have.

Anyway, subsequently we acquired some pets and haven't traveled for as long, but have left the house 1 month stretches several times. Only difference is now we set the AC to 80 for the pet's sake and pay a younger family friend to come in daily and feed/play with them.
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Old 05-24-2015, 06:24 PM   #7
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A neighbor a few doors down is a snowbird and had a water line break while he was away. The damage was well into five figures and now he has the water turned off at the street by the water company. It costs about $40 each off and then back on but it gives him peace of mind.
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Old 05-24-2015, 06:25 PM   #8
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Oh right, I did turn off the electricity to the water heaters and drained them (it was winter and I didn't want them to freeze). You probably don't want to leave the electricity running to the water heaters if they are empty.

Our yard sometimes floods during the fall/winter (live on river) which was the main reason I wanted the camera system with one focused on the front and back yard. One November we had salmon swimming around the mailbox.
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Old 05-24-2015, 06:30 PM   #9
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As other suggested, check with your insurance agent (or better yet company) or just to read the fine print (with a lawyer beside you offering opinions). Up here, where a dead furnace could mean a multi-K bill, they want at least every 3 days.

As to the Internet, consider various Internet capable devices such as:
- thermostat
- moisture detectors

I'd kill the water at the farthest point possible from my house (in my case, at the street although the city has to do it). If your pipes rust, you must have a fairly old place with iron pipes (copper and pex pipes don't rust). However, the cause of rust in iron pipes is O2 in the water. Once the 02 is gone to produce Fe2O3, the water won't contribute to more rust problems. Moving water thru the pipes will only encourage rust.

If you can stop all mail (including junk) do it. Up here, N of 49, we can't kill junk mail delivery so someone has to gather the fireplace kindling.
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Old 05-24-2015, 06:30 PM   #10
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It's been said to empty fridge and freezer. I remember FIL/MIL leaving for two weeks, didn't have anyone check the house. He'd lost the fish filled freezer maybe 5 days in, it was very bad!

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Old 05-24-2015, 07:18 PM   #11
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How do you hire someone to check the house? How could you trust them? Do not use the words "family," "friends" or "neighbors." The first two don't live nearby and the neighbors are not neighborly.

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Old 05-24-2015, 07:27 PM   #12
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How do you hire someone to check the house? How could you trust them? Do not use the words "family," "friends" or "neighbors." The first two don't live nearby and the neighbors are not neighborly.

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An industry has developed around this niche.

National Home Watch Association
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Old 05-24-2015, 07:43 PM   #13
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You need to be considerate of your neighbors for just how long you will be away.


Not just from the safety and monetary aspect for yourself for utilities, but also from the neighborhood aspect.


There is a house on our block that goes unattended from a maintenance perspective - the lawn is unattended, weeds growing high, standing water on the patio, accumulation of newspapers on the driveway.


It is easy to tell that this house is detracting from the appearance of the neighborhood.
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Old 05-24-2015, 08:11 PM   #14
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We only leave our house for a month. That's the longest that we can hold our mail. We shut off the water, turn off the well pump, water treatment system and water heater. In winter, I focus an indoor ip camera on a thermometer so that I can remotely monitor the furnace. I fire up the security system and ip cameras and off we go.


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Old 05-24-2015, 10:09 PM   #15
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When my MIL passed, the insurance company wanted to cancel the policy because the house was vacant. We had to find a renter; we were out of state.
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Old 05-24-2015, 11:55 PM   #16
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Yes, and unfortunately they don't have any members in MD. It seems to be focused largely on Canada, just like the "snowbirds" forums.


Quote:
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An industry has developed around this niche.

National Home Watch Association
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Old 05-24-2015, 11:58 PM   #17
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How hard is it to get the well and water treatment machinery back up? Ever need to reprime the pump?

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We only leave our house for a month. That's the longest that we can hold our mail. We shut off the water, turn off the well pump, water treatment system and water heater. In winter, I focus an indoor ip camera on a thermometer so that I can remotely monitor the furnace. I fire up the security system and ip cameras and off we go.


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Old 05-25-2015, 06:48 AM   #18
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We leave a home unattended half the year and in one form or another have been doing so for many years. It's a real PITA.

You must turn off the water. Too much can go wrong if you don't. Set the thermostat to the edge of an acceptable range so that the furniture is not ruined, turn the hot water heater to vacation mode. Comcast and Uverse have vacation hold, this turns off monthly billing while you are away, but you have to ask for it.

You have three USPS options with the mail. They will hold it, they will forward it to a new address, or they will "premium forward" for $17 per week. Regular forward has a couple of drawbacks, some mail specifically reads "do not forward" and some businesses are notified of any forwarding and change the address on record. Premium forward is pricey but the USPS puts everything in a priority mail envelop once a week to your new address. If you don't need your mail forwarded, either a hold or a helpful neighbor is best.

Insurers aren't usually concerned with 3 month absences. 6 months is their limit, and even then they usually insure as long as there is a record of someone inspecting the property at least once per month. If you do have someone stop by, keep a record of the visits.
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Old 05-25-2015, 06:49 AM   #19
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How hard is it to get the well and water treatment machinery back up? Ever need to reprime the pump?
I just plug the 2 treatment devices in and adjust the timers. Water softener is a new digital one, so it adjusts its own time when I plug it in. I turn the well breaker on and open a faucet or two to let it run a little bit. Don't need to reprime the well pump - its a submersible. Also need to turn electric water heater breaker on. All easy to do - takes me less than 5 minutes to get it all running.
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Old 05-25-2015, 06:52 AM   #20
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... Comcast and Uverse have vacation hold, this turns off monthly billing while you are away, but you have to ask for it....
.
Thanks for the tip! I just started vacation hold from Cox at our condo, but didn't know that Comcast has it.
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