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How long can you leave home and leave it empty?
Old 08-14-2013, 11:50 AM   #1
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How long can you leave home and leave it empty?

I have never left my primary residence for more than 2 weeks.

Thinking of after RE, DW and I will start travelling. Let's say we will be gone for 2 months. I am not sure what to do with the house.


I can think of these actions:

Shut off water
Turn water heater to pilot
Stop mail
Call home security we are gone for (... days)
Ask a friend to come to check once in a while.
(No pets)
(kids should be at college dorms)


I am always wondering what happens if you come home and found it demolished (have you seen that news?) or burglarized or burned down?
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Old 08-14-2013, 11:58 AM   #2
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Here's my routine

Shut off water
Set timer lighting
Set AC high or heat low
Shut off water heater or set to vacation
Unplug garage door opener
Hold mail
Make sure ip cameras can be seen remotely ( this will tell you if/when the house is demolished) - good to have one camera positioned to read indoor thermometer
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:00 PM   #3
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My in laws would always have some water in jugs to pour down the drains occasionally when we would check on the house. Sometimes they would just cover the drains and toilets with plastic wrap. They were trying to keep the water from evaporating from the trap. Though I am not sure how long it would really take for the water to evaporate from a trap, let alone a toilet- that is what they always did.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:06 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by fh2000 View Post
I am always wondering what happens if you come home and found it demolished (have you seen that news?) or burglarized or burned down?
The same thing that happens if you find that unpleasant surprise after you come home from a trip to the grocery store - call the cops and your insurance company.

We take trips of 4-6 weeks and follow your checklist and the other items Ronstar suggested. So far no surprises.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:08 PM   #5
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In a place i wineterized (different subject I know) we blew out the traps and filled then with RV antifreeze. It was still there 5-6 months later. I don't think it is physically possible for water to evaporate out of a trap or toilet bowl in such a short period of time so I wouldn't worry too much about that.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:09 PM   #6
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They were trying to keep the water from evaporating from the trap.
Although we aren't gone long enough to worry about that happening, I understand you can pour a cup of vegetable oil down all the drains to prevent evaporation and avoid a stinky sewer gas surprise when you get home.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:10 PM   #7
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Unplug electronics in particular stay at home computers routers and the like. One might also unplug large screen tvs. This is in particular to protect against lighting caused power surges.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:18 PM   #8
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I don't recall leaving my home for more than 6 days since buying it in 2002. As many of you probably know by now, I am not much of a traveler and my home means the world to me.

Perhaps the solution to these problems is buying in a high rise condo building with a secure entry or doorman. It would probably be very easy to just lock and go with a set-up like that.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:20 PM   #9
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Although we aren't gone long enough to worry about that happening, I understand you can pour a cup of vegetable oil down all the drains to prevent evaporation and avoid a stinky sewer gas surprise when you get home.
Thanks for the tip. Our toilets go dry in our az condo in about 4 weeks. I just let them go dry - there is no smell. Next time I'll try the vegetable oil.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:23 PM   #10
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Giving your neighbors your cell phone number in case of emergencies would be good if you feel you can trust them, you don't need to necessarily let them know you're going out of town, but at least they could call you if it burned down or something else major.

Our house flooded one day when we were at work, the toilet supply line broke. A neighbor turned off the water to the house when he saw it coming out the front door, but it was 6 hours till we got home. If he had our number, it might have been a lot less damage.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:32 PM   #11
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Although we aren't gone long enough to worry about that happening, I understand you can pour a cup of vegetable oil down all the drains to prevent evaporation and avoid a stinky sewer gas surprise when you get home.
This works okay, and is a better answer than putting plastic over the drain. Usually, there's a reason a room has a drain in the floor, and if that reason should become apparent (busted overhead pipe, ruptured toilet supply hose, etc) we'd be very sorry we blocked the floor drain with plastic.

Another thing to do before leaving the house for vacation: Turn off the water supply to the washing machine (and leave a note to yourself on the machine that you've done that.)
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:32 PM   #12
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The neighboring family went on a trip one afternoon and that evening the live-in maid came to our house distressed about the 3 inches of water covering the ground floor. The hose to the washer had broken. The maid had been upstairs all day. We called their cell and they turned around and came home, but the damage was done.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:43 PM   #13
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Another thing to do before leaving the house for vacation: Turn off the water supply to the washing machine (and leave a note to yourself on the machine that you've done that.)
We do this every time we do the laundry. Except for the answering machine part.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:49 PM   #14
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Thanks for the tip. Our toilets go dry in our az condo in about 4 weeks. I just let them go dry - there is no smell. Next time I'll try the vegetable oil.
Interesting - I've never heard of that. I assume that you leave your AC on? I heard AZ was dry but never would have thought a toilet bowl full of water would evaporate so quickly. Learn something new every day.
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Old 08-14-2013, 12:55 PM   #15
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We find someone who wants to house sit. We have had good luck overall and have been able to help some people out who have needed temp. housing. So far, we have found people by just letting friends and acquaintances know we are looking for someone.

We have also house sat for others when we needed temporary housing. That has worked out well for us.

We have not had a major event, like a broken pipe, in our house, that the house sitter discovered. Once when we were house sitting, a pipe buster (froze) in an upstairs bathroom. That would have been a disaster if we were not there. We caught it right away and there was virtually no damage.
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Old 08-14-2013, 01:04 PM   #16
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Here's my routine

Shut off water
Set timer lighting
Set AC high or heat low
Shut off water heater or set to vacation
Unplug garage door opener
Hold mail
Make sure ip cameras can be seen remotely ( this will tell you if/when the house is demolished) - good to have one camera positioned to read indoor thermometer
Our routine is pretty similar (except we do not have the IP cameras).
We were gone a month earlier this year and came back with no problems (yea!!)
If you have an Insta-Hot in your sink I would also un-plug it so it does not boil dry.
RE: Stopping Mail-my understanding is they are limited to all long they will hold mail (month?), but they now offer the ability to have it sent to you at another address(es) via priority mail. Comes with a small fee, of course, and the cost of the priority shipment
If you are going to be gone over the Summer, some proviso should be given to having the lawn mowed as leaving will announce to all you are probably absent.
Having a neighbor park a car in your driveway will also help keep the image up of occupancy.
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Old 08-14-2013, 01:18 PM   #17
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You may wish to check your insurance coverage. One time I checked and if the home was vacant for over 30 days, glass breakage and freeze damage was not covered. This was 20 years ago in Alabama. Of course, every state and every insurance company may have different criteria.
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Old 08-14-2013, 01:31 PM   #18
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I was gone from my house (except for a 'vacation') for 14 months...

The megacorp sent me to London for 6, but it got extended...

THEN they sent me to NYC for almost 3 years.... but I was able to come home one weekend a month....


Your house can be empty a LONG time if you want...
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Old 08-14-2013, 02:46 PM   #19
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Depending on how well you know them and how comfortable you are with others living in your home, a house sitter is an option. We have done this twice, once with a nephew and his wife, the other with a couple where the wife was the daughter of friends. We stocked up the fridge, freezer and pantry and told them to help themselves, put anything we might feel uncomfortable leaving around in our bank safe deposit box. We still stopped the mail so they would have to deal with that. Both happened to be living in apartments at the time, so to be in a house for several weeks was like a vacation for them, and they took very good care of things both inside and outside of the house.
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Old 08-14-2013, 03:04 PM   #20
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We've had an uptick in burglaries in our neighborhood, and the police came to give us tips to make your home look occupied.

He strongly suggested outside, motion-detecting lighting, fake cameras, having a couple of lamps in the house on alternating timers, doing the same with a radio turned up loud, and finally a fake TV light. I'd never hear of it either, but we got one (on Amazon) and I use it whenever we're away after dark.

From the outside, it really does look like you've got a TV on:

FakeTV - The Burglar Deterrent

Enjoy your travels!
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