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Property Management When Snowbirding
Old 12-13-2007, 10:40 AM   #1
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Property Management When Snowbirding

This probably has been covered at some point in the past, but I can't find a reference.

We plan on heading to a warmer climate for 5 or 6 months each year starting next November. Leaving our house vacant with pretty much everything in it is somewhat scary. We can have the mail forwarded and stop the paper, but there is still a lot of free stuff that gets dumped, an occasional unexpected FedEx or UPS package from a friend, etc. I am pretty sure I know how to prepare the house for winter (lots of literature on that), but what services do people us to have someone check things on a weekly basis and make sure nothing is wrong, no burst pipes, no break-ins, broken windows, pick up junk stuff, etc.? We do have a plowing and mowing service, so that's covered.

This is far too much to ask of a neighbor and I'm not sure they would want the responsibility even if we paid them. Plus, we will have a car in the driveway (covered with a tarp), which makes it sort of obvious that we are not there.

Any and all suggestions/ideas are appreciated.

Thanks.
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Old 12-13-2007, 10:54 AM   #2
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If I knew the answer to your question, I'd probably think about buying a house in my future retirement location in Missouri. Bargains abound!!! And, it would be great to have a real address up there - - another step in the right direction.

But it seems like it would be too much of a headache for me to deal with things from here.
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Old 12-13-2007, 10:56 AM   #3
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Most of the seasonal property managers I know are landscapers or snow plowers. Thier seasonal slowdown allows them to make the rounds.

I'ld start with the people plowing - if you trust them. They're already at the house and may be able to add quick check to thier rounds.

It will also pay to pick-up a temp/water/power monitor (I paid $129). They call out to 3 numbers when an alarm condition exists. This will be the real peice of mind. Also allows dial in monitoring.
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Old 12-13-2007, 11:06 AM   #4
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Does your local police department offer a "property/home checking program"? After all you do pay real estate taxes, don't you? They do where I live and I actually have used them a couple of times. They want to know when you are leaving, when you plan to return, the name, phone number and other identification for a local contact, if you have one. They also will take a Cell Phone number (or call you collect on a land line) where you plan to be. I do this in addition to the alarm system people, to which I provide the same information.
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Old 12-13-2007, 11:48 AM   #5
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Have you thought about using a “house-sitter”? Ads for this service run routinely in RV magazines. I know people who have used this service and people who have performed the service. The sitter either stays in a small portion of the house or receives free hook-ups for his/her RV. The sitter usually receives local phone/internet service in exchange for looking after the house, feeding pets, and other small maintenance chores. The people I know who have done “house-sitting” didn’t receive any money for the service; they just liked the location or were near kids or grandkids.
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Old 12-13-2007, 11:49 AM   #6
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I'd be a little concerned about leaving the car covered with a tarp in the driveway for several months. Might you arrange with a neighbor who has an extra space in their garage to park it there while you're gone? People in my area do this all the time -- offering to pay for the storage is a nice touch.
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Old 12-13-2007, 12:00 PM   #7
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The neighbors might be fine with it.

We use a responsible long term tenant, with neighbor backup.
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Old 12-13-2007, 01:05 PM   #8
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The neighbors might be fine with it.

We use a responsible long term tenant, with neighbor backup.
It's a tough situation, and a major reason why condos are so popular with the snow birding set..... Although even a condo isn't a complete answer.

Using a trusted tenant sounds good. The problem with asking neighbors to do it is that if something significant actually does go wrong, you could really be asking a lot from them. It's minus 674f in Duluth (typical! ) and your neighbor comes home from work to find your furnace inopperative and water spewing from freeze damaged plumbing. That is going to be a lot more involved than just calling your cell phone number!

If you do use a neighbor, do extensive homework and provide all the possible contingency information. What HVAC company to call. How to pay. Etc. And stay reachable 24 x 7 via cellphone. Be prepared to get home on short notice if something significant happens. Don't ask a neighbor to take on hours of work or make decisions.

I'd try to find a professional service with good references, including a thumbs up from your local law enforcement agency. I'd do this even if it's pricey.
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Old 12-13-2007, 01:33 PM   #9
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I agree that it is a lot to ask of a neighbour to be responsible for your house for an extended time - even if you offer to pay them. That was one reason why we decided we'd downsize to a condo, to make it easier to get away in the winter. We may not have snow to shovel and the mail can be stopped but insurance policies require that the condo be checked once every 3 days if we are travelling. Our solution has been to find a neighbour in the building willing to do that and we will do the same for them when they're away. If anything major happens, the superintendent and property management firm look after the problem and we always leave a number we can be reached at and check our email as well. So far, so good! Good luck with your travel plans!
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Old 12-13-2007, 11:37 PM   #10
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Most homeowners insurance does not cover your home while you are gone for an extended period. A friend of mine lost her house when a pipe burst and demolished her home while she was gone for a couple of months. Her insurance was rendered null and void.

I tried to get an insurance company to cover my dad's house while we were trying to sell it after he died: no way. Empty house = no insurance.

Talk to your insurance co. before you take off to be sure you are covered during a long absence. See if having someone visit once a week counts. If not, have them explain what you have to do to retain coverage.
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Old 12-14-2007, 05:12 AM   #11
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Empty house = no insurance.

Interesting, I had never thought of that, but it'll be a big issue for us.

We plan to have the problem all the time - one home in Latin America and one home here, one will always be vacant.
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Old 12-14-2007, 05:32 AM   #12
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I have a "housesitter" service that visits my condo once every 2 weeks. I get no mail at the condo since I never registered at the post office. Any weird deliveries such as new phone books get brought in by the housesitter. I keep the air at 85 in the summer, heat at 55 in the winter when I'm not there. The condo development is full of snowbirds, so keeping this place under control when I'm not there is not a problem.

Our house is a different story. We generally have my MIL frequently check things out, but its tough for her to do in the winter. I turn off the water and water softener. I have a security system. I stop mail, etc. But I still get a little nervous when I leave the house for awhile - longest has been 2 weeks. I have to fine tune this operation before I fully ER - probably with a "housesitter" like the condo.
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Old 12-14-2007, 06:03 AM   #13
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Usually the Policies read over or more than 30 days you lose the insurance. I know the insurance companies look at this factor when considering a claim.
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Old 12-14-2007, 07:08 AM   #14
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I turn off the water and drain the pipes, so I don't have to worry about a pipe burst.

An alarm system can handle the break ins.

I put a "no solicitors / no flyers please" sign on my door. I also have a neighbor scoop up any strays once in awhile and they have my number in case they see something odd.

Last time I talked to my insurance I don't remember if I told them how long I'd be gone at a time, but they said as long as the house was not vacant of furniture it was covered. If I moved out but didn't sell it within a month I'd need to get different insurance.

Perhaps not covering the car with a tarp would be better? Rather than looking like you're not there, it might look very much like you are there. At one point when I was doing this I was in a different house with no garage and I really hated leaving it with no car in front for so long.
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Old 12-14-2007, 08:09 AM   #15
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Notwithstanding what I said earlier (which probably would not work too well for an extended absence), and after rereading this thread, I would seriously consider the following:

Sit down with your "Adult Beverage" of choice one evening when you are wide awake and read you policy from start to finish. That is your signed contract with the insurance company and the one that will govern. I remember a long time ago when I was doing property management a home we had under management burned almost to the ground and the owner's had a devil of a time proving the home was not "unoccupied for an extended period". It got resolved in their favor but it was touch and go over this factor for a while.

Personally, if I was leaving for multiple months (or longer than what is stated in the policy for coverage), I would send the insurance company a registered or certified letter stating my intentions regarding the absence, who was going to check on the house, state if I had a off-site monitored alarm system, and ask them to respond with either a confirmation of coverage or a process whereby I could retain coverage or, if they did not respond by a date certain, I would reasonably consider that their policy would cover the property in the even of a loss.
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Old 12-14-2007, 10:11 AM   #16
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Most homeowners insurance does not cover your home while you are gone for an extended period. A friend of mine lost her house when a pipe burst and demolished her home while she was gone for a couple of months. Her insurance was rendered null and void.

I tried to get an insurance company to cover my dad's house while we were trying to sell it after he died: no way. Empty house = no insurance.

Talk to your insurance co. before you take off to be sure you are covered during a long absence. See if having someone visit once a week counts. If not, have them explain what you have to do to retain coverage.
Uh oh! Never thought about this...frankly I haven't re-read my insurance policy in several years and guess I better sit down and do so.

I do know from personal experience that the insurance cos. are getting more and more strict about all these exceptions when handling a claim.
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Old 12-14-2007, 11:53 AM   #17
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Does your local police department offer a "property/home checking program"? After all you do pay real estate taxes, don't you? They do where I live and I actually have used them a couple of times. They want to know when you are leaving, when you plan to return, the name, phone number and other identification for a local contact, if you have one. They also will take a Cell Phone number (or call you collect on a land line) where you plan to be. I do this in addition to the alarm system people, to which I provide the same information.
As bad as this might sound, I seriously doubt that the police are actually checking on your house even if they tell you they are.

Im sure they use the info you gave them to contact you if theres a break in or the house burns down but anything more than that is wishful thinking.

(This is coming from an 18 year police officer).
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Old 12-14-2007, 01:03 PM   #18
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As bad as this might sound, I seriously doubt that the police are actually checking on your house even if they tell you they are.

Im sure they use the info you gave them to contact you if theres a break in or the house burns down but anything more than that is wishful thinking.

(This is coming from an 18 year police officer).
I found out that mine does, when once they missed that I had checked back in and took myself off the house check list. The officer pulled into my drive and checked on my front door. I'm not entirely sure of the value of it because I had some windows open and music on so it was clear someone was in there. Probably they're used to people coming and going and fogetting to check in, since there are a lot of vacation homes up here. But at least I know that they did actually drive out to my house.
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Old 12-14-2007, 01:10 PM   #19
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utrecht-don't mean dispute what your say, but here in Dublin Ohio they actually come around and check the unit (Ranch Style Condo). My neighbor confirmed it and was wondering what was going on when they were walking around the unit during the first short trip I took. They even advertise the service on our local city cable channel and suggest people call when going in vacation. I guess we get what we pay for in these atrocious RE Taxes.
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Old 12-17-2007, 09:15 AM   #20
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Thanks for all the great info on this. I will be calling my insurance company and checking with local services to see what is available. One idea I have is to contact one of the dog watching services we used when our dog had gotten elderly and we didn't want to place her in a kennel when we went away. They charge about $15 a day for 2 visits to walk, water and feed a dog. Maybe I could come up with a twice a week deal where they come in and just look at the place real quick and get the junk flyers from the driveway. When I used such a service a few years ago, they would bring the mail and the paper inside and were dependable.
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