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7 Tips to Help Winterize a Second Home

With cooler temperatures in the forecast, you may be thinking about how to best winterize your second home or vacation home. From burst pipes to break-ins, damage to an unattended property can hurt your investment and be a headache to manage remotely. These are some considerations to help properly winterize and protect that property.

winter home.

  1. Shut off the water. The average homeowner claim for water damage and freezing is $11,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute. If you're away from your house for an extended period, however, your claim might be even higher since you won't be aware of the damage occurring until it's too late. Protect against burst pipes by turning off your main water supply and draining your pipes. Once the main supply is off, open all faucets and drain the showerhead pipe. If you're doing this for the first time, consider seeking expert guidance from a professional plumber or contractor.

  2. Empty the fridge and pantry. Reduce the risk of mice and vermin by removing all perishable foods from your home. Empty the fridge and freezer and wipe down all the shelves so they're fresh for your return. If you must leave items like canned foods behind, consider placing them in an air-tight container. Thoroughly clean kitchen counters, pantry shelves and floors to be sure they're free from any traces of food.

  3. Clean the gutters. Gutters are designed to carry rainwater off your roof and away from your home's foundation, but they can't do their job if they're filled with sticks, leaves or other debris. Worse, small rodents find these materials appealing, which could lead to these pests creating a nest in your home. Minimize the risk for these problems by keeping your gutters clean. If your home is in a location that receives snowfall, clean gutters will make it easier for the snow to drain off your roof and minimize the risk of an ice dam.

  4. Adjust your thermostat. In colder climates, adjust the thermostat to 55-60 degrees, a setting that won't waste money heating an empty home but will minimize the risk of damage from extreme cold. In warm or hot climates, adjust your air conditioner to 85 degrees, a setting that minimizes the risk of damage from humidity and heat.

  5. Minimize the risk of burglaries. An empty vacation home can be an appealing target for thieves. While you're gone, leave your home so it looks "lived in" and will keep would-be thieves guessing about your whereabouts. Put lights on staggered timers, including a front porch light, so it looks like people are moving throughout the house during the day and night. Install motion-activated floodlights near other entrances, like a backdoor or garage. Hire someone to keep up with basic yard maintenance, like raking leaves, cutting the grass or removing snow. If you store sports or beach equipment in a garage, shed or outbuilding, double-check the locks before you leave. Consider adding a camera to monitor any activity near these buildings.

  6. Install an alarm system. If your vacation home does not have one already, consider installing a centralized alarm system that detects both fire and break-ins. You can choose from a range of options from do-it-yourself installations to professionally installed systems with security cameras. If you install an alarm system, let your insurance agent know as you may qualify for a discount on your homeowners' policy.

  7. Update your vacation home inventory. Should damage occur in your vacation home, an up-to-date home inventory will make filing an insurance claim much easier. Go room to room and document all belongings, including furniture and electronics. Note when items were purchased and include serial numbers, which can be found on the back or bottom of major appliances and electronic equipment. Don't forget to include expensive sports equipment, beach gear or boating gear. Note the condition of all your items and keep proof of their value, such as an appraisal or purchase contract.

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