Protecting your vacation home when you're away

Last updated: January 1

A vacation home can provide a welcome escape, whether you want a short getaway or a warmer location to wait out the winter. But leaving your second home may not be as simple as just locking the door when it’s time to head back home. You may want to take some extra steps to help protect your vacation home while you’re away.

From prepping your home for the winter to implementing security measures, here are some things to consider:

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Prevent damage

Arrange to have someone periodically check on your house while you're gone, suggests HomeAdvisor. They may help detect problems and potentially prevent you from facing hefty repair bills when you return.

It's also a good idea to unplug appliances and electronics, says This Old House. That way, if lightning strikes your house, they won't be damaged in a power surge.

Take safety precautions

In addition to locking the doors behind you, be sure to secure the windows and entrances to other structures on your property, such as your shed and garage, This Old House says.

Letting mail or newspapers pile up while you're away could send a message to potential burglars that your home is vacant. Ask a trusted friend to collect your mail, or contact your post office to put a hold on your mail, suggests U.S. News and World Report.

You can also help give the impression that your house is occupied by putting some lights on timers, says HomeAdvisor. Lighting up parts of your home that face the street may help deter potential burglars.

Winterize your home

If you're closing up your house for the winter, you may need to take some steps to protect it from the cold while you're away. Leaving your furnace on, set at a lower temperature, may help prevent your pipes from freezing, Angie's List says. Shutting off the water at the main valve, draining your toilets and opening faucets may also help prevent a burst or leaking pipe, Angie's List says.

Don't forget to disconnect your garden hose, too, The Family Handyman says. This helps drain water from the spigot. Water trapped inside the spigot could freeze and cause a pipe to burst, potentially shooting water inside your home, The Family Handyman warns.

By taking some precautions before you lock up for the season, you may help ensure that your home weathers your absence and is ready for you to enjoy when you return.