As parts of the country are thawing out in April snowbird season is coming to an end in Arizona. This means many retirees will be heading north shortly to escape the sizzling hot Arizona weather. For those of you snowbirds needing to prepare your home for leaving town during the summer, there is much to know.
My real estate partner, Jack Stevens and I just put on an Explorer Learning sponsored seminar in Sun City West Active Adult Retirement Community for residences preparing their home for being gone at the end of the season. We enlisted some wonderful speakers from the local fire department, Sun City West Sheriff’s Posse, and a house watching service company. Got to say, the turnout was terrific. Most attendees were new homeowners in Sun City West wanting to learn how to protect their homes from theft, fire, and the weather as they prepare to leave town. This information will be helpful to you no matter what active adult community you live in or even if you are in a family community leaving for an extended period of time. Feel free to modify to your specific community or needs. Here are some key pointers:
A week prior to leaving
- Change your fire alarm batteries. In some retirement communities, the fire department will change them for you at no charge.
- Remove or lock up valuables.
- Enlist a neighbor or house watching service to regularly check up on your home. Leave a key with the address and phone number where you can be reached along with any service companies you use like the landscaper, pest control, air conditioning, plumbing, security company, etc.
- Notify your home security company and community security department of your departure. If you live in an active adult retirement community there is often a volunteer security department you can notify. In Sun City West it’s the Sheriff’s Posse. Once you fill out a vacation form they will regularly send a patrol to check on your house.
- Notify the post office to hold or forward your mail and stop the delivery of newspapers. Put a hold on cable and the internet. Arrange for a neighbor to pick up handbills from your home on a daily basis.
- Secure or put away outdoor furniture.
- Ensure your firemen lockbox is installed and there is a key. In Sun City West a secure lockbox is installed by the front door entrance to access the home in case of fire or emergency. Only the fire department can open it with a special key. This might be a great idea for other active adult retirement communities.
The day you leave or the day before:
- Unplug major appliances (oven, washer, dryer, hot water tank, etc.) and minor appliances (radio, TV, coffee maker, toasters, computer, etc.)
- Unplug the garage door motor, but do not disengage the emergency pull chain.
- Lock all doors and windows leaving window covering hanging naturally. Use automatic timers and nightlights in appropriate rooms.
- Turn off the water to the inside of the house leaving outside water for your yard.
- Leave air conditioning on at 86 degrees to protect your furniture and carpet. You can also leave buckets or garbage cans filled with water in a few rooms to help protect your home from the dry Arizona heat.
- Saran wrap toilets and close drains.
- Disconnect negative cable on cars and golf carts.
- Empty refrigerator, unplug and leave the door slightly open with baking soda inside.
- Leave 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the dishwasher and garbage disposal to help keep seals moist.
During our seminar, the Sheriff’s Posse stressed how important it was to not publicize that you are leaving or leave clues. For example, one resident left a note in his mailbox for the mail carrier saying they were gone for 4 months and to stop their mail. Be sure to leave the electricity ON as a dark house is a red flag to a burglar that the house is unoccupied. Finally turn your landline phone ringer off as an endless ringing phone means no one is home and don’t leave a message that no one is home and that you are out of town. For a checklist provided compliments of the Sheriff’s Posse of Sun City West you can print or save click on this link, Snowbird checklist for leaving town.
Participants were also interested in house watching services. In all of the Phoenix areas, active adult retirement communities’ house watching services are available at a very reasonable cost per visit. Services are typically available on a weekly, bi-monthly or monthly basis and can cost around $10 to $15 dollars a visit. They can tailor the service to your needs. Most often they check the interior and exterior of the house and yard, flush toilets, run faucets, water inside plants, bring in mail and handbills. In most cases, the owner of the company is a resident of the community or a retiree wanting to earn a little extra money.