It’s almost that time when our Northern friends aka “Snowbirds” arrive in Florida to escape the cold winter up North. The Bonita Springs and Naples areas bustle with activity during this time. I personally look forward to having our Northern friends back! There’s no better way to enjoy the retirement lifestyle than here in sunny Florida. Although our seasonal residents don’t officially arrive until January, there is an influx of individuals who’ll be heading down this Fall.
As you know, heading to Florida for the season means leaving your Northern or Midwestern home unoccupied. So, here are some tips to protect your home and finances while you’re gone for a few months:
Prepare your home for the cold winter ahead. Just as we prepare our homes for the summer, same goes for winter. There are some key steps to prepare your home for cold weather and snowstorms, which from an insurance perspective, will help with expensive damage or homeowners insurance claims. But it’s even more important to prepare your house if it will be vacant during the coldest months of the year since you won’t be there to notice problems like a small leak that can cause a lot of water damage by the time you return in the spring.
Before you leave for Florida, inspect your roof for any damage or worn shingles that can lead to leaks. In fact, clean your gutters and downspouts and check for any clogs that may cause water damage to interior walls of your home. Another great tip is to open cabinet doors to allow heat from the room to get into concealed spaces, which can make pipes less likely to freeze. Also, drain and shut off outdoor water faucets.
Trim Your Trees. We know Mother Nature can dish out some nasty winter winds and snowstorms, which can cause a lot of damage to your home. Fallen tree limbs can be very expensive and may not be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Be sure to remove dead trees or large overhanging tree limbs before you leave for Florida.
Ask or Pay Someone to Shovel Snow. Pay someone or arrange to have a neighbor clean snow from your driveway, sidewalk, and dryer vent opening when you’re gone. This will help prevent melting snow from leaking into your home and causing damage. It can also reduce slip-and-fall liability losses, and prevent your home from looking vacant and becoming a target of thieves!
Secure Your home. One of the biggest issues when being away for months, is home security. Make sure you stop your newspaper delivery and forward your mail to your Florida address or have it picked up on a regular basis by a friend or neighbor. Also have someone check the house at least once a week to make sure any flyers or packages that are delivered while you’re gone don’t build up and make the house look unoccupied. Home security systems are best, but if you don’t have one, make sure you secure doors and windows with deadbolt locks, and install slide locks or other security locks on sliding glass doors. Another great item to install are variable light timers, which turn lights on and off at different times to make it look like someone is home.
Update Your Utilities & Phone Company. Be sure to ask your utility provider to shut off the water to your home from the street. Or you can shut off the main water supply to the house. Also, some utilities companies can set your account to vacant status while you’re away so that you don’t have to worry about receiving water meter readings or bills while you’re gone. For those of you who have land lines, some providers allow individuals who head south for the winter to place their telephone service on a vacation rate. This means your telephone is placed into a discounted and suspended mode that assures you will receive the same telephone number when you return in the spring and does not incur any reconnect charges.
Notify Your Financial Institution. Give your bank your Florida address and contact information before you leave, which is important so you can continue to receive your statements and to alert bank representatives about out-of-state debit and credit card charges. Or better yet, sign up for online banking!
Safe travels this season and be sure to stop by The Colony Golf & Bay Club for a tour during your stay!