A reader named Frank wrote me recently asking about the maintenance and security issues surrounding homes that are only occupied part-time. I’ve decided to answer it here because I think it’s a timely question as so many part-time Villagers are in the process of buttoning up their homes and beginning to make their way back up north for the rest of the year.
If you have additional experience with this, please feel free to respond in the comments.
One question reader Frank asked related to bills, wondering whether he would have to pay his trash bill while he was away. That answer is yes. The covenants state that you will pay the trash bill, water bill, amenity fee, etc. whether you are currently living in the home or not. No way around this as far as I know.
Maintenance considerations will vary, depending on whether or not you choose to hire one of the “home watching” companies listed below. If you do, be sure to ask what they recommend. They will usually give you a list of things to do and not do before you depart. But for the sake of this article, let’s pretend you do not choose to hire anyone and you are closing your house up for the next several months.
The first order of business will be to turn the main water valve off. This is typically found in or just outside of your garage. If heaven forbid you get a plumbing leak or a pipe breaks, having the water off will help minimize the cost and damage.
You should also turn off your hot water heater. Just remember though, that when you return to The Villages and start getting everything turned back on, turn on the water BEFORE turning on the hot water heater. The hot water heater has coils inside that can burn up if they are on with no water passing through them.
With the exception of circuit breakers that run vital components such as your air conditioning, security system, refrigerator, outside lights and some inside lights, the electricity can be turned off. Hopefully your circuit breaker is labeled pretty well, but if it is not, you should take the time to label each breaker yourself. This will save you much time and aggravation down the road.
Set your thermostat to 80 degrees (some suggest 82). This will prevent your home from becoming too hot during our warm summer months.
Make sure that the people that cut your grass and trim your shrubs stick to the same schedule as they do when you are in town. This will keep your home looking “lived in” and will also keep your neighbors happy.
Community watch – Community Watch will walk the perimeter of your home for a minimal fee. You can reach them at 352-753-0550 to have your home placed on their watch list.
Security System – No matter how safe or secure you feel your home or neighborhood are, I recommend everyone have a security system. Many systems that are available today have an online monitoring service where you can go online from wherever you are and check the status of your system, arm or disarm the system (useful if you know someone will be going over to check on your home at a certain day/time), and more.
Keeping an Eye Out
There are a couple options to consider here. You could leave a key with a trusted friend/neighbor and have them come by at least once a week to take a look around and check certain items.
A more comprehensive solution is to hire one of the many “home watcher” companies that operate in The Villages. Some of these companies charge a monthly fee, others charge by the visit. Most of these are very affordable ($35-$45 range per month) and well worth the price when you consider the peace of mind they offer.
Services vary by company but may include checking windows and locks, checking/running appliances and irrigation system, flushing toilets, checking and changing A/C filters, and more. Some will even help maintain your golf cart. Most will send you periodic updates by email, and some include photos of your property.
Here are a few companies to consider. Remember, we do not accept advertising so we don’t have a preference. This is just a general list in no particular order. Other companies may be available.
Affordable Home Watch – 352-750-6386
Safe Home Watch – 352-603-5333
Absentee Home Care – 352-748-1155
Villagers Home Watch – 352-753-6545