House while you are away

We are going for 3 weeks this summer. So curious how others manage there house while they are away. This is the 1st time we have traveled this long.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

When we lived in a stick & brick we had a few timers for lights and the outdoor lights were on photo sensors. Stop the mail & paper. Hopefully you have a trustworthy neighbor that can keep an eye on things - especially if you get those pesky "free" papers tossed in the yard or driveway - you do not want them sitting there untouched. Turn off the water - if not the whole house definitely the washing machine fill lines - notorious for failing at the worst possible times! Unplug coffee maker and toaster ovens. Don't worry - everything should be fine.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8004 posts

We do pretty much the same. A couple of plug in timers for lights (and maybe a radio), stop the mail (and paper if you get one). Then give a trusted neighbor a key in case of emergency and have them help keep an eye on things.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

What is "stick and brick"...I heard this term used once on local TV news by someone living in a trailer (they actually used the term "stick house"), but I had no idea what it meant at the time...assuming a normal house? If you have a security system, set it like you always do when you're away. Schedule someone to mow once per week. Don't post your plans to be away with dates all over the internet (here, Facebook, or wherever). And don't tell every Tom, Dick, and Harry that you'll be out of town from x to y dates.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5545 posts

Friends used to stop their daily newspaper delivery when they went away. Twice in a row they were burgled. Since then, they have the next-door neighbors collect the paper every day. No more burglars so far.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

"What is "stick and brick"...I heard this term used once on local TV news by someone living in a trailer (they actually used the term "stick house"), but I had no idea what it meant at the time...assuming a normal house?" Michael - a "stick & brick" refers to a traditional house. We live full time in a 40' motor home - a whole different set of issues when leaving for extended periods.

Posted by Arn
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
215 posts

We live in a college town; thus we use students who we know are responsible. Once for a month and once for two+ months. Both
times no problems. We have had friends do the same.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
13212 posts

That is why we just moved to a lock it and leave it condo with plastic plants.

Posted by Joel
Tempe, AZ, USA
995 posts

Keith - When we travel without our girls, they watch the house. When the whole family travels, one of thier friends watch our house.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22101 posts

Keith, The answer will depend to some extent on your circumstances. For example: > Do you have family members or close friends that can check the house on a regular basis while you're away? > Do you have a "vacation watch" service or security patrol in your area? There's are couple of services here, and for a fee they will check the house, water plants, change the drapes, bring the mail & papers in or whatever the homeowner wants. > Do you have a security system? You'll have to designate another P.R. while you're away, unless there's some way the security firm can contact you. As previous replies have mentioned, setting timers on lights and radio is a good idea, as well as unplugging all non-essential appliances and turning off water to the Washer. Set the heat or A/C as required. Check your home insurance to see how often the house has to be checked when not occupied. Happy travels!

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3778 posts

If you don't have friends, neighbors or family that can check on your house daily you can hire a pet sitter to do this even if you don't have pets. They'll make sure your house is as it should be each day, bring in papers, mail, water plants, turn lights off and on, etc. Just look in your phone book or go to to find one.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1525 posts

As alluded to already. The two biggest dangers are utility-related and theft-related. For utilities; Shut off the water in the house. Here in MN all homes have a valve just inside the house where the water line enters. Most newer water heaters either have a "vacation" setting or can be turned off. It's a good idea to unplug all power adapters and your televisions since they suck energy even when they are off. We are sometimes gone for 5-6 weeks and then we take the additional step of avoiding plumbing trap evaporation by covering every drain and putting saran wrap over the toilet bowl (make sure you don't pee on it when you come home!). For anti-theft; a house watcher is always a good thing, but unless you live in a secluded area, it's not a huge concern. To ward off random mischief, we leave a few CFL lights on in the house, along with a radio going loudly enough that someone standing at the door, peering in can hear it. Take a look outside your house. Make sure it doesn't look vacant. Besides making sure mail and newspapers are not laying around, it doesn't hurt to leave a couple of worthless items in plain sight as if you'll be back any moment to use it. Make sure someone cuts your grass before it gets too tall. If you have a home computer, back up your files and then shut the computer down, unplug it and put it as far out of sight as possible. That's what we do.

Posted by Bets
2972 posts

Where we are in Indiana the biggest danger is storm related. After turning off the water, plugging in the light switches, and turning on the alarm, we have an excellent handyman who checks the house after every storm. Our house sustained major damage once while we were away involving insurance, roofers, etc. The handyman saved our house.

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
504 posts

As far as the house itself goes, the biggest thing to me is to turn off the water to the whole house and unplug everything possible -- especially anything that heats. I always debate with myself whether or not to turn off the AC in summer. The post office will hold your mail for up to 30 days. You can go to the post office and fill out a yellow form. You can do it online too. Be sure a neighbor checks to see that is is really stopped. We usually ask a neighbor to pick up our daily paper and keep a watch on things. That same neighbor has a key to the house.
I always also let the police know we will be gone and give them a local contact. They will drive around your house more often if you are on the close patrol list. Once we left the back door unlocked. The patrolman found it, called our neighbor, checked all through the house for intruders, then locked it for us.

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1539 posts

Good question! I unplug some stuff. I "hide" my laptop computer (it's off my desk and put away) Stop the mail and newspaper. Inform my neighbors and ask them to make sure to remove all the advertising that shows up on my front door (lawn services, house cleaning, etc) I sometimes leave a key with a trusted neighbor and ask them to walk around outside the house once in a while. Also make sure they check the front porch for any packages that might arrive without my knowledge from UPS or FedEX (I do get catalogs and other things from companies I work for) I have no house plants or pets, so no worries there. I've seen it recommended to turn off the water to your washing machine, but I haven't done that. My kids are grown, and I ask one of them to come over once a week to come into the house and check around to make sure everything is OK. If it's summer time and the lawn needs to be mowed, I'll get one of my kids to take care of that as well. Most important to me is the mail and newspaper and unsolicited flyers left at the door, and to make sure the lawn in front is mowed so it looks like someone is home.

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

1. Lock the door and leave. 2. Put the hold card in the mailbox on the way out. Thirty seconds do far. 3. Call the newspaper at the depature gate after you get done making the car reservations. Another ten minutes shot to hell.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2029 posts

Depending on where you live, you might be able to find subletters. This is easier if you live in a University town or city with a lot of business travel. There's plenty of people who need a place to stay for 1 week to a month who don't want to stay in (or can't afford) a hotel for a long period of time. We don't like leaving our cat completely alone for more than a few days, and have often found people (students, people in process of moving in or out of the country) to stay in our place for a little bit. There's been some overlap in terms of dates, meaning we've had roommates on either side of our travels for a few days, but if your place is big enough it's not a big deal, and it's great to have the peace of mind to know you have someone actually staying in your place while you're gone. Similarly, maybe you have friends or family members who have a college student living back home for the summer? College kids make great house sitters, as it gives them some of the freedom they've become accustomed to while being in school while still being close to their parents.

Posted by Ray
Tigard, OR, USA
411 posts

I regularly go away for 3-4 weeks. Don't know there is anything new, but: 1) stop the mail, 2) 2-3 lights on timers, 3) leave radio on (thieves apparently listen and silence is golden to them), 4) unplug most appliances, 5) shut off water to ice in fridge etc., 6) don't post on facebook etc., 7) ask 2 neighbors to watch the house and take away newspapers etc., 8) set heater to about 55 degrees, 9) inform police (in my area they do checks for up to 3 weeks), 10) make sure key people (the neighbors watching your house etc.) have info about where to contact you in an emergency, 11) make sure someone local has a key.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
3018 posts

We had a burglar visit in 2010 while on an extended trip to Puerto Rico. The perpetrators came through a window in our daylight basement. Our town has a 2 acre minimum yard, so security is difficult when houses are 100 yards apart. All double hung windows in the house have been chocked where they'll only open 6". Basement windows and door are blocked from the outside with two 4 wheelers (ATV's), two Lawn and Garden tractors and a Personal Water Craft on a trailer that are chained together; unmovable. The inside basement door is screwed shut, as is the door going into our safe room. All valuables are now kept in a huge safe that's bolted to the floor. All mail and newspaper is stopped. Two cars are parked at the end of the driveway to keep any other vehicles away from the house.
Our daughter comes over every day to feed our 110 pound male Rottweiler that's in guard mode 24/7.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

Wow! As it relates to limiting your window to six inches in the open position, blocking all basement doors and windows with equipment, and screwing the door closed, do you keep it this way all of the time or just when you're away? These things are serious safety hazards if you have it this way all of the time, even when you're there. What if there's a fire when you're in the basement...egress would be difficult when the egress window doesn't open? I'm sure having a burglary sucked, but isn't a security system a better idea? They're relatively inexpensive, plus you can connect fire, carbon monoxide, etc. protection for next to nothing.

Posted by Bob
Rosemount, MN, USA
75 posts

Leave a key with a neighbor so if a storm knocks out power the light timers can be reset.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

And don't forget to turn off the automatic ice maker in your fridge's freezer, if you have one. Whether or not you turn off the water to that water line. Even in my "lock and leave" condo I make sure to turn off all the shutoff valves (water lines to sinks and toilets) and the water supply to the washing machine. (I once had a neighbor whose recently remodeled basement was badly damaged by the flood that ensued when the hose between the faucet and the washing machine failed- and he wasn't even out of town, just at work, when it happened. Great mess by the time he got home and found it. When those things fail it's like someone turns on a water hose in the room where your washer is located. Not good.)

Posted by Thomas
Hermosa Beach, CA, USA
115 posts

We had three week trips to Europe the last three years and always left someone living in our house. Twice it was home exchange partners and the third time it was our son. We haven't had any problems. Also, we always pay 2.5 times our recurring bills (gas, electricity, etc.) so that we have credits when the bills come in our absence.

Posted by Tom
Easley, SC, USA
290 posts

Keith, We use house sitters. We live in a secluded area and we feel it is important to maintain a visible presence while we are away, sometimes for 2 months at a time. There are at least two good websites that home owners and potential house sitters can search for each other and get connected. We thought a while about this a long while before we first decided to try it, and finally decided to take the chance. Obviously we had to check out the couple we considered using very thoroughly and that's an individual matter. But we have done it now three times, with absolutely no negative issues at all. Each time the couple who has sat for us has left the house in perfect condition and there have been no problems whatsoever. I'd be happy to talk more about this offline if you want to send me a pvt msg.

Posted by Keith
Lemont, Illinois, United States
27 posts

All, Very interesting answers. We are thinking about having our oldest sons best friend stay at the house while we are gone. He could take care of our dogs and cat as well. He will have just graduated from High School and looking to make some cash before he goes away to school. He lives about a block away and his dad could check in on everything as well (he walks past the house every day walking their dog). Thoughts? Tom, What sites did you find your house sitters at? Thanks

Posted by Tom
Easley, SC, USA
290 posts

Keith, We use housecarers or housesittersamerica. Home owners register and post ads free; potential sitters pay a fee. My preference is housecarers, but they both work the same way. We've used them 3-4 times now. We always get 10-15 hits within 24 hours of posting our ad, which is stored on the housecarers site (so I don't have to retype it from scratch every time!) and which we edit ourselves before reposting each time, to customize it to the specific dates we'll be gone, etc. You can use the site to send emails to any sitters who reply, check the sitter's profile, etc. Sitters will always provide references, which we check out thoroughly, of course, and we always make several phone calls to references, double check other sources such as where the sitter said they work, etc., local law enforcement (security checks are routinely performed by law enf agencies these days, and homeowners can usually avail themselves of them, esp if the house sitter lets you). I.e., you have to do a lot of due diligence before turning over your home to strangers, but we've gotten comfortable with the idea.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2029 posts

Keith, I think that's a great idea. I'm assuming you trust your son's friend, and you apparently know his family too. The peace of mind, particularly when you have pets, of having someone stay over is invaluable in my experience.

Posted by Susan and Monte
Granite Bay, CA
962 posts

We have had great luck finding college age kids living at home that are excited to be on their own for a few weeks. We make sure they are responsible and wouldn't be the type to have parties, etc. Usually they are in school so they come and go a lot which gives our dog plenty of opportunities to get out of the house during the day. The kids we have found have not been in it for the money as much as the freedom, so it isn't as expensive as a professional house sitter.