Safeguarding a property after you move out

Homeowners who are selling their home will always hope for a quick and smooth transition between residences. This kind of relocation not only frees you from having to make two mortgage payments, but it also gives you peace of mind when it comes to your home's security.

Unfortunately, your situation may dictate that you need to vacate your home before it sells. If this occurs, you'll want to make sure the property is safe in your absence.

The first thing you should do is check how your homeowner's insurance policy will handle an empty home. Michele Lerner, writing for the financial site Bankrate, says the coverage may change as a result of your move. Alexia Chianis, writing for the home security resource site SafeWise, says you should check to see how long the policy will cover the home, whether you are required to take any special precautions, and if there is protection against any damages to the home.

An empty home for sale can attract the wrong kind of attention, including thieves, vandals, and squatters. Gary L. Waters, a Florida real estate broker writing for the ActiveRain network of the real estate site Trulia, says sellers should remove any valuable items as well as sensitive or potentially harmful materials such as computer data, firearms, and medications.

Even with this precaution, your home can still be a target of theft while it is on the market. Chianis says thieves may go after items such as copper wiring and air conditioning units.

If you have a home security system, it is helpful to keep it active. Even though you are no longer living in the residence, the system can help deter any unwelcome attention and reduce the chance that you'll have to pay some costly repair bills. These systems can also provide added fire protection while the property is unoccupied.

Telling people you trust to keep an eye on the property can help keep it safe. Angela Colley, writing for the National Association of Realtors, says you should alert neighbors, friends, family members, the neighborhood watch, or the local police department about the vacancy. Be sure you also tell them about any people you expect to be making regular appearances at the home, such as your real estate agent or a landscaping company.

Just as you try to make your home look like it is occupied when you leave on vacation, it is important to give it a lived-in appearance when you are trying to sell it. Provide your new address to the post office, newspaper, and any other services to keep materials from piling up outside the property. Make sure that any damages to the exterior are repaired promptly, and ask a neighbor if they would like to keep a vehicle parked in your driveway.

It is especially important to keep the lawn in good condition, both to enhance the home's curb appeal and avoid the appearance that it is vacant. Mow the lawn, weed the gardens, and keep tree branches trimmed. If you are unable to do this work yourself, hire a service to complete it.

Your home will be more conspicuously empty if it remains dark at night, and this condition will also make it more vulnerable. Chianis suggests using a combination of timers and motion-activated lights. There are also lighting systems that link with security cameras to being recording when a light is activated. The lights should provide illumination around entrances, and you also shouldn't forget to use them on other structures such as detached garages and sheds.

Colley says leaving the curtains or blinds in the home can help deter any problems, since they will prevent any passerby from seeing the interior. Leaving some lights behind and putting them on a timer will ensure that the home has a more active appearance at night.

You can also consider upgrading some of your home's features before you leave to strengthen it against forced entry. Invest in secure doors and ground level windows, or upgrade ones that are less likely to resist tampering.

Though most of the protective steps a homeowner can take will guard against unwanted visitors, you'll also want to make sure a vacant home can stand up to the elements. Lerner recommends getting a programmable thermostat, which will keep the home's energy bills down but also keep it warm enough to prevent the pipes from freezing.

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