9 Ways to Safeguard Your House Before a Vacation

August is a great time for a family vacation—one last fling before school starts. But before you take a plane, train, or automobile out of town, make sure to protect your home against threats, ranging from burglars to basement floods. These simple tips can help you feel certain that whether you're gone for a few days or a few weeks, your home is going to be there waiting safely for you upon return.

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  1. Mow the Lawn


    Going away for more than a few days? Remember that grass grows quickly, and (at least in some neighborhoods) an unkempt lawn suggests an unoccupied house. So hire a neighbor kid to mow the lawn and trim the hedges in your absence. That way, your home will appear lived-in—and as a bonus, when you return, the landscaping will look great.


  2. Shut Off the Water


    If a pipe bursts while you're away, the accident could leave your residence doused in thousands of gallons of water. Before heading to the airport, take the time to shut off the water valve. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


  3. Hire a Housesitter


    Concerned about the burglars? Achieve peace of mind by hiring a housesitter you know and trust. Besides bringing in the mail and attending to other basic homekeeping tasks, your sitter can act immediately on any problems that arise. 


  4. Ask a Neighbor


    If you'd rather not hire a housesitter, request the assistance of a friend or neighbor. He can help by watering (or even mowing) the lawn, taking in the mail, and checking on the house occasionally. What's more, he can park in your driveway, if you're going to be leaving it empty, so it looks to a passerby as if someone's around.


  5. Check the Weather


    While you're checking the weather forecast for your vacation destination, don't forget to confirm the forecast for where you actually live. If there's a storm on the horizon, make sure the gutters are clear so that the basement doesn't end up flooding in your absence. If your below-grade space typically floods in foul weather, test your sump pump. Don't leave until you're convinced it's in good working order!


  6. Hold Your Mail


    Don't let mail pile up near your front door; there's no surer sign that you're out of town. Have the post office hold your letters and packages until you return (most post offices are happy to do so for up to 30 days). If you're a newspaper subscriber, temporarily suspend delivery.


  7. Put Lights on a Timer


    Make it look as though you're home at night with an electrical timer that turns on house lights automatically, at a time of day you specify. Affordable and easy to use, such devices are a no-brainer for people leaving their most important investment unattended.


  8. Use an Alarm System


    If your home has been burglarized in the past, or if you're intent on never being a victim to that sort of crime, think about installing an alarm system. Choose from one of the many trusted providers; many offer systems that sync with your smartphone or tablet, allowing you to stay connected to your home no matter where you happen to roam.


  9. Lock Up the Pool


    Keep kids and animals safe by closing up the pool before you leave town. Locking the pool gate is one thing, but why not go a step further and put on a pool cover? That'll keep out uninvited guests as well as unsightly debris.


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