Do you plan to start spending the summer or winter in a more comfortable climate? Many retirees (and increasingly, remote workers) maintain a home in two locations in order to take full advantage of both climates at their best — warmer climates for winter and cooler ones for summer.
Snowbirds, as these individuals are commonly called, have the luxury of enjoying their entire year but also face unique challenges related to living in one home for months while the other is left vacant in a distant location. To help protect your home and your investment, take these five steps to keep both homes safe and sound.
1. Check on Your Insurance
Did you know that your standard homeowners insurance may not cover your home while you're not living in it? Home insurance policies generally exclude coverage if the home has been unoccupied for more than 30 days. The reasoning is that an unoccupied home is at greater risk of vandalism, natural disasters, breakage, and theft than an occupied home.
To fill this gap, you may need to purchase additional unoccupied home insurance or vacant home insurance policies. Most snowbirds' homes fall under the unoccupied description since they are still livable even if no one currently is living in them. Vacant home insurance would cover a home with no personal belongings, no utilities, no appliance, or serious structural defects.
You may also need to adjust other insurance elements, such as your vehicle insurance and personal property limits. Because snowbirds take important items on the road with them at least twice per year, they should be assured that all their belongings are covered on the road and in each separate home.
2. Prepare Your Home for the Season
Each home should be prepared for a period of vacancy during the season in which it will be idle. If you flee a wintry state like Colorado for warmer climes, prepare your Rocky Mountain home against common winter problems — primarily freezing temperatures and snow.
You may need to shut off the water or maintain low levels of heating to prevent freezing pipes, wrap exterior-facing pipes, and arrange for a snow removal service to activate in the event of serious snowstorms.
Returning to your northern base for a more comfortable summer? Prepare your other home for summer, including managing the humidity levels in the home, preventing damage from storms that pass through while you're gone, and turning off utilities to prevent accidents.
3. Install Modern Home Security
Today's home security technology helps snowbirds in many ways. You can now monitor your home security from your second home through your mobile device. And both exterior and interior cameras provide real-time views of what's going on there.
Security services also provide invaluable monitoring for more natural disasters and accidents. This could include things like water leaks in various parts of the property, failure of sump pumps, and smoke or carbon monoxide. This can help you keep an eye on the home during its storm season.
4. Keep the Home Lived In
The more a house looks occupied, the less of a target it is for thieves and trespassers. Smart home technology that turns on and off lights at intervals or answers doorbells remotely can help your homes both appear lived in. You should also perform regular maintenance — such as mowing the lawn during the growing season and removing snow in winter.
Some snowbirds have a friend or family member check in on the home regularly. You can also hire a house sitting service to do things like check on the house, collect mail and flyers, and let in maintenance technicians.
5. Use Automation When Possible
Aside from monitoring your home, automation and technology can help you in other ways. For instance, automatic recurring payments ensure that your homeowners insurance, utilities, taxes, and maintenance services are paid on time, every time. This prevents them from discontinuing or bills piling up outside the house.
Similarly, the more you reduce or eliminate physical mail delivery at both locations using electronic delivery instead, the less your home looks unoccupied. And if you arrange for services at both homes by the same company, you know who to call and simplify maintenance. And regular maintenance contracts from service providers keep appliances and systems in good condition.
Whether you've already started life as a snowbird or you're still in the planning stages, start by meeting with an experienced insurance agent who works with owners of multiple homes. They can help you assess your insurance needs and offer recommendations about ways to further prepare your home.
Colorado residents can call on the team at L.A. Insurance. We offer a variety of policies to cover all your belongings and provide peace of mind no matter whether you're enjoying the Colorado peaks or warm winters down south. Get in touch with us today.