Sunday, November 25, 2007

Snowbirds: Protect your home while you're away

Break-ins, mortgage scams, theft of mail and identity, arson, flood ... almost makes you want to just stay home doesn't it ? Planning ahead is the key to protecting yourself against these types of problems.
Step 1 - read your home insurance policy. Check for statements regarding your home not going uninhabited for more than a few days. Make sure you have a trusted relative (I do this for my own parents), friend or most preferably a neighbour - since they are close enough not to make it difficult to do - drop in every 3 or 4 days while you are gone. Make a check-list for them to review on their visits. They should shovel snow from walkways and driveways not only for safety reasons but to make it look as if someone is home and collect flyers and deliveries so as not to leave clues that no one is home. The list should also include a review of the thermostat settings, basement for flooding, windows for breaks or signs of forced entry, lights on timers not burnt out, taps not dripping, all doors locked, checking phone messages ... this just gives you a start on what to include. It could keep your insurance company happy (check with them for instructions) and both you and your scheduled visitor have a "contract" of what is expected. Obviously a little gift on your return will be appreciated in return of the favour!
Step 2 - reroute your mail, cancel newspapers and periodicals. Avoid these tip off signs to burglars who watch neighbourhoods especially more established ones where they know/assume that the inhabitants are empty nesters or retirees more likely to travel for extended periods. This also helps cut down on mail theft which can lead to costly identity fraud and the ruin of your credit history and the hassle of being chased for bills that aren't yours. It may even prevent your home being stolen right out from under you.
Step 3 - and that brings me to title insurance. Even if you aren't away for an extended period of time, your identity can be stolen, title to your property searched and stolen before you know it. Ask your mortgage professional or contact us via this blog for information on coverage available for you.
Step 4 - I mentioned timers previously ... have a couple of lights - kitchen, bedroom for example - set on timers to go on and off to give the illusion of you being home as a deterrant to burglars. Look into sensors for external lights in the backyard above the door and in front of the house on the garage or front porch.
There are many other safety precautions you can take to ensure you have a worry free trip and no surprises when you return. Consult your insurance professional and your travel consultant for a more comprehensive list and advice.
And of course, while you're away don't forget to check our blog since we'll be here with more interesting and useful news for you.

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