All Things Real Estate: Managing your home this winter

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I have been managing homes and properties for many years and the one particular thing that gets homeowners calling me to manage their properties is when in the past when they were away and a broken pipe or two had burst, causing tremendous damage.

There were many reasons for this happening because they didn’t have a solid plan in place to winterize their home or the heat was set too low or shut down. Checking regularly, as we do, minimizes these issues with less of a worry about those types of events possibly occurring.

Also, if you are a landlord and are used to collecting your rents in person, do you have someone doing this for you while you are away? Streamlining the process for landlords enables them to enjoy themselves while gone and not having to worry about those important chores.

Also, previously when it snowed they hadn’t contracted with anyone to plow; so those with bad intentions would observe over a day or two those homes that had not been plowed or walkways shoveled. One leaves themselves potentially open to being robbed and vandalized.

Also, make sure your walkways and sidewalks are salted and/or sanded to minimize your liability from lawsuits from the public as well as your postman or anyone coming on your property whether home or away. Also, when is the last time you checked your homeowner’s policy and updated it?

Safety was also a concern and worry about break-ins when they were out of town. It’s an excellent idea to let one of your neighbors that you are friends with and know that you will be away and to take in your mail (if you haven’t told your post office to hold it) as well as any newspapers or advertisements that might accumulate on your property, again, letting those know, that no one is home.

As I mentioned in a column during the summer, there are ingenious devices you can purchase online (I have never seen them in any store anywhere) that display varied and an intermittent collage of multi-colored lights that you can put near your window to look as if a television is on; as long as you close all your curtains and blinds, so no one can look in.
Something else that really is crucial not to do while away is posting vacation photos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other sites.

This is a no, no, since many unscrupulous thieves, peruse the internet looking for such situations to rob those homes when people are either on vacation or are away for the winter. Never, ever post photos or any information about where you may be vacationing or staying, to any sites.

It’s acceptable to email family and friends photos and information, but nothing should be posted to a public site for all to see. When you return home, that is the most opportune and safer time to post all your prized vacation pictures. When it comes to keeping your home at a safe temperature, I would suggest no lower than 55 degrees, to reduce the possibility of a pipe or two from freezing and bursting, causing catastrophic damage.

I had gotten a listing last year, where this had happened the previous winter (that is why they were selling). The house had to be bulldozed or completely gut renovated because the oil burner shut off and no one knew until someone opened the front door and saw a thick layer of ice throughout the downstairs!

If only they had someone checking their home regularly this could have been avoided! There are also devices that you can install that will let you know when a leak is occurring and it will make a call to your plumber or your water company to let them know of the emergency.

You can also install an application on your phone with the correct setup in your home to control your temperature, lights and all sorts of cutting edge things, so you, as a homeowner will have much more control over what is occurring inside and outside your home.

A nifty addition would be a surveillance system in and outside of your home that again, you can track and control through your cell anywhere in the world. When home, there are also doorbells that have cameras in them by which you can monitor who is at your door. If you still have oil, make sure you tune up your burner, by having a new oil filter installed and maybe, if needed, cleaning out the firing chamber and chimney.

Also, make sure your automatic water fill (assuming you have one and you should if you don’t) for your boiler that it is working properly; otherwise your burner will shut down if your water level is too low.

If your oil tank is automatically filled up regularly, great! If not make sure you are on an automatic filling schedule based on degree days. Your oil company will know what that means and that is how they gauge when your tank will need to be re-filled. However, I have been told by the customer service reps at National Gird that they are providing rebates and/or discounts on new conversions to gas boilers, as long as you have had consistent gas service for at least two years from your water heater or stove.

However, you will need a plumber to provide the installation of the unit. Lastly, if you need any professional assistance or someone to babysit your home while you are away this winter, we have flexible plans that we can offer. So feel free to reach out to me at any time so we may discuss your specific “needs and wants.”

Philip A. Raices is the owner/broker of Turn Key Real Estate at 3 Grace Ave Suite 180 Great Neck. He has earned designations as a Graduate of the Realtor Institute and a Certified International Property Specialist.
He can be reached by email, at:Phil@TurnKeyRealEstate.Com, or by cell: (516) 647-4289.

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