Ask Kim


How to Prepare Your Home for Summer

Kimberly Lankford

Here's what snowbirds heading north need to do to protect their home in the South while they're not there.



We spent the winter in Florida and are now returning to our home in Michigan for the summer. What should we do to protect our home before we leave?

SEE ALSO: Spring Home-Maintenance Checklist

If you’re a snowbird moving up north for the summer, it’s particularly important to protect against water leaks and high heat -- which combined can lead to big damage while you’re gone -- and to prepare your house for hurricane season, which begins on June 1.

Water damage is the leading cause of homeowners insurance claims, and even a small leak can cause major problems if it continues undetected for weeks. Shut off the water supply before you leave, or get a water-flow sensor that ties into your home alarm system and shuts the water off upon detecting a flow of water that is not normal. The combination of water damage -- from a leak or a storm -- plus high heat can lead to very expensive mold. You may want to install a home generator, which keeps the air-conditioning running if the electricity goes out after a storm (you may get a discount on your homeowners insurance policy if you have a permanent back-up home generator). And it’s a good idea to have smoke detectors tied into a centrally monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will be notified automatically if the alarm goes off.

Since your home will be empty during hurricane season, take steps now to prepare your home from storms -- say, by installing storm-proof shutters, a battery-powered back-up sump pump, and a lightning rod with surge protection. Also, make sure you have the right insurance on your Florida home. Get a sewer back-up rider for your homeowners insurance policy, and consider buying flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. See Protect Your Home and Finances from Spring Storms and 6 Steps to Protect Your Home from Hurricanes for more information.

And be sure you have an up-to-date home inventory, which can make a homeowners insurance claim go much more smoothly if anything does happen to your house and is all the more important if you’re far away when disaster strikes. Several new tools make it much easier to keep a home inventory than it used to be. Now, you can take a video of everything in your house with your smart phone and e-mail it to yourself so you can access a copy easily from your summer home (and send it to your insurance agent or company if you have a claim). The Insurance Information Institute’s home inventory app at KnowYourStuff.org, and the app from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners are both handy ways to save the information.

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.



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