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Stories III

Concerned about leaving our home abandoned…

by First time RVer

Did you know that home owners will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their number one asset while they’re away RVing – except for getting in their own house sitter that is. Read this fascinating forum discussion as nine part-time RVers talk about just what needs to be done to stop the vermin moving in, mildew taking over, wood drying out, sewer smells persisting, food decomposing. Eeeeeeeuuuuuuuwwwwwww – I agree with RVer number five who says that ‘a trusted house sitter is best’. Yes!

Over three days in early 2005, nine part-time RVers post to an RVing forum to help out one of their kind who is afraid to leave his home ‘abandoned’ for six months.

posted April 21, 2005 10:22pm

We are about to make our first trip in our new RV and are concerned about leaving our home ‘abandoned’ for five or six months. Any of you ‘old timers’ (no pun intended) have any recommendations, checklists, do’s and don’ts, about leaving home for an extended period of time? We were thinking about leaving all of the utilities connected up but shutting everything off at the main. I have heard about leaving pots of water in pans throughout the house (not sure why though). Our neighbours have offered to keep an eye on the place while we are gone. Should the water heater be drained down prior to leaving? We have a maintenance free yard so that is not an issue. Maybe we are just worrying too much. I know we will get 500 miles from home and remember that we forgot something. Thought maybe there was a ‘master check list’ out there somewhere. Any input would be helpful.

posted April 21, 2005 10:48pm

Hi there,
A generic checklist really won’t get the job done as you are the ones that know about your house. Go room by room a few times and make your own list! If you are going to turn off the power at the main I’d just call the utilities and have them do a vacation interruption of service instead. Why pay bills for not using the services? Even if you are not using the things they still have a base bill to keep you on the active utility feeds.

As to securing the house, definitely seal it up. You need to make sure critters don’t take up residency. The bucket of water idea was to have a slight amount of humidity in the house to keep your wood furnishings from drying out and shrinking. Frankly it’s a good way to have mould and mildew grow inside. The water won’t last long during the warm part of the year. Give your wood furnishings, cabinets and panelling a good coating of oil a few times before you leave. That will help keep them from drying out.

Seal up your drains, don’t let critters come up from the sewers and keep the smell out too. Clean your house as best you can and make sure there is no food to attract vermin inside.
Definitely have the neighbours watch the house so someone will call the authorities if there is a problem. Also give them a way to get in contact with you in case of emergency.
All this stuff is why we went whole hog and fulltime. By selling the house we no longer have to worry about the problems you are contemplating now. It really was an easy transition and the initial butterflies went away pretty quickly. Good luck on your trip and happy trails.

posted April 22, 2005 1:23am

We leave a 30 gallon trash can in our garage in Quartzsite each summer and it is mostly gone when we come back in the fall, the humidity helps keep things from drying out as much as they would without it. We pour enough oil (Wesson) down each drain and into each toilet to cover the water and keep it from evaporating. We also cover the open drains and toilet bowls with saran wrap to prevent evaporation. A dry drain is a direct connection to your sewer system and can let in some amazing and persistent smells! Unplug everything that you can unplug. Turn off any breakers that are not used. In Quartzsite the water is bad enough that our plumber suggested draining the tank and pipes if we were going to be gone for several months so we do. Folks that have fancier setups or houses leave the power and air conditioning turned on and set to 90-95 to keep from cooking things. In our garage we have damaged plastic items from the heat and friends had their fridge in a metal shed and the doors warped to where they had to be replaced.

posted April 22, 2005 5:44am

We live in hurricane country so we place all photo albums in large plastic containers with latching lids and place them in a small closet. We have the water shut off at the meter so that there can be no leaks that would cause the meter to spin up $$$’s all summer. We don’t leave the A/C on because of electrical storms during the summer. One of the neighbors did and when he returned one phase of his electrical service was blown out and the A/C was destroyed.

I have to leave the electricity on for the sprinkler but turn off all other breakers. If you are leaving a car at home disconnect the battery and put a charger on a timer to run 1 hr per day on it. That will require leaving on another breaker. Get rid of any old leather stuff like old wallets and belts. Even old cameras with leather on the body. They will be covered with mildew unless you live in extremely low humidity. Thoroughly clean the inside of the refrigerator and prop the doors open. As Stan said, protect sewer outlets and don’t forget any shower stalls, unused tubs, or garage sinks. We have made up a two-page list over the years!

posted April 22, 2005 7:07am

We’ve found a trusted house sitter is best. Hard to find, however.

posted April 22, 2005 7:49am

Your profile gives no hint of where your house is, but one question that I do not see mentioned here is security? You need to do some things to make it appear that your house is occupied. That means that the yard must be cared for even so, because things will accumulate to show that it is not attended. Also, the complete lack of lights will advertise to any casual passer by that no one is living there. I would want the power on with the light sensing timers to turn on lights at the appropriate time with it staying on for some number of hours, in different parts of the house. And turn off the telephone as a ringing phone is a public notice that no-one is home. I will assume that mail and papers are already taken care of, but you also need to have the door hangers and unsolicited flyers removed on a daily basis. It might even be a good idea if your neighbour parks his car in your drive if he has an extra one to show activity there.

I tend to think that a house sitter is the best way, but that my not be feasible.

posted April 22, 2005 5:31pm

Everything mentioned here is good. One thing was not mentioned but should be checked on. Some insurance companies would consider your home abandoned and at that point you may lose some of the insurance. Of course this would not be a problem unless something happened, but if it did your insurance company will do anything and everything to get out of paying anything to you and yes they will find out that you were gone.

posted April 22, 2005 10:41pm

We have been away for six months. Our neighbour has a key to the house as does our daughter who lives an hour’s drive away. She visits about monthly to check things. We have our mail forwarded to friends/relatives when we depart. BUT as the postal service still will make a delivery to the house three or four times a month, I put a mail drop slot in the garage door and a large plastic box inside the garage to catch the mail. When we are six weeks or so away from home we will have our home delivery open again.

I have a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers of all the firms that send us monthly bills. I call them monthly and ask how much we owe and then send them a check.To try not to forget something we have a ‘depart Alameda’ check list. Which helps. This is in addition to the trailer and truck check off lists we use whenever we move in the rig. Ask me by e-mail and I’ll share my lists with you.

posted April 22, 2005 10:52pm

I agree, some policies require the house to be occupied, otherwise the HO policy is considered void. I understand they do this because if the house is occupied, residents can minimize losses if a problem should arise.

posted April 23, 2005 11:05 am

A ‘not so funny’ true story: Ready to pull out of the driveway, wife asks ‘Are you sure everything is off?’ Husband says ‘I think so, but wait a minute – I’ll make sure.’ He gets out, opens the garage door and pulls the main power breaker, closes the garage and gets back into the van. They leave, and come back six weeks later – they can smell the place a block before they get home; because they completely forgot the freezer contained a whole side of beef they had just had received two days before they left. It took three days of ‘gas mask’ clean up, scrubbing with Clorox, and total replacement of all seals in the freezer, before they could stay in the house again. Um – incidentally, we still have that freezer nearly 45 years later!

First time RVer

About the author: First time RVer

These nine part-time RVers are all very keen to help out their discussion group pal who is launching into the world of RVing for the first time. Thing is, how does the intrepid first time RVer protect their home in their absence? We know, don’t we…