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Vacation Home Maintenance: How To Take Care Of Your Second Home

Melissa Brock3 minute read
March 30, 2017

Your vacation home is an oasis and sanctuary – your home away from home. Putting together a solid vacation home maintenance plan means you can spend your time enjoying your second home, not scrambling to maintain it while you're trying to lounge in your pool or on the back deck.

Putting together a plan shouldn't take up too much of your well-earned time off. Follow these tips to get the work out of the way so you can get back to enjoying yourself.

Vacation Home And Condo Maintenance Tips

If you're away in your primary residence for most of the year, there are some things you can do to maintain your vacation home from afar. Homeowners can maintain their vacation rentals, condos or second homes with just a few tips.

Make A Vacation Home Maintenance Checklist

Making a home maintenance checklist for a second home might seem like a daunting task, but once you've put one together, it's a reliable source you can use to keep your house in shape while you’re away. Here are three key tasks to consider adding:

  • Shut off the main water supply: Consider shutting off the water and draining the lines when you’re not in the home, particularly if your vacation home is located in a climate with cold winters. This will prevent your pipes from freezing and enable you to shut off the heat if you’re going to be gone for a lengthy period of time.
  • Turn off the air conditioning: Turn off the air conditioning if you plan to be away from your vacation home for a while. However, if you will only be gone for a weekend, consider hitting the "up" arrow on your thermostat to increase the temperature for that short period of time.
  • Clean the gutters: You want to make sure rainwater is draining properly, so it's a good idea to clean your gutters before you leave for a long time. If getting up on a ladder to remove debris by hand isn't your thing, you may want to get gutter guards or hire a handyman or woman to handle the task.

You may also want to add the following tasks to your list:

  • Empty and unplug the refrigerator – don't forget to prop open the door!
  • Remove all food from cupboards and pantries
  • Close the chimney flue and remove ashes from woodstoves and fireplaces
  • Check that the sump pump is working properly
  • Clean storm drains
  • Empty the trash
  • Turn off the water heater
  • Shut off all lights and close blinds
  • Lock all doors and windows

Don't forget to check the yard for items you need to bring inside, such as lawn chairs, hammocks, lawn decor, the grill, garden hoses and more. Add storm windows if necessary, especially in coastal regions.

Do Some Landscaping

Proper landscaping can help maintain your home while you’re away. Landscaping ideas such as maintenance-free grasses, bushes or perennial plants may not need as much attention while you're away. You may also want to add large, non-living ground covers like hardscaping or rock gardens to the front or backyard, which require no maintenance at all. You may also want to add peat moss and mulch to trees and shrubs so they retain as much moisture as possible between waterings.

Ask A Friend Or Neighbor To Check On Your Home

Who will maintain your vacation home when you’re not around? Having a friend or neighbor who lives nearby (and who knows how to take care of a vacation home) check in occasionally can help keep your home maintained. This individual could alert you of any problems they see while you’re away, keep you apprised of neighborhood changes as well as contribute in small ways to the care and maintenance of the vacation home.

Install A Home Security System

Consider securing your home by installing a home security system or smart technology. Before you do so, check the local ordinances in your area so you know where you can legally place cameras. Placing a home security system on your property gives you peace of mind because you can check in on your home whenever you want and get alerts when something is happening on or around your property. You may also be able to startle intruders with a two-way audio system.

Rent Your Vacation Home Out

Using your vacation home as rental property can help keep it maintained while you’re not living in it, particularly if you hire a property management company to looks after things while you're gone. The property manager will check the property regularly before and after renters arrive. They will look for broken windows and locks, evidence that all major systems and appliances are still working and even make sure that light bulbs aren't burnt out. The trade-off might be excess wear and tear on your home due to the activities of short-term renters, but the rest of the systems in the home will get full regular check-ups.

Hire A Vacation Home Cleaning And Maintenance Service

Hiring a maintenance or vacation home cleaning service or a property management company can provide upkeep and perform preventative maintenance on your vacation home. If you’re going to hire people to handle maintenance tasks, make sure you budget for this service. You can also do a little bit of mixing and matching if you have to – paying for some services while doing others yourself.

Check into the costs of several vacation home maintenance services to get a handle on the prices and services available in your area so you can choose the best fit for your needs.

Let The HOA Handle It

Where you buy your second home can affect how it’s maintained when you’re away. Note that if your vacation home is part of a homeowners association (HOA), you may be able to tap into built-in property maintenance. If your neighborhood or condo has an association, it may be worth the fees to have them take care of some basic tasks.

Make sure to know exactly what you’re paying for. If they take care of mowing, shoveling and yard work, for example, it’s one less thing you have to worry about.

Have Appliances Inspected

Consider having appliances and major systems inspected regularly, right before you leave and prior to your return. For example, if you plan to pack up and leave for a year, have a heating and cooling professional come at the beginning and end of that year. Keep track of the maintenance schedule for the system or appliance and be sure to follow through on scheduling routine maintenance. It's always more affordable to prevent problems from occurring than to have to replace an entire system.

Need extra cash for home improvement?

Use your home equity for a cash-out refinance.

The Bottom Line

Just like with your primary home, it's a good idea to carefully consider how you'll maintain your vacation home. Put together a maintenance checklist prior to leaving for the first time.

Your decision may depend heavily on your preferences and comfort level (such as having a neighbor check in versus having a professional management company maintain your home). However, it's important to know that there are a wide variety of options available to you. You may also want to mix and match your approach, such as having a neighbor and your HOA maintain the home while you're away.

Ready to learn more about second home maintenance or condo maintenance? Learn how to budget for home maintenance costs before you make a final decision.

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Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock is a freelance writer and editor who writes about higher education, trading, investing, personal finance, cryptocurrency, mortgages and insurance. Melissa also writes SEO-driven blog copy for independent educational consultants and runs her website, College Money Tips, to help families navigate the college journey. She spent 12 years in the admission office at her alma mater.