Secure the home

Beyond just removing valuables from a home, there are additional steps you can take to secure a vacant home. If there are trusted neighbors or a good neighborhood watch program, let them know the house will be vacant. If they are truly great neighbors, they will probably know already, but it never hurts to ask them to keep an eye out. Further, you can notify the local police department so they can increase patrols. If they see increased activity at the house, they can check it out because something is probably wrong.

Prepare the Home to be Vacant

Another step involved in securing a home that will be left vacant for any amount of time is to make sure it is in good repair. A leaky roof should be fixed, a dripping faucet repaired, etc. If the house will be vacant during the winter, be sure to take measures to protect the home from the cold, such as covering outdoor spigots. You might even want to consider turning the water off and turning the water heater down or off, if they will not be needed. You also should bring outdoor furniture, potted plants, etc., inside if there is a concern wind will be an issue at any time the house will be vacant. You don’t want loose, lightweight items flying around potentially harming the home, or reinforcing that it is vacant.

Manage the Security System

If the home has a security system you plan to continue to use, be sure you notify the company of the new primary contact if the alarm goes off. It might be you or a trusted neighbor who can check on things more easily.

Eliminate Potential Hazards

You should do a walkthrough of the home to make sure there are no hazardous conditions in the house. For example, are there stacks of papers and other flammable materials too near a heater or electrical device? Think logically to move and/or remove any dangerous items or prevent dangerous situations. You also might consider utilizing the video camera on your phone during that walkthrough so you will have a record of how it looked when you left it.

Clean Out Perishable Items

While you might not think of it as home security, it is a good idea to clean out the refrigerator, freezer, cabinets, and pantry. Any perishable or opened items should be discarded. If there are any items that you think should stay in the home, seal them in airtight bags. Even an unopened bag of sugar or box of oatmeal can be very attractive to pests. You don’t want to come back to the home to find unwanted visitors have taken up residence in the kitchen.

Consider Donating Food

Confirm with the estate’s attorney, but it is likely okay to take unopened items to the local food pantry for donation. Be sure to get an itemized donation receipt so it may be used when filing the estate’s taxes.

Clean the Home

Before you leave a home vacant, you need to clean the home. It does not have to be a deep-cleaning, but it should be enough to ensure crumbs are off the counters and toothpaste is out of the sink. Make sure all trashcans are emptied, too.

Spray for Bugs

Because in a vacant home no one is around to get in their way, bugs tend to appear. It might be a good idea to get a home barrier spray for bugs and spray inside and outside the home. Consulting a pest control company can simplify this process.

Secure the Home

Locking doors, closing blinds, and lowering garage doors are all obvious things to do when leaving a home vacant, but you also want to deter thieves by putting a few lights on a timer. Having a light come on in a den or living room in the morning and then again in the evening and having a lamp turn on in the bedroom at night can make it appear that someone is home. While it will make the electricity bill a bit higher, it might be money well spent. Other than lights, though, you should consider unplugging other electrical items. Not only can they “ghost-drain” electricity even if they are off (televisions are often a big culprit), they can pose electrical fire hazards.

Notify the local police if the house will sit empty

While you are working to settle the estate, the deceased’s home might sit empty, whether for a short or longer period of time. If the police know no one is supposed to be at the house, they can be more proactive in keeping watch for lights, cars, etc. at the house. This is a difficult time for all involved. The trauma of a break-in and theft will add significantly to the stress of bereavement. You also will lose possessions which might not only have economic value, but have very meaningful, sentimental value to members of the family. In most cases, the local police will appreciate you reaching out to them and letting them know in advance, as they are there to help and it could spare them a burglary investigation later.