One of the most stressful parts about a second home is keeping tabs on it when you are away. One of the most valuable things you own is sitting idle, seemingly unprotected and often in a sparsely populated area, while you are hours away living your life. How can you keep track of your house while you are away?
You should be able to know your home is safe without feeling like you are paranoid about your home. Here are some step to take to ensure your peace of mind… and that your property is protected.
Know Your Neighbors
One of the best ways to keep track of your home when you are away is having a relationship with your neighbors and asking that they give you a call if something seems amiss. They don’t need to be snooping around your property all the time and they don’t even need keys to your house! Assuming they are around when you aren’t, the can give you a call if they see a tree branch leaning over your house, or they hear your alarm going off for some reason.
This is as old school a solution as it gets, but it works and it won’t cost you much more than a few “Thanks Yous” and perhaps a small token of appreciate during the holidays.
If you don’t have full-time neighbors and you have a property that is relatively high maintenance or large, when a professional caretaker is an option. These are people who will check in on your home from once a month to a few times a week in order to make sure all the systems are working properly and that the house is ready for your next visit.
This might seem like a service that’s only appropriate for large estates and mansions, but that’s not sure. Many full-time locals will have a part-time job watching any number of homes as the requirements of the job are often little more than an understanding of home systems, adequate diligence, and a high level of trustworthiness.
The real challenge here is finding a person or agency that your trust with access to your vacation home.
Home Security System
One of the best ways to keep track of your home us a full home security system, like SimpliSafe. This will actively monitor multiple aspects of your home’s security, not just prevent break-ins and theft, which is what’s commonly associated with an older security system.
Today’s modern security systems will be able to recognize and alert you about:
- Internet outages
- Movement in the home
- Fire and/or smoke
- Water leaks
- Temperature (too high to too cold)
- Glass breaking (like a window being smashed in)
- Loud noises in the home
- Doors or windows being opened
- Carbon monoxide
A system like this might cost $500 to setup and then from $0 to $15 a month, depending on the level of security you need. You really do get an incredible amount of information from your home.
All modern security systems include some sort of cameras well, so you can integrate live video which is the single best way to check in on your house.
If you want live video and audio feeds from your home then you can do that without a security system. Today’s live video cameras, sometimes called security cameras, are easy to setup and incredible affordable. You just need a high speed Internet connection to maintain them.
Some of the top options today include:
Most of these are easy to find online, won’t cost much to setup ($25-$100 per camera), and won’t require a monthly expense unless you want to have lots of video stored and easily accessible via the cloud. You’ll need a good internet connection and home Wi-Fi for them operate but those are available in most homes today.
An added bonus of these if that all the systems have movement- and audio-triggered alerts, so they can act as a security system, they just won’t be able to alert local authorities in the case of an event.
A doorbell camera, also known as a “smart doorbell,” is essentially a camera that watches your front door. These are ideal for watching packages on your porch and can serve as a warning to people who are looking into your home, thinking the place is empty.
Doorbell cams aren’t has useful when you have a stand-alone house as it’s potentially easy for someone to just walk outside of their view, but given their $100 (or so) price point and the fact that the front door is the primary entry point for many homes these remain useful.
Smart light systems like WeMo and Phillips Hue, aren’t specifically design with home monitoring as they don’t have microphones or cameras, but they can help understand the status of your home because you can check if your lights are active or not. This will let you know if your home has power and if it has an internet connection.
These are two important functions for almost every home, so it’s always good to have more than one way to verify that both are up and running.
Kohler Generator OnCue Plus
While this is a lesser known tool, it’s a handy one. OnCue is the Kohler whole house generator’s companion app. You can use it with some newer Kohler generators in order to check in on the status of the device.
The Android and iOS apps will allow you do some very cool thing with your generator, for example:
- Check if your home is using grid power or your generator
- Receive instant alerts when your generator activates
- Check when your generator runs its weekly test cycle
- Check vital statistics like oil level and temperature
This is a pricey upgrade for existing generators, but it’s well worth it if you live in an areas where power outage are common.
Water Leak Detectors
With flooding being one of the most damaging things that can happen to a vacation home, a water leak detector is a very useful tool. These come in a number of different forms, for example the SimpliSafe water monitor, the Flume 2 smart water sensor, and the Phyn smart water assistant.
Each of these will be able to detect water leaks in your home, though you will need the right placement and setup to do so. With a bit of preparation you’ll have a good idea of your home’s water bill and any potentially troublesome water usage.
Smart Garage Door Opener
Next generation garage door openers like the Genie 4164H-B can work with smartphone apps, like Aladdin Connect, in order to alert you when your garage door activates. You can also check if your door is open or closed, when the last time it opened/closed, and you can open the door for a delivery person or neighbor without having to hide the keys under a flower pot.
It’s not something you’d think of as being “smart” but a connected garage door opener is pretty handy!
And there you have it, a number of ways to keep tabs on your vacation home while you’re away from it.