January 23, 2015 – When you’ve finished checking your vacationer’s outdoors [see our article, Making the Vacation House Check – Outdoors] it’s time to do an indoor house check. If you have animals to attend to, you’ll naturally do this after you’ve looked after them.
During the Vacation Meet-and-Greet
If you’re meeting the clients specifically to look after their home while they’re away, spend time learning where to find the power breakers, furnace switches, sump pumps (and how to trigger them manually if possible), and water turn offs. If the basement isn’t finished, you can usually see where the water pipes enter the house and the turn off should be close by.
Often during animal meet-and-greets, we’ve spent time chatting, so the house tour tends to involve only a quick look where the food is kept and the kitty litter is stationed. Don’t be shy about asking where the breakers and switches are. Even during a day visit you could walk into an emergency situation.
Making the Vacation House Check for the Indoors
Begin with a thorough walk through the house – every room, upstairs and down through the basement. Check to ensure the doors are all locked. Sometimes in their haste to leave, they don’t lock them.
Check the windowsills for signs of condensation puddling, tampered locks or other signs of entry. Glance around the room for signs of water – even discoloration to the walls or ceiling. Check skylights and the surrounding ceiling (from the floor! No climbing!)
If the client hasn’t turned off the water, you can flush toilets and run water now and then if the home is being left for more than a couple of weeks.
Basement water is a problem after rainstorms if the home’s drainage is poor or the town’s rain sewers are backed-up. Often a January thaw creates an over-abundance of melt water that brings water into the basement. Tropical storms create damage allowing water in or rupturing pipes.
Power outages happen any time of year but often after storms. If it’s winter, and the water has not been turned off, you’ll need to either keep it running with a slow drip or turn it off and drain the pipes or they’ll freeze. Get instructions from your client or their emergency contact first. Turn off any lights you might keep on. You might find you’ll need to make extra visits to the home until the power is restored.
If you’re also looking after animals, you might need to transport them to your home or the family’s emergency contacts if the temperature is too hot or too cold as a result of a power outage.
Indoor plants will need watering if the clients are away for more than a week. They are usually quite explicit about how they want them watered…or not touched at all. Sometimes they’ll leave a water meter. Ask the client to leave the plant on a water-proof surface such as the kitchen counter just in case the water flows over after you’ve left or you miss noticing a water drip as you work. If they’re still on the furniture when you arrive… put them on a kitchen counter right away! I’ve seen plant pots on good furniture, leather-inlaid side tables, and white table cloths as the next anecdote mentions.
We made our first visit to see a cat the day after the client left a few months back. We were asked to water the plant on the dining room table a little later in the week. I checked it that same day, only to find the table cloth soaked in a huge wide ring surrounding the plant. I put the plant in the kitchen and fortunately the thick table pad they had beneath the plant was still holding the water, but just. It was filled with water in the padding. The table was dry. By the next day…who knows? With a little presoaking when I got home, the white tablecloth was saved from a permanent stain too. Because I checked everywhere on our first walk through the house, the table was saved from being ruined.
When you enter a clients home for your vacation house check, especially the first visit…look at everything as though you are trying to spot the one thing not right. Nine times out of ten there isn’t anything to find (or else we’re not looking hard enough!), but by keeping a sharp eye, you could save some damage. And it’s hard to prove you didn’t do it if you don’t report it on your very first visit.
Until next time – have fun out there!
Other posts in this vacation series…
Pet Sitters and Vacation House Checks – Parameters
Making the Vacation House Check – Outdoors