Beginning in December, about a million seasonal residents – or snowbirds – flock from northern cities to Florida to avoid the winter chill. And around April, during our hot, humid summers, they return to their permanent homes. It’s a cycle that community managers in the Sunshine State know all too well, especially if they manage high-rises, villa style condos or even single family home neighborhoods.
In order for snowbirds to return to a happy home each, it’s important that they complete certain maintenance tasks to protect their homes during the off-season. Careful preparation is the only way to guard against a maintenance emergency or a hurricane while homes sit empty for long periods of time.
Even though our snowbirds won’t fly north for another month or two, it’s never too early to start planning out how you’ll prepare your unit for the end of the season. If you’re a snowbird, here are a few tasks you should plan on completing before going north for the summer.
1. Bring any items outside your home inside. This includes anything that usually stays on your porch or balcony like patio furniture, potted plants or decorations. Because any of these items can become a deadly, flying projectile in a severe hurricane, this is the most important step to take before leaving.
2. Set your air conditioning unit to 80 degrees. Many people’s first instinct is to turn it off completely, but doing so increases the risk for growing mold in the home. In villa style condos, mold that starts this way can also spread to other condos attached to yours.
3. If your community has an onsite manager and/or office, notify them of your departure and return dates. Be sure to leave your contact information so that if there’s an emergency while you’re gone, they can get in touch with you. It’s also recommended to leave a spare key with the onsite manager or office so that they can enter the unit in case of a leak or other maintenance problem.
4. Shut off your water or have a friend regularly visit your unit. Shutting off the water can keep your water heater and pipes from leaking. But if you don’t know how to shut it off or aren’t comfortable doing so, ask a neighbor or friend to regularly come by your unit to check for leaks and flush the toilets.
5. If you have hurricane shutters, consider installing them before you leave. Hurricane season lasts from June to November, and you might appreciate having more peace of mind during that stretch of time.
6. Make it look like someone’s home. Take all the same home safety precautions you do when you’re on vacation – have your mail sent elsewhere, install timers on lights, and make sure that every door and window is locked.
With these tips, you’ll give yourself peace of mind during the off-season and set yourself up for a warm welcome when you come back to Florida in the winter.