Your home is much more than just a place to hang your hat.

It’s your hub for family connections, social events, relaxing, working out, cooking up a storm, and for shelter from the elements.

Like all families that travel, you and yours want your home to be just the way you left it when you return from a vacation, no matter if it’s one week or 10 weeks.

The team of experts at McGarr Realty agrees with you. That’s why, for our clients who prefer to enjoy winter from a southern perspective, we have put together a list of home safety tips to help you prepare for time away from home. In addition to the common-sense tips of not broadcasting your trip on your voicemail recording and staying safe on social media, here are a few others: 

  • Make a contact list to distribute to a few trusted individuals who won’t be travelling with you. McGarr Realty suggests a close relative or perhaps one of your children; your lawyer or a close professional associate, and perhaps a neighbour with whom you are close.

On the list, include all your contact and itinerary information, as well as directions for whom to call in case of emergency (either personal, or at your home). Keep a copy with you, as well. On your own copy, include the names and numbers for your financial and insurance contacts – just in case. Leave a photocopy of your passport ID page with the list.

  • McGarr Realty team members suggest getting a house sitter (agency, relative, friend, etc.), so the mail will be taken in, a car will be left in the driveway, lights will be on at irregular times, and your pets, if you have them, can stick to their routines without being boarded at a kennel.

No house sitter? You might need a little help from your friends. Here are a few suggestions which friends and neighbours can help with:

  • mail collection
  • parking cars in your driveway
  • placing garbage bags at your curb for garbage day collection
  • pet care, whether they come to feed the pets in your home, or help you out by “adopting” your pets for the duration of your vacation
  • watering plants
  • during extreme weather causing power outages, give a friend or neighbour permission to enter your home to check for damage (wind damage, sump pump operation, power surges etc.), and
  • ask a friend or neighbour to walk around your home on a regular basis to search for weather damage or signs of break-in

Hiring an agency to help look after your home can be smart, too. There are different types of companies out there who make it their business to keep your home safe and secure. Some of these are:

  • snow removal company – hire a good one to clear snow as quickly as possible following a storm. Have them clear the driveway; sidewalks; porches; patios and any other doorways to your home;
  • security company – if you have an alarm installed on your home, you can have the alarm company patrol the area to periodically do a visual check on your home’s exterior while you are away;
  • pet sitter – if you aren’t boarding Fluffy or Fido, a pet sitter can make sure they are fed at their usual times, and that the dog gets walked and exercised as is your custom, and
  • professional house sitter – we already mentioned this one, but we’ll add it to the list here to remind you that, if you don’t have family or friends willing to stay in your home and care for it, you can always arrange for a professional company to do this. You can include watering plants as part of their to-do list. Some house-sitter agencies won’t care for pets, so you may have to split those jobs up.

Things you can do yourself before your departure to maximize home safety include the following:

  • put lights on timers to give the appearance your home is occupied
  • request a regular “drive-by” from your local police department
  • place all small valuables in a locked container, which you store in a hidden location (take the key with you or leave it with someone you trust); better yet, use a safe
  • unplug any unnecessary appliances, both large and small
  • place your hot water tank on “vacation” setting
  • program your thermostat to keep the house warm enough so pipes don’t freeze
  • remove gaming systems and expensive blu-ray players from TV area and place out of sight
  • same for other, small electronics and computer equipment: place out of sight
  • clear out refrigerator and freezer and add a box or two of baking soda; before you depart, it’s a good time to make a food donation to a soup kitchen or women’s shelter. Nobody wants to come home to veggies that have rotted, or that spoiled-food smell. If the fridge/freezer are empty, you may as well unplug these, too, and
  • remove all garbage from the home, and also from your garbage-can storage area; allowing garbage to sit can encourage rodents to pay you a visit

One other thing we might mention is to ensure your health and medical/travel insurance are current. Update any vaccinations you might need before leaving and check in with the Government of Canada’s website for travel and tourism information, including advisories against travel, passport and customs information, and even Canada-US border wait times.

If you are all packed and ready to go, our team at McGarr Realty wants you to have a great time!


Are you pondering the purchase of a vacation home in the United States? Our McGarr Realty team can help with that! Let us know what you have in mind, and we can get the search started for you! Give our office a call at 905-468-9229 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, or 905-687-9229 in St. Catharines. Alternatively, send us a message via the contact page on our website, HERE.

Safe travels!

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