• Valuables: The first place robbers go in a home is the master bedroom, Long said, where they are after money, jewelry and guns. If you have a big stash of cash or an expensive jewelry collection, he recommends storing it at a bank safety deposit box and storing any weapons in a gun safe. If you hide valuables in your home, be creative. “If the guy is there for a while, he’ll knock over everything in your house, empty every drawer, turn every mattress over and look everywhere in your house for good stuff,” Long said. “They’re not neat when they do it.”
• Blinds: Leave the blinds as you normally do. If you raise and lower them daily, Long recommends keeping blinds closed in the rear of the house, in case a would-be robber is watching for movement, and keep them open in the front.
• Water: Turn off the main valve (usually near the water meter). Then, turn on an upstairs faucet for about 15 seconds to relieve any pressure that may have built up in the system and that could force water into the house if there were a leak.
• Appliances/fixtures: If you leave the main water valve open, turn off non-essential, water-dependent fixtures like toilets, ice makers, washing machines and dishwashers to help prevent a leak if a hose or fitting fails. Leave the refrigerator on, freeze what you can, and throw out or give away perishable food that won’t last.
A gas water heater can be turned to the “vacation” or “pilot” setting, usually located at the bottom of the unit, so you are not heating water you don’t need. An electric water heater can be turned off at the main electrical panel. Because it can take a few hours to get the water warm after you turn the heater back on, consider asking your caretaker to do so on the day you are returning.
• Electronics: Unplug or power down non-essential electronics like televisions, gaming systems, computer monitors, coffee pots and toasters to save money on electricity. Make a list of what you have turned off so you can remember what needs turning on when you get home.
• Garbage: Take it out ahead of time, or arrange for your caretaker to take it out on the assigned day.
• Insurance: Make sure your homeowners insurance is up to date.