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Make sure belongings don’t leave when you do

The last thing you do before leaving your house empty for the summer is lock the front door, right? Better double-check: Police say a surprising number of snowbirds leave without locking the front door.

The last thing you do before leaving your house empty for the summer is lock the front door, right? Better double-check: Police say a surprising number of snowbirds leave without locking the front door.

It’s almost time to button up your Arizona home and fly north for a cooler summer. Don’t let your empty house become a target for burglars and bugs.

Consider asking a friend or family member to check on your house – inside and out – at least once a week, or hiring a “house watch” service that will come by and right anything that might have gone unexpectedly wrong while you’re gone.

Here are some things for your caretaker to look for every week:

• Termites. This is a bug you want to exterminate the minute you see one. Sometimes these destructive pests hide underground, but often, they’ll build mud tubes on the side of the house. A caretaker who sees one should try to scrape it off of the house. If it’s dry, the tube is probably abandoned. But if it’s wet, you need an exterminator right away. Put this on your list of “emergencies” that your caretaker should call you about.

• Air conditioning. You can crank your thermostat up as high as 88 degrees before you leave, but don’t turn it off. A house that’s too hot can invite mold. Ask your caretaker to make sure the a/c is working all summer so you don’t return to a stuffy, moldy house.

• Toilets. It’s a good idea to shut your home’s water completely off for the summer. But some plumbers say it’s a better idea to leave it on so your caretaker can flush the toilets once a week. Because our water is so “hard,” water that dries out in the toilet can leave a calcium ring.

• Irrigation. If you leave your water on so your irrigation system can run – preventing your outdoor plants from dying off and announcing to anyone who passes by that your house has been empty for months – ask your caretaker to check for leaks and overwatering, which also can run your water bill up.

• Door and window locks. No matter how careful you are to lock every door and window before you leave, you’re going to worry that you forgot one. Plus, police say a surprising number of snowbirds carefully prepare their homes for the long absence, but then they leave without locking the front door.

• Monsoon damage. Windy rainstorms will blow branches and trash into trees and onto patios, drop dead birds and small animals onto your porches and topple lawn furniture. If you leave your lawn in disarray, it will send a clear signal that nobody’s home.

• Lights. Before you head north, rig your outdoor lights to timers so they turn on at dusk and off at dawn. Indoors, plug lamps into timers that let you stagger their on/off times so it looks like someone is moving from room to room turning on the lights. Instruct your caretaker to change the times once a week so the lights turn on and off at even more random intervals.

Rosie Romero has been in the Arizona homebuilding and remodeling industry for 35 years. He has a radio program from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KNST-AM (790). For more do-it-yourself tips and for Arizona’s most-trusted contractor referral network, call (888) ROSIE-4-U during the show, or go online rosieonthehouse.com. The Rosie on the House column appears Fridays.

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