Protecting your vacation home

According to the National Association of Realtors' 2015 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, vacation home sales reached 1.13 million, a 57.4 percent increase from 717,000 sales in 2013. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, credits this increase to steady growth in the stock market, a healthy rise in home prices and baby boomers moving closer to retirement.

"Affluent households have greatly benefited from strong growth in the stock market in recent years, and the steady rise in home prices has likely given them reassurance that real estate remains an attractive long-term investment," said Yun.

Purchasing a vacation home is a great option if you live in a cold climate, want to have a centralized location for family retreats or hope to invest in real estate in the future. While owning a second home has its rewards, it is more difficult to take care of and look after your property when your permanent residence is far away.

Here are five tips for protecting your vacation home:

1. Prepare for weather conditions
It is very possible that your vacation home is located in an area that has severe weather conditions such as hurricanes or tornadoes; and even if it isn't, it's always possible that heavy rain and winds could cause damage to your property. Protect your vacation home with window shutters, reinforced doors and wind-resistant roof coverings.

Floods are also a serious risk in extreme weather conditions. The National Flood Insurance Program recommended making sure your sump pump is working and installing a battery-powered backup sump pump in case your home loses electricity. NFIP also recommended installing an alarm that will alert you if water is accumulating in your basement, which is especially helpful for vacation homeowners who may be away from their homes during a flood.

2. Install a security system
According to a 2013 FBI report on crime in the U.S., there were an estimated 1,928,465 burglaries in 2013, 74 percent of which took place on residential properties. Vacation homes are even more susceptible to burglary because they are left vacant for extended periods of time, often in clusters of other vacation homes. In your absence, a home security system can help deter a burglar from entering your home. In fact, the Electronic Security Association noted homes without alarm systems are 3 times more likely to be burglarized than those with an alarm system. Additionally, installing a security system in your vacation property may lower your homeowners insurance premium.

3. Impose a non-smoking policy for renters The National Fire Protection Agency reported that in 2011, there were an estimated 90,000 smoking-material fires in the U.S. Imposing a nonsmoking rule for people renting your vacation home while you're away will help you protect your home from smoke-related fires and also prevent the value of your property from depreciating due to damage from indoor smoke. Homeowners who are nonsmokers and do not allow smoking inside the property typically qualify for lower home insurance premiums, as well.

4. Create a home inventory
It's easy to lose track of your possessions. Since you will likely spend large chunks of time away from your vacation home, it's important to create and regularly update a documented inventory of everything you keep in your home. This will help you keep tabs on all of your remote belongings, especially if you have renters staying inside the property. Further, you will need an inventory of everything inside the house in case you need to file a home insurance claim for damage to or loss of personal property.

5. Get involved with your community
Even though your stays at your vacation home will be temporary, it is extremely beneficial to get involved with your community, including your neighbors, local businesses and police department. Neighbors are a great source of security and peace of mind, and will be able to alert you if there is suspicious activity or potentially severe weather conditions in your area. Staying in communication with the local police department and keeping them informed of your time away from the home will help them remain alert and respond quickly in an emergency.

In addition to these five tips, make sure your vacation home is covered by the best possible insurance plan for your needs and location. Visit CoverHound's easy-to-use website to find a home insurance plan that is right for you.

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