Advice for Snowbirds – How to Prepare Your Home While You’re Away for the Summer

The hot summer months are almost upon us, and that means that it’s time for Arizona’s snowbirds to prepare their winter homes to withstand the desert summer while they’re away. Without the proper care, you might return to a slew of repairs and other issues.

We’ve put together a list of the things you must do to ensure that your winter nest is ready for you when you return later this year. Here they are.

#1: Mail and Utilities

It can take up to two weeks for address changes to take effect, so make sure to get yours into the post office early. The same is true of utilities that you’re stopping for the summer.

You can change your address online on the post office’s website (you’ll get a confirmation in the mail), and utility companies may have online options as well.

#2: HOA/Vacation Watch

One to two weeks before you leave is also a good time to notify your Homeowner’s Association or Condo Association of your departure date. They’ll need to know how to contact you if the need arises.

Some HOAs have a vacation watch program, as do some police departments. If you want someone to keep an eye on your home while you’re away, you might ask around to learn about your options.

#3: Store Your Valuables

Even if you do join a vacation watch program, it’s a good idea to store any valuables that you won’t be taking with you. These might include:

  • Jewelry
  • Important documents
  • Electronics
  • Artwork
  • Sporting equipment

A bank deposit box is an ideal place for jewelry and papers, but you should consider renting a storage space to keep larger items secure while you’re away.

#4: Yardwork and Patio Furniture

A couple of weeks before you leave is the ideal time to do some yardwork (or hire a service to do it for you.) Here are some things to take care of:

  • Trim trees and bushes so you can have the debris picked up before you go.
  • Leave water in your hot tub if you have one. Make sure to turn off the heating element but leave the filter on.
  • Store all lawn and patio furniture to prevent it being damaged by the sun.
  • If you have a fountain, empty it or leave it circulating to prevent mosquitoes from taking up residence.
  • Set your irrigation system to appropriate summer settings to prevent your outdoor plants from dying.
  • Consider hiring a landscaping service to deal with weeds and keep the exterior of your home looking good.

These things will ensure that your yard is in great condition when you come back later this year.

#5: Inside the House

Here are the things you’ll need to do inside the house before you leave:

  1. Use or discard any perishable food in the refrigerator. If you plan on unplugging the refrigerator, it should be empty and clean. If you’re going to leave it running, consider placing water bottles inside to help it run more efficiently.
  2. Make sure all non-perishable foods are in airtight containers or bags to keep pests from getting into them.
  3. Give away houseplants or hire someone to take care of them. They won’t survive without you, and you don’t want to come home to a houseful of dead plants.
  4. Turn off the air conditioner or set it to a high setting (some snowbirds set theirs to 90 or 95 degrees.) You can turn it off, but if you have artwork, wine, candles or anything else that might be damaged by the heat, you’ll want to consider that when choosing your settings.
  5. Unplug all appliances (the refrigerator may be an exception as outlined above.) Leave the doors of your washer, dryer, and dishwasher open. Unplugging as many items as you can including, the coffee maker, the can opener, lamps etc reduces the chances of an electrical short causing a fire and lessens the impact of electrical damage during a summer electrical storm.
  6. Put a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in your garbage disposal and dishwasher to prevent the seals from drying out.
  7. Turn off the gas at the main valve and turn off your water heater.
  8. Flush all the toilets and run the faucets before turning off the water at the main valve for the house. (Remember, leave your irrigation system running as indicated above.)
  9. If the internet is active but working at a reduced level, consider a couple cheap cameras to keep watch over you home while you are gone. They might be able to text your smart phone if they detect activity in the house.
  10. Consider turning off the water to the clothes washer, toilets, and the ice maker to prevent water leaks.

These precautions will keep your home in good condition while you’re away.

#6: Inside the Garage

The final step is to prepare your garage for the summer. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • If you’re leaving a car, disconnect the battery. You may also want to invest in a dust cover to protect your vehicle.
  • If you have a golf cart, add water to the battery and unplug it.
  • Unplug your garage door opener.
  • Remove all flammable items, including propane tanks and chemicals, from the garage

It’s easy to forget about the garage, but these four things are essential before you leave.


Preparing your home for the summer will give you the peace of mind you need to enjoy your time away. You may want to consider asking a friend or neighbor who’ll be staying for the summer to check in periodically to make sure there’s nothing that needs your attention. That way, you can be confident that when it’s time to return to your summer nest, it will be ready for you.

If you need to store your belongings while you are away, check out Storage West. We have facilities in:

Posted in Moving, Seasonal Storage.