As a professional home watch company here on Hilton Head Island, I am often asked why such a service is necessary and what could possibly go wrong with an unattended home. Usually, this mentality comes because we are fortunate to live in a very safe and somewhat low crime area. On top of that, many homes are located in gated communities that have limited access and onsite security. At first glance, I can understand people’s initial reaction, but when you realize the potential hazards of leaving a huge investment such as a vacation villa or second home completely unattended for months at a time, it doesn’t take long to list out the disasters that are just waiting to happen.
So, let’s look at some of the common issues we come across and possible problems that can be minimized or outright eliminated. First and foremost, an absentee service is geared to protect your investment, whether you own another home out of state, or across the country. Also, many insurance companies will not cover your second home for common issues if you leave your home unattended.
Burglary & Vandalism
One of the biggest threats to your unattended home is folks looking to take advantage of abandoned or empty homes. Robbery of a second home is a crime that’s easy to commit and often isn’t discovered for weeks or months later. Truthfully, thinking that the security of your gated community is a deterrent to theft or vandalism is laughable. Often, it’s not a burglar coming in the middle of the night. It might be workers or contractors working nearby, or in some cases, actually at your property. Think of it like this, an unsavory character sees that your home is empty week after week when they cut your neighbor’s grass.They get to know the schedules of the other residents in the vicinity, and know the opportune time to rob you.
With weekly visits that are done at different times, your home will have a more lived-in appearance. Would-be criminals will be wary of getting caught if they know that someone might be coming by soon. Now, that’s not to say that things still can’t happen, but our services really cuts down on the threat.
There are so many ways that water can get into your home and, as you probably know, water can cause major damage in a very short amount of time. Leaking HVAC lines, broken pipes, roof leaks, burst water heaters, and the list goes on. Or, your property could be in a multi-level location and the villa above you could be leaking water down through the walls. We have personally seen this, as well as numerous other issues. Just a few weeks ago, we were checking a client’s detached guest house when we found that the HVAC system froze and the drain lines were dripping water on the floor. Thankfully, it was only for a day. Can you imagine what would have happened if it hadn’t been observed, stopped and repaired. The damage even for three or four weeks would have been catastrophic with mold on all surfaces of furniture, walls and ceilings due to the lack of cool dry air from the non-functioning HVAC. Not to mention, our visit also saved the HVAC compressor itself from overheating and burning out.
Water leaks can also happen from missing shingles during a storm, clogged gutters, debris penetrating the roof, etc. When it comes to water, the frequency of the visit is the key to saving your property and it’s why we always do weekly checks, or more if the client prefers.
Bug & Rodent Problems
Here in Coastal South Carolina, we have what we often refer to as dune squirrels…otherwise known as rats! Of course we also have a huge population of the ever present, pesky and invasive squirrels. You might associate rats with a city or trash heap, but the favorable climate and lush vegetation make for a wonderful home to rats, rodents, and other problematic wildlife. Just like you and I, rats and mice like nice houses too! Other rodents and all types of lizards are also opportunistic and will find their way into building structures of all types in search of food, shelter, and nesting materials of their own. Rodents love the insulation found in most homes to make their own nests with.
Beside the four legged guys, there are a variety of insects that prefer the inside of your property, from spiders, bees, beetles, termites, ants and more. We can be your eyes and ears to these potential problems. As the seasons change here in the Lowcountry, pesky critters will try to find warmer and cooler spots in your space and if no one is home to shoo them away, they will quickly make you vacation home theirs too.
Mold & Mildew
Hilton Head may be wonderful, but the climate here in the Lowcountry can be torture for your home! From excessive UV rays shortening your roof life, to the high humidity and constant (summer) afternoon lightning and hail storms potentially damaging your property, it’s a mix that can wreak havoc on a home that’s all closed up and can’t breathe.
Have you ever come back from vacation and even your own home has a slight musty smell? Multiply that by weeks and you can imagine the mold, mildew, and odors that can build up in your ‘home away from home.’ Our weekly visits include monitoring the HVAC system (the first line of defense against mold) opening windows and doors, running water, cycling appliances, and keeping your home ‘lived-in.’ Doing these things ensures that fresh water is always in the pipes and that there’s plenty of air circulation.
Vendor & Contractor Verification
Let‘s face it, some people are lazy and, if left unattended, they don’t always perform their work to the agreed upon specifications. This applies to landscapers, pool companies, house keepers, etc. When folks know that you don’t live here, or that nobody is coming behind them to check their work, many will begin to cut corners. Having an absentee company manage the daily goings-on at your house will protect it from lots of issues and also make sure that things run smoothly. We ensure the contractors and service people working on your home are performing well and getting the job done.
It’s a good point to mention that The House Butler has a verified list of vendors to perform almost any task on your property and we have long-term relationships with many of them. We don’t recommend any contractor unless we have had extremely good experiences with them on multiple properties. We make certain they have great references, all the necessary insurance, skills and experience. Above all, we want to have a good feeling about them, in just the same way that you would as the homeowner. Not all home watch services take their job as seriously as we do! Call us old school, but we still believe our promise means something.
One of the many services we perform is being your ‘boots on the ground’ if you plan on doing a remodel or renovation work. It’s hard enough to manage a big house project when you’re here and it’s that much more problematic being 100’s of miles away! We also have experience in the building industry and have even built several of our own homes right here in Hilton head. If you need help with your project, and are hoping to get some work done before you arrive, it’s good to have The House Butler in your corne
Arrival & Departure Inspections
The whole reason to have a vacation home is to relax and enjoy where you are. Nobody wants to come into town and have to deal with opening up your home and getting it ready to use. And nobody wants to have to feel like their trip is just that much shorter because of all that needs to be done to close up the house when your visit is over. Let The House Butler save you time and help you to get more enjoyment out of your property. We can handle getting your home ready for your arrival, from making sure your vehicle and boat are ready to go, to stocking the pantry, uncovering the grill and all the other ‘little things’.
When you’re ready to leave, just leave it to us. Never wonder if you left the water running or locked all the doors. We will make sure everything is back in order and that your home is once again safe and secure.
Lastly, I want to say a quick mention about the peace of mind you will have knowing that your home is being looked after during hurricane season (I hate to even mention the words!) Over the last few years, we definitely have had a new experience with all the brutal weather. The House Butler can manage the vendors you hire to get your home secure as possible before a hurricane, or we can arrange window and door protection for you. Knowing your home is safe as soon as the storm has passed will help ease your fears. If there is damage or work that needs to be done, we are here and ready to go to get things back in order. If you own property here on Hilton Head and you are not a full time resident, let The House Butler make owning a vacation home a more enjoyable experience. We are committed to protecting your property and take our responsibility very seriously. We are reliable, trustworthy, and can provide numerous references. In addition, if you are wondering if buying a second home on Hilton Head is a good choice for you, The House Butler can help walk you through how the absentee owner process works, and help you to make a wise decision about purchasing a home on Hilton Head Island.