Caring for Your Home and Property During Your Absence

Most people, who enjoy a “Place in the Sun” in the tropical paradise of the community of Jaltemba Bay, are part-time residents who typically return home for the months of April through November. As this time period covers the hot and humid, rainy season there are several important factors to consider in the care of your home and property. These factors include, but are not limited to; security, heat, humidity, rain, insects, grounds and pool maintenance.

The effects of the rains and humidity are the primary concerns for the care of your home and property during the rainy season. Primarily, cue to these two factors, I recommend that one have a reliable person who can be counted on to check their premises, twice and preferably three times per week. One needs to be sure that they can rely on this person, or they may return to their “Place in the Sun” to find that it has been reclaimed by the jungle or adversely affected by the forces of nature.

The Basics

Your home should be aired out completely, for at least eight hours, a minimum of two times per week; and ideally three times a week, in order to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. Before you depart it is advised that any articles of clothing, and items such as linens and towels be spread out in your closet; leaving the closet doors and dresser open especially if they do not have ventilation built in. While you can use products such as DRY RID, it has been my experience that these, recommended to last forty five days or more, do in fact require replacing within one week of installation. I find also that a well placed fan, directed into cloths closets and used twice per week provides excellent protection.

Mold and mildew will also grow in kitchen cupboards where dishes and pots & pans are stored and for this reason it is also recommended to keep cupboard doors open. No perishable food should be left in your home under any circumstances. Dried foods such as flour, cereal, sugar, and spices, if left at all, should be stored in airtight containers. Before you depart, wash refrigerators and freezers with chlorine and water; and leave empty. Disconnect the power and leave doors propped open. Do not store any items in plastic bags or closed plastic bins as they encourage growth of mold and mildew. Similarly, it is not recommended to use cardboard and paper boxes to store items as they attract insects.

Throughout the rainy season, most patios and terraces need to be power washed every three weeks to prevent mold and mildew growth. If left unattended, patios and terraces will eventually turn black with mold and this can be very difficult to remove. Some tiles are more resistant to mold and mildew growth, but in general I find that cement patios and patios tiled with those beautiful but porous Mexican tiles are very susceptible to mold and mildew. Sealing the tiles on your patio will help minimize this.

If your home is to be vacant for extended periods of time, close all valves which allow water into your toilets, showers and sinks. It may be a good idea to close the primary valve that allows water into your house if you have one. In addition, remember cut off the flow of gas to your house at the tank. Only your electricity should be functioning during your absence so as to provide security, lighting and power in case of emergencies.

In regards to security, any articles of value left behind should be locked away or hidden well out of sight to discourage opportunists. Ideally one will invest in a timed lighting system, to help give your home a lived in look. The grounds surrounding your home should be swept clear of plant foliage, coconuts and palm fronds, dead insects and what not, on a weekly basis, and mail boxes emptied on a regular basis.

Pools and Water Features

Small water features should be drained and left dry, and preferably covered to prevent rain water from accumulating and providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Swimming pools, in my opinion should be left with water in them, vacuumed and treated two to three times per week to maintain water quality and prevent those pesky mosquitoes, land crabs and frogs from taking up residence as they do so often in standing water.

If you decide to leave your pool empty, there are some points that you should be aware of and they are as follows:

  1. Left empty during periods of very heavy rains, the water table may rise; and if an in ground pool, the pressure may crack the pool foundation.
  2. The tiles in your pool may be affected by periods of high temperatures and excessive sun, resulting in tiles popping out of the pool walls and floor.
  3. Covering an empty pool is not recommended as eventually rain water will end up in the bottom of your pool and stagnate there. This will lead to algae growth and if left unattended too long will destroy the grout between your tiles. Overall the cost of pool maintenance during your absence will be far less than the cost of repairs to a damaged pool.

Preventing Water Damage

Roof drains and eves should be cleaned of debris before you depart and checked on a monthly basis until the rainy season begins in earnest. Once the rainy season begins, it is best to have your property visually inspected for leaks and possible water damage, at least once per week.

Gardens and Grounds

As for your beloved Gardens, you should arrange to have all plants watered two to three times per week before the rainy season begins and again when it ends. Be sure to have all your plants cut back around the second week in June as when the rains begin these will experience phenomenal growth leading to the “Dreaded Abandoned House” appearance.

In addition, any plants that are close to the walls of your house, will give off moisture and oxygen, which resulting in mold and bacteria growth on the walls. You may have seen this as black spotty patches on walls directly behind leafy plants. While this can sometimes be washed off with bleach and water, more often than not it is necessary to scrub and repaint the wall.

During the rainy season, most trees and plants need to be trimmed on a monthly basis. Grounds and planters should be weeded on a regular basis, and if you have a mango or other fruit trees, the ripened fruit needs will need to be cleared from patios and grounds. Coconut palms are in a class of their own and home owners should be aware that the heavy palm fronds and coconuts can damage a home if not tended to on a regular basis.

Insect Infestations

Along with the advent of the rainy season arrive many different and unusual insects and bugs that are not normally in evidence during the dry season. At the beginning of the rainy season, swarms of dying termites and big bottomed ants are typical, as are an abundance of ants and pill bugs – all with a knack of finding their way into your home. For this reason I would recommend that you arrange to have your property fumigated once a month outside and once every three months inside.

Geckos are cute but their droppings are not, so be sure to cover all furniture and bedding with old sheets and drop clothes to avoid staining by gecko droppings. On a similar topic, leave lights on in dark alcoves and overhangs to prevent bat droppings accumulating. In my experience the outside surrounding grounds and doorways need to be swept clear of insects, etc a minimum of two times a week to prevent. Window sills also need to be cleaned and cleared of insects and droppings on a regular basis.

 

Caring for your home in the rainy season is far more challenging then during the dry season, and no doubt may seem a bit daunting to some of you, but it can be easily accomplished by having those two or three regular weekly visits to your property either by a well trusted friend, or better by a reputable property management company, recommended by your friends or neighbors. Ideally we would all have a caretaker living on site, or a reliable house sitter to care for their homes on a daily basis. However, if this is not the case, consider using the services of a property management company to care for your home and property during your absence. Generally you will have better results from a property management company, because you are paying them for their services and they will have an interest in your satisfaction, recommendation and repeat business.

Written by Robert Stobbs

About the Author: Robert Stobbs owns and operates TMH Property Management, serving homes in Jaltemba Bay including Los Ayala, Rincón de Guayabitos and La Peñita. For more information or a consultation, visit the TMH Property Management website.

This article was originally published September 1, 2010 on Magical Los Ayala under “Jaltemba Bay Articles of Interest.” Photos by Christina Stobbs.

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