When the temperatures dip and the forecast looks like snow, ice and a deep freeze, most people in cold climates start preparing for a long season.
But for snowbirds -- those people who head south for the winter -- getting ready for the season doesn't include gloves, snow shovels or fire wood. Instead before they get head out for warm temps and sunny skies, they have to prep their home for their time away.
"I used to come down south for at least one month out of the year," says former snowbird AJ Saleem, who now lives full time in Houston.
"The most important thing to do is to winterize your house," says Saleem, who previously lived in Vermont and Connecticut. "This generally means insulating pipes that are susceptible to the cold air and ensuring that leaky seals are fixed. Of course, it's never possible to be too careful, but there are some general precautions snowbirds should always take."
It seems simple but make sure you give keys to a neighbor or friend in case of emergency. Keep a set for yourself, too.
"You may need to get home in a hurry only to discover that the person at home who has your keys, has taken a weekend ski vacation," says snowbird Sheridan Becker, who splits time between New York City and Fort Lauderdale.
Regular check-ins will give you peace of mind, too.
"Have a friend, neighbor or maintenance company check on your property once a week to see if there are any water leaks, ice dams and hopefully no break-ins," says Sheryl Simon, principal of Benoit Mizner Simon & Co. Real Estate, who recommends setting up a home monitoring security system that you can monitor via tablet or computer.
Discontinue your newspaper delivery. "Even having a weeks' worth of papers on your front lawn is a sure sign to a prospective robber that you are on vacation," says Simon.
Forward your mail to your seasonal address so you can stay current on bills.
Make sure your homeowners insurance is up to date. That way you'll be covered if something goes awry while you're away.
Pack up all of your pets to either travel with you to your warm destination or to stay with a friend. Never leave a pet at home while you're at your snowbird destination.
"Don't shut your heating system off," urges Saleem. Instead, snowbirds should set their thermostat to four degrees or less below normal settings.
Having enough heat will protect pipes from bursting in cold temps, which can be expensive to repair. Schedule automatic temperature settings to keep your place from getting too chilly.
Remember to close all windows. If not, "your heat will have to work harder," says Saleem, recommending snowbirds seal up drafts to maximize energy efficiency.
Consider automatic time-controlled lighting, which can give the impression someone's home, a deterrent for burglars. Schedule the lights to turn on and off at fixed times such as on at 6 p.m. and off at 10 p.m.
One of the major winter concerns is dealing with the weather, specifically ice and snow.
Before you leave, hire someone to plow or shovel snow. "Don't let large amounts of snow build up on your roof, especially on flat roofs," says Simon, since heavy snow can cause the roof to weaken or collapse.
While your home is ready for you to fly south for the season, make sure you're ready too.
--Let close friends and relatives know you'll be away. They can keep tabs on your property if needed.
--"Leave valuables in a vault away from your property," says Simon.
--Forward your calls to your cell phone or out-of-state landline.
--Keep a list of your doctors, doctors' contact information and your medications.