“Snowbirding” has become a staple for many Canadians; with thousands flocking south every year in order to escape the bitter Canadian winters. We are currently faced with many travel restrictions this year, and with concerns around leaving home higher than ever, many are left without their usual retreat. With such a big shakeup to the annual routine, we know that many are unsure of how to approach this new way of handling the season. That being said, snowbirds have a lot more to think about this year than ever before, so we have drawn up a handy list to help you prepare for wintering-in-place!
1) Make sure your vacation property is in good hands
Many snowbirds own vacation property outside of Canada and hire a property manager to take care of it during the year. If you are unable to travel to your vacation home this year, it is important to make sure the proper protections are in place to mitigate any potential problems that could come up, such as leaks, mold or infestation. Make sure that someone you trust is able to keep an eye on your property over these extra months, because it could mean the difference between a small issue and a total disaster.
If remaining in Canada for the winter, you may find yourself in alternative accommodations if your summer residence is not winterized. It is never a bad idea to reach out to your broker to confirm you, your property and liability are extended to the temporary location.
Short term rentals may help offset the costs of maintaining your vacation property; you may want to consider transitioning it into a rental property for locals this year. Renting can help offset costs, but it also comes with its fair share of headaches, especially if you cannot attend the property in person when a problem arises. Carefully consider your options and talk to your broker; they can provide useful insight that will inform your choices. You may need to look at amending the coverage on your policy to fit these changes.
2) Check on your travel insurance
If you have travel health insurance through your work, it’s important to note that COVID-19 related health concerns may not be covered. Your standard employee benefits and extended health care are there to cover the basic risks of travelling, and a global pandemic is a very rare set of circumstances. In fact, travel insurance companies that offer COVID-19 coverage are virtually non-existent, so you can safely assume that you won’t find coverage at this time. While the brokers at Nicol can search for Travel Insurance on your behalf if you absolutely need it, we can’t recommend it until the global situation improves, and health officials give the all-clear again.
3) Prep your home for the long winter ahead
Many Canadians that head south for the winter have a trusted friend or property manager take care of their home while they are away. If you are now taking care of the property yourself, it is important to remember the basics of winterizing your home. This could include wrapping any pipes in unheated sections of your home to ensure they don’t freeze, replacing any worn weather-stripping on doors and windows to prevent heat escape, checking for any potential leaks in the roof, clearing your gutters and downspouts for easier water flow, making sure your fireplace and chimney are ready for use, and giving your furnace a proper maintenance check before turning it on for the season.
4) Planning to renovate? Call your broker first.
Since you are not going south, you may be planning to spend your winter tackling some long-awaited home projects. Depending on the scale of what you have in mind, your renovations may affect your insurance policy, so it is very important that you let your broker know of your plans. They may provide information that makes you rethink the renovation, so give them a call before you get too far ahead of yourself. If you have contractors or service workers that need to be on your property during these renovations, your liability risks also increase due to the higher chances of an injury or unforeseen damages occurring to your property, so you’ll want to be sure you have the proper liability protections in place, as well as ensuring each contractor has their insurance in place.
5) Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter
You may be used to leaving your vehicle in the garage all winter, but now that you are staying home, you may find the need to drive it through the season. You would be surprised how much wear and tear you can accumulate over the winter, so make sure your vehicle can handle the harsh season ahead. The first thing to do is give it some seasonal maintenance at your trusted service centre, including fresh oil, lube and filters, a heater check, an antifreeze top-off, and a winter tire installation and alignment. With your vehicle prepared for the snow, slush and freezing temperatures. You should also let your broker know of any major upgrades or repairs to your vehicle such as new snow tires, as they may impact your auto insurance rates.
We know that it might be a disappointment not being able to travel south again this year, but by keeping these tips in mind, we know you will still have a wonderful winter in Canada. It may be colder than your last winter, but it is a whole lot safer too. If you ever have questions about how your travel plans impact your insurance, you’re always welcome to call your broker at Nicol. We are here to advise you any way that we can and adjust your policy to suit your new situation. That is what we mean when we say, “Your lifestyle. Trusted.”