Do your pre-holiday homework

Private Property South Africa
Martin Hatchuel

Ay! Who stole 2014? Just like that – and summer’s back with its year-end holidays. Are you ready?

Three things you need to consider before you depart: your home, your transport, and your destination.

Prepare your home

Wendy Williams, a director of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa, recently sent us this handy checklist for preparing your home for your absence:

Alarm system – check it a few weeks before your departure.

Pets – make appropriate arrangements with responsible people who will care for your pets while you’re away.

Garden – will the garden service be coming in? Who will check on the irrigation system (or will you leave it off)? Who will water the indoor plants and look after the pool and ponds? Do you have enough chemicals for the pool?

Electrical – turn geysers and air conditioners off before you leave. Empty and turn off the fridge and freezer (or arrange to have someone come in every second day to check on them). Unplug as many pieces of equipment as possible to avoid damage from lightning strikes.

“December is unfortunately the peak season for thieves to break into homes,” said Wendy. To prevent your absence from becoming common knowledge, she suggested you set timers to turn on the lights early each evening, and that you arrange with friends or neighbours to remove flyers and newspapers from your driveway and postbox.

Wendy also suggested you inform your neighbours that you’ll be away; that you leave a set of keys with friends so that they can access your house in an emergency; that you give those friends the numbers of your neighbourhood watch and security company; and that you leave your contact numbers with the people who’re staying behind – although she warned against recording your contact numbers on the message systems on your home or cell phones, or on e-mail.

Gentlemen! Start your engines

Wendy made the point that you should have your vehicle serviced a few weeks before your holiday.

“If you leave the servicing too close to departure, you may find that your service station is fully booked – and if they do find something which needs to be repaired, they may not have enough time to conduct the repairs,” she said.

But beware the booking scam

We’ve heard it so often: people arrive at their holiday rentals, only to find them... well, disappointing. If they’re even there at all.

“If you’re going to book your holiday accommodation online at a place you haven’t been to – or which hasn’t been personally recommended – it’s very important that you cross-check the property using sites like TripAdvisor, or to get advice from the local tourism office beforehand,” said Mossel Bay Tourism’s Marcia Holm.

She said that ads on sites like Gumtree, OLX, and other generalists – which don’t verify their advertisers – can be misleading or even fraudulent.

“Most of Mossel Bay Tourism’s accommodation providers have real-time on-line booking facilities both on their own sites and on ours [

“But of course not everyone’s lucky enough to come to Mossel Bay for their holidays, so the next safest option is to use online booking engines like,,, or (for last-minute bookings), – which do provide a measure of safety if only because they have contracts with their accommodation providers, so you can be pretty sure that you’ll get what you’re offered.”

But, she said, “However you make your bookings, and wherever you enjoy your holidays – we hope you’ll have a safe and happy time with your friends and family this summer.

“Even if it isn’t in Mossel Bay ...”


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