Two Companies Keep a Watchful Eye on Snowbirds’ Homes

by | Oct 2023

Illustration: Jamie Klang

Illustration: Jamie Klang

Local businesses ensure the upkeep of snowbirds’ properties.

Uninvited, a snowy owl sat perched atop the back of a living room chair, its eyes focused on outside freedom.

The homeowner wasn’t home, nor was there a clear path to reach him. Police were contacted but couldn’t legally enter the house. Staff from a nearby nature center were intrigued but didn’t offer a solution. How did this owl enter the residence? Would there be damage inside the home and how much?

Having discovered the situation, neighbor Tamara Nugteren found herself with a problem without answers. Ultimately, it would lead to an “Aha!” moment.

“My parents have a home-watch service in Arizona, but there are very few in the Twin Cities and northern climates,” Nugteren says. “There’s a ton of need.”

So much need that she opened Snowy Owl Home Watch. And she’s not the only service in the Metro.

For Michael Frey, owner of Elite Home Professional, his “Aha!” moment came while vacationing in Colorado. “You could tell that the bigger homes were empty,” Frey says. “That had me wondering what people do with their homes when they’re gone.”

He and his team now run Elite Home Professional and have several clients in Edina. “Our clients trust us as we go through their homes and protect some of their biggest investments,” Frey says, mentioning they have a 40-point checklist.

The most common problem he sees are furnace issues. “We had six go out this year but caught them all before they caused problems,” he says.

The remedy, for snowbirds wintering outside Minnesota, is to facilitate a fix. “We have a list of contractors we work with,” Frey says. “We can get it fixed and the homeowner doesn’t have to come home.”

While Frey recommends that homeowners turn off the water when they leave for an extended period, turning the water back on is one of the things he does during an interior inspection.

“You want to run water through the traps,” he says, adding that if unused, rubber seals and gaskets can dry and crack. “We’ll flush all the toilets, we’ll run the dishwasher and we’ll run the washing machine.” (There’s even an option to run a homeowner’s car.)

Having options intrigues a local Snowy Owl customer, who met Nugteren on a pickleball court. “When you’re not playing, you talk,” the homeowner says. “I asked Tamara where she lives and what she does.”

While the homeowner is a snowbird, she listened to what Nugteren’s business had to offer, but she didn’t think she needed it. “I have a son who lives 10 minutes away,” she says. “He drops by every so often.”

The duo had a sit-down meeting and ran through Snowy Owl’s checklist when the team visits a home. “It was way more detailed than what my son was doing,” the homeowner says of Snowy Owl. “I turn the water off and walk away. I feel safer having her check in.”

Those check-ins prevent disasters.

“Catching little things is no big deal, but if unchecked, those little things can turn into absolute nightmares,” Nugteren says.

Another Snowy Owl client isn’t crazy about those nightmares. He isn’t a snowbird, but splits time between Minnesota and the East Coast. “When I leave, I’m always in a hurry and there’s things I forget,” he says. “In the old days, I wouldn’t be so concerned, but the world’s changed. I’m more concerned about mechanical issues than I am about someone breaking in.”

That said, he welcomes the email updates after his service walks the perimeter of his home. “It’s peace of mind,” he says.

For the record, the snowy owl incident had a happy ending. The homeowner was eventually contacted and returned home to shoo the owl away. Nightmare averted.

Interior and Exterior Checklists

Both Snowy Owl and Elite Home Professional have their own checklists for the interior and exterior of the home. They search on a regular basis to look for obvious issues that can become problems. 

Interior: ensuring that a security system is functioning, checking temperature/humidity settings on thermostats, monitoring temperatures in refrigerators and freezers, looking for pest infestations and checking for leaks in floors, ceilings and appliances. 

Exterior: Check doors and windows for signs of break-in, visually inspecting siding, roofs and gutters for issues including ice dams, checking exterior lighting and changing bulbs as needed and removing junk mail and flyers from the mailbox and front door.

More services are available and are customizable to every home, since every home is unique.

To-do List

  • Do turn the water off at the main line
  • Do turn down the thermostat to 62-64 degrees
  • Do stop or forward mail. Do realize that you still may receive mail, flyers and papers
  • Do have driveways and sidewalks cleared. Do realize that some snow-removal services end mid-March
  • Do use/set light timers
  • Do remove perishable food from cupboards and drawers

Snowy Owl Home Watch; 612.388.7868

Elite Home Professional; 952.426.5445


Recent Stories

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This