By Eric Brandt

Buying a home can be a lengthy process, and after you close the deal, you may be ready to move in and relax right away. But before you get settled in, there’s one big chore you need to tackle: getting your property ready to withstand Mother Nature.

Whether you live in an area that’s prone to forest fires, flash floods, hurricanes, blizzards or other types of extreme weather, be sure to get these preventive measures in place sooner than later.

  1. Check Your Roof and Gutters

Give your home’s exterior a thorough once-over, starting at the top and working your way down.

Check your roof for loose shingles, which could cause leaks if heavy rain and wind hit. Consider having hurricane clips or straps installed if you live in a hurricane zone or an area where tornadoes make it into the forecast. If you’re in a cold weather zone, look for soft spots and check the roof’s overall structural integrity to make sure it could withstand thick snow or ice accumulation.

Next, check your gutters to make sure they’re fastened securely and they’re clear of leaves or other debris. Make sure water is able to flow away from your home easily so a clog doesn’t cause a roof leak or a flooded basement. If your home is near an area that’s prone to forest fires, cleaning your gutters also reduce the risk of twigs or leaves being ignited by drifting sparks.

  1. Check Siding and Windows

The last thing you want is your wood or vinyl siding flying off due to high winds from a hurricane or tornado. Look for any damaged areas or missing or loose pieces that need to be repaired.

Check your windows for leaks and seal any you find. If your area is prone to high winds, think about installing storm windows or storm shutters to offer an added layer of protection. And if you’re in a cold climate, install plastic insulation during the winter months to conserve heat.

  1. Clean Up Your Landscaping

The trees and shrubs surrounding your home may be lovely to look at, but they can be a hazard when the weather gets wild. An ice storm, tornado or hurricane can send trees crashing down, while overgrown shrubbery could be a major fire hazard during wildfire season.

Prune back trees and shrubs and consider transplanting trees that are too close to your new home for comfort. You might also want to have an arborist check your trees for signs of disease or rot that could make them more likely to topple when bad weather rolls in.

  1. Insulate and Seal Outside Outlets

In extremely cold weather, exposed pipes can freeze and then burst. And electrical outlets can also become an issue if they’re not properly sealed to prevent water from leaking in. Fortunately, insulating pipes and outlets is easy do with foam insulation and sealant.

While you’re checking pipes and outlets, familiarize yourself with the main water and electrical shut-off points for your home. Do the same if you have natural gas or propane hookups. If stormy weather results in downed power lines, a water main break or a gas main leak, you’ll want to be able to turn those off at your home as quickly as possible.

  1. Anchor Indoor and Outdoor Furniture

In an extreme wind situation, you don’t want your patio furniture to end up in your living room. Use tie-downs to secure your outdoor furniture (or store it in a shed or garage) if you know a big storm’s coming.

Many indoor furniture pieces – such as heavy bookcases – come with wall brackets to anchor them. You can also buy anchoring kits for large appliances, such as your refrigerator or washer and dryer. This way, if a flood hits, these items won’t become hazards blocking your exit from the home.

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

A recent Esurance survey found that only 25 percent of respondents have invested weather-prep products like generators, hurricane shutters, wet-dry vacuums or storm panels. A small investment of time and money could pay off in spades the next time wild weather strikes out of the blue.

As you check off your extreme weather prep list, remember to review your homeowner’s insurance policy so you know exactly what’s covered. And of course, create an emergency plan for yourself and your family just in case the weather prompts an evacuation.

Eric Brandt has more than 25 years’ experience in the insurance industry. Eric currently serves as Chief Customer Advocate for Esurance, where he leads the customer experience, including claims fulfillment. Eric writes about all things related to homeowners insurance, from best policies for choosing coverage to prepping for extreme weather. You can learn more about Esurance’s homeowners insurance options by visiting their website.