December 21, 2012 04:00 ET

Festive Flight-HomeServe Highlights the Risks of Going Away This Christmas

- Three in ten will spend some or all of the Christmas break away from home

- A quarter (23%) of us have had a home emergency while away for Christmas in the past five years

- Homeowners' biggest fears are break-ins and frozen or burst pipes

WALSALL, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Dec. 21, 2012) - As the country gears up for the great Christmas getaway, Britons are urged to protect their vacant properties against a sudden cold snap, with more than 1.4 million homes expected to stand empty for a week or more.1

New research from HomeServe, the home emergency specialists reveals that three in 10 Brits will be away from home during the Christmas break. Properties are set to be vacant for an average of three days, but nearly a fifth (18%) will be empty for at least a week, and six per cent a fortnight or longer.

The majority of these will stand empty from this weekend as Britons take to road, rail and air. But the research suggests some good news for travellers as, with Christmas Eve falling on a Monday, it appears that this year's festive flight will be spread across several days.

One in six Britons (17%) who will be away from home will be travelling before Friday 21 December, with 10% on Friday itself, 9% on the Saturday, 15% on Sunday and 21% on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day itself looks like being the top day to hit the roads or rail, with more than one in four people travelling then (27%).

London looks set to be something of a ghost town, with 40% of Londoners planning to quit the capital over the Christmas period. However, London also receives the second highest proportion of visitors (15%), only behind the south east (19%) and ahead of Yorkshire and the East Midlands (both 11%). A further 12% of 10 Britons away from home this Christmas will be heading overseas.

Empty properties at this time of year are at risk of home emergencies brought on by cold weather. One quarter (23%) of us have suffered a home emergency while away for Christmas in the past five years, with frozen pipes, broken boilers and leaks the most common issues brought on by the cold weather.

Frozen or burst pipes are homeowners' second biggest fear when leaving their home unattended at Christmas, cited by 32%. HomeServe advises leaving the central heating on a timer for a short period every day if homeowners plan to be out of the house for an extended period of time to reduce the risk of freezing pipes.

The fear of a break-in is the only worry that concerns homeowners more than frozen pipes when leaving the house vacant, and many are planning different approaches to ward off potential burglars - from asking neighbours to keep an eye on the house (48%) to asking someone to house-sit (12%). One in six (18%) of us will leave the Christmas lights on a timer to give the impression that someone is home.

On the other hand, a quarter (26%) will turn off all electricity before going away, probably to limit the risk of an electrical fire. And 17% will throw away perishable food in order to deter pests from moving in in their absence.

HomeServe Memberships CEO Jonathan King said: "A home emergency can be exactly the kind of experience that you don't want ruining your season of good cheer. Our research shows that many homeowners are taking steps to keep their house safe while they're away this Christmas, but we want to make sure that as many as possible know what to do to avoid a nasty surprise when they return home. And if the worst should happen, HomeServe's engineers are on call throughout the festive season to help solve your yuletide emergencies."

The HomeServe research also shows that the festive period remains a time for family, with visiting parents (35%) or children (19%) the most popular place to spend Christmas

Notes to editors:

All research conducted online by Canadean Consumer on behalf of HomeServe, December 2012 among a representative sample of 2,000 UK adults.

(1) There are 26.4 million households in the UK (ONS). 30% of Britons will be away from home this Christmas, of whom 18% claim their properties will stand empty for seven or more days. Therefore: 0.3 x 0.18 x 26,400,000 = 1,425,600

About HomeServe

Every minute a HomeServe engineer comes to the rescue of a British household.

With over 2,700 directly employed and sub-contracted engineers, HomeServe is a national emergency home repair service backed by a 24 hour claims handling and repair network.

HomeServe's new tradesmen service provides households with access vetted tradesmen who are qualified to carry out hundreds of different jobs around the home.

HomeServe also offers insurance cover for plumbing, drains, electrical wiring and gas central heating.

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