Maintaining a home in the U.S.

Hi everyone,

I am new to this website, so there may already be a thread for this but I wasn't able to find it.

My wife (who is Vietnamese) and I will maintain a home / condo in the U.S. so that we can visit my two daugthers (who are young adults), go back for other family issues, health care, etc. for a couple of months a year or so.  I wanted to see if there was a thread that discusses issues related to maintaining a place back home. We do not want to rent it out because of the possibility of having to return home for an emergency. So there are questions about how do you deal with random / junk mail, how do you get internet access for the couple of months at home without paying for 12 months, how do you keep a car when it sits for 10 months out of the year, etc.

So if there is a thread on that, could someone let us know?

Thanks very much,


If your daughters cannot come by the house once a month to take care of the mail, then you'll need to find someone whom you can trust to do the job. 

If that's not feasible, then you may want to remove the mailbox and install a mail slot on the garage door, large enough for circulations to go through without getting stuck, then place a HUGE container in the garage to catch the mail.

Beware that you'll need a permission from the Post Office to do so, because putting a mail slot instead of curbside mailbox would create extra work for the mail carrier.

If none of the above suggestions is acceptable, then a PO box would be the only thing you can do.  When you open a PO box, make sure to pay for a full year so you won't have to renew midway through your stay in VN.  You'll also need to let the box clerk know that you'll not pick up the mail regularly, otherwise they'll close your box when it becomes too full.

What about your wife's legal status for U.S. purposes?  Is she a citizen or green card holder of the U.S.?  If she is not a U.S. citizen and your permanent home is outside the USA, she risk losing her green card. 

With respect to your other questions, my comments are as follows:

1.  You can ask the post office to hold your mail or forward it to VN, but not sure if they will do that.  Also, there are companies that will open your mail and scan it to you, but there is a fee for these services.

2. Not sure how you would get internet in the home temporarily other than starting service before you have and cancel when you leave.  If you have a U.S. cell phone service, you can use it as a hotspot, if your service has this option.

3. Car, if you do not have a garage, you are going to have problems.  You need a garage to keep it out of the weather elements as well as  vandals.  Second, you need to keep the battery charged and that can be done with a battery tender ($25 to $30 and can be bought at walmart etc.).  If you are gone for more than 6 months, you should have someone drive it at least once or twice.  Cars sitting without moving are very bad for the car (flat spots on tires, clutch driven cars are know for slave cylinders going bad, fluid lines can rot due to lack of fluid movement etc. 

4.  Home - if you are not in a gated community, you need to have a home sitter.  Somebody you trust should check on your home to make sure no vandalism, no water pipe breaks, AC/Heat is ok, depending on the location of your home. 

But again, I think the most important item you need to resolve is the legal status of your wife, if she is not a U.S. citizen.

You can try car storage facilities where they'll not just keeping your car safe but also run it periodically.  My son-in-law did that for the 3 years he was in law school in NYC while leaving his car behind in Southern CA.

The most important thing is to remove the battery and hook it up to a battery tender (not a trickle charger) the entire time the car is not in use.

During a recent trip to Vietnam, I had my mail forwarded to my daughter's home. It was done online and worked very well. It was very easy to both forward and to restore.

Unless the car has some type of antique or intense sentimental value, you should probably just sell it.  In most markets you can locate 30 day or more discounted rental arrangements that will likely come in below the annual cost of taxes and insurance.  The maintenance factors listed by vndreamer are also very real.  You don't want to come home, emergency or not, and find your car needs to go into the shop and you end up renting anyway.

I maintain two homes in the US while I am here for a couple of years.  I won’t have tenants.  I do turn off the water (valve, not service) when I leave and shut off the hot water heater, pay the neighbor to mow the grass or scoop the snow.  I do go home every two months for a couple weeks so no issues with the vehicles getting driven enough.  I do leave internet hooked up as I have a WiFi thermostat so I can keep tabs on the houses in the winter.  If it drops below the 6*C set point I will be alerted and can contact someone to check on the furnace.  Although both are one and four years old it is peace of mind.

T-Mobile has a 21 day mobile sim for about $55 with phone and 2G data that I have used a couple of times. I went over on data, spent $30 for an extra 2G. Caveat is that it doesn't support a hotspot. Or maybe you have a neighbor who will let you use his wifi signal.

Cancel postal mail from all your bills, banks, know when to expect tax, insurance, auto license renewals, etc. Get everything paperless and access accounts online. You will still get inundated with junk mail, hope you never donated to a charity, they will never stop mailing you.

Cars are a hassle and expensive. Calculate how much it costs to keep it for a year including depreciation, repair, insurance.
I sold my car, got rid of insurance. I go back and use Hertz. But since I didn't have an insurance policy, I had to pay rental + insurance + zillion fees, around $100 a day. It was cheaper to get an insurance policy for my brother's clunker at $1300 a year, then pay less to Hertz for 3 weeks. Do a calculation for your own situation.

One reason, that does not seem to apply to the OP but may for others for maintaining a US residence is if you intend to petition a spouse for immigration.  If you are a US citizen you can file the 1-130 application from overseas but to file the I-864 Affidavit of Support you need to assert that you are domiciled in the US.  You can assert that your residence in Vietnam is temporary but you must have a US address to refer to.  If you no longer own a US home, you can use a friend's address as I did or a cooperating ex-spouse (less likely), adult children, siblings or even parents' address, but owning a home should be iron clad.  Also unless you have proof of upcoming US employment, you may need to show net worth to qualify and maintaining a home will cover that as well. … -relative/

This is pretty good summary of the situation.  If you are a US legal resident and not a citizen, it is a little more complex.

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