Just about everybody I know seems to be on vacation this month and, just coincidentally, the Insurance Information Institute reports that the majority of home burglaries occur in July and August when many people are enjoying time off. According to that same agency, nine out of 10 home break-ins could be prevented if homeowners would take simple steps to burglar-proof their homes.
Of all the years we lived in our home, we didn’t invest in a sophisticated security system until just a couple of years ago. Less than 20 percent of households nationwide have security systems, and the rest of us must take other precautions to discourage break-ins while we’re away from home.
How well I remember the discomfort combined with the relaxation of every vacation while we were traveling, especially if it were for periods of more than a week. In the early days, I remember that we would call home and feel comforted to hear our answer machine just to know that everything was still “there.” And when returning home, there would always be that anxious moment when we were turning on to our street and my wife and I would turn to each other and ask, “Is the house still standing?”
We had good reason to be nervous Nellies, having sustained two break-ins when we lived in the city, so we developed a whole litany of devices to make our home less appealing to burglars which I list here, combined with other ideas combed from other sources, some of which are really creative. For those who don’t have security systems, consider the following:
Lock all the Doors and Windows! This may seem unnecessary to even mention but 28 percent of all burglaries occur without having to use force to gain entry. Burglars simply find an unlocked window or door, so be sure to double check all the windows and deadbolt all exterior doors. Place a metal or wood dowel in the track of sliding glass doors. And, if you have a spare key hidden outside, make sure it’s brought inside while you’re away
Hire a House Visitor/Sitter: It’s well worth the investment to have someone pick up the newspapers daily (if you haven’t had them temporarily discontinued), water the plants and, if you have them, take care of pets.
Invest in Timers: To make your house look lived in, utilize timers to have the lights go on and off at various times throughout the day.
Unplug and Disconnect: Unplug all electronics and small appliances that don’t need to stay on while you’re away. This will save electricity and reduce the risk of fire. Turn off your garage door opener so thieves can’t open it with a universal remote. If you’ll be away for a week or more, turn your hot water heater down and consider turning off the water to sinks, toilets, dishwasher, and the washing machine to avoid possible flooding.
Don’t Close Blinds: Leave them and curtains open. If something valuable is visible through the window, move it.
Light Up at Night: If you have outdoor lighting, make sure that your timer turns it on while you’re away.
Maintain Your Lawn: If it’s an extended trip and you normally maintain your lawn yourself, arrange to have a service take care of it while you’re away.
Leave Your Car in the Driveway: Or, invite your neighbor to pull in and out of your driveway to keep activity going on there during the week.
Don’t Leave a Voicemail Message: Don’t tell the world you’re away by leaving a message to that effect on your voicemail.
Lock Up Valuables: Expensive jewelry should be secured somewhere other than the bedroom or it should be left in a safety deposit box at the bank. Personal documents should not be left in your home office or desk; burglars know where to look for them. Keep copies of important documents at another location – a relative’s home, for example.
Consider Social Media Blackout: I know that we all like to share our vacation experience with our friends, but think carefully about broadcasting to the world that you’re away from your home for a period of time. Unless you’ve invested in either a sophisticated security system or a house sitter, it is a better decision to wait until you’ve returned to share photos from the sites you’ve visited and the experience you’ve enjoyed, but in the past tense.
Invest in a Security System: Of course, the best way to deter thieves is with a high quality, professional security system. Houses without security systems are three times more likely to be targeted by burglars. An intruder entering a home with a security system will generally exit the home immediately upon hearing the alarm, significantly decreasing the risk of loss or physical danger.
Homeowners with home security systems typically enjoy lower insurance rates due to the reduced risk of burglary and fire, and of course, a home security system can be an added selling point when putting a home on the market.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.