Securing your home when you go on vacation can make coming home much more pleasant. Going on a vacation can be something you look forward to for months. Packing bags, dealing with pets, making sure you haven't forgotten anything — all are part of the equation leading to that little adventure.
But what if coming home means finding your house, your belongings and your life violated? According to the Department of Justice, summer is prime time for burglaries. In fact, there are 10 percent more burglaries in the summer than in the winter. Go on vacation knowing you are doing all you can do to protect your domain.
Here are some tips.
1. Lock all doors and windows
It seems like a no-brainer, but the first thing to do is to lock all doors and windows. More than a third of burglars enter a home through an unlocked window or door. Don’t wait until the morning before you leave to do this. You may find you have a faulty lock on a window and need to fix it before you go. If they are on the ground floor, you may even want to pretend you are a would-be thief. Notice what the thief can see from the outside and make sure that nothing terribly valuable can be seen.
Home security companies are not exaggerating how valuable their products are. Statistics show that adding such a system can reduce the chance your home will be burglarized by 300 percent. Many of these companies even offer remote access so you can check your home security from your phone. You can even use your phone app to lock/unlock doors or check on pets via security cameras.
An added bonus?
Your insurance provider may discount your home insurance premium substantially when you install a security system – savings that could be used to help buy those massages at the resort or send you on a helicopter ride over a gorgeous canyon.
2. Attached garages. . .
. . .are the most overlooked points of entry in a house. To secure your garage, include motion detector lights on the corners of the garage, make sure the garage service door is locked, and hide valuables out of sight. Oh — and if you are planning to leave a car in the driveway, be sure to remove the garage door remote. A burglar won’t think twice about breaking into your vehicle and using the remote to access your garage.
3. Light Timers
Even if you don't install a security system, light timers have been around since the ‘50s. They are cheap, easy to install, and can help deter criminals by making your home look occupied. Best choices is a timer with a “random on/off” option, so your lights turn on and off at various times throughout the day and night.
4. No Keys Under the Doormat
The key under the flower pot or welcome mat has got to go. With a huge proportion of burglaries happening through the front door, what you consider “hidden” is more like an invitation to a would-be thief. Consider replacing your traditional front door lock with a keyless lock, so you don’t even have to worry about keys or simply leave an extra key with a neighbor for emergency purposes.
5. Tell Your Friends
Tell pretty much everyone you know and trust that you will be out of town and leave them a number where you can be reached. Unless you have someone living in your home when you are gone, save those social media vacation posts for after your trip. They just advertise your absence. Those who live immediately around your house should also know who might be going into your home, such as a house sitter or dog walker. Local police departments are also used to having homeowners call in for regular “drive-bys” when residents are gone. For extra protection, ask your local police department and neighborhood watch to be on the lookout for any unusual activity near your home.
6. Pretend You're a Burglar
Stand outside your house and look for anything you’ve left outside — grills, bikes, and tools – and secure them. Trim shrubs so burglars can’t conceal themselves while trying to break into your home and if you’re gone for more than a week or so, hire a lawn maintenance company to keep up with lawn mowing and trimming. If you have a gate that provides access to your yard, make sure it shuts and locks. Even look around for anything a burglar might use to break into your home, such as a brick or hammer, and take it inside.
7. House Sitters
House sitters are also an excellent idea. They can pick up fliers left at the door, bring in the mail, and take garbage and recycling bins to the curb. These things help hide the fact you’re not home. Even if you don’t hire one to stay in your home, some offer the services of visiting the house often, taking a walk around inside and outside, and ensuring all is well. They can also check for problems like electrical or water issues that can occur, like a break in a water line.
Unplug appliances, turn off the water valves to all sinks, the dishwasher, and washing machine, and test your smoke detectors.
A neighbor of mine was away for four months. I went into his house and found it underwater! A leaky toilet hose. A word to the wise . . .