Did you know you could make your home less appealing to burglars and prevent many property crimes? Here’s a breakdown from A – Z on what you should know about making your home more secure and safe.
You’ll find lots of options and tips — some that come with a heftier price tag and may require a professional installation, and others that are simple DIY solutions that can still boost your home’s security.
Alarm System — Do your research since you can either go with a professionally installed system or opt for one you can install yourself. A dedicated home alarm system that is professionally installed and monitored 24/7 with an outside company will require a subscription fee but it will handle contacting your local fire and police departments when alarms are triggered. A DIY-installed dedicated system can be purchased online or at a local store, and you can monitor your home using smart home technology (more on that later!). You can build on an alarm system with extra security components depending on your specific needs.
Basement Security — Don’t forget about basement windows that can provide easy and hidden access to your home. Consider getting window sensors to alert you if a window is opened or broken; or even window film that keeps glass shards together to prevent entry.
Cameras — Having an extra set of “eyes” outside and inside of your home can be a huge plus in terms of security. There are even smart technology systems available so that you can access and view when you’re not home. Having a camera on your porch or even a doorbell camera can help prevent package delivery theft or alert you when someone is at your front door. Consider cameras for the backyard to view sheds, outside storage units, or pools. An inside camera can allow you to monitor activity while you’re away.
Don’t Forget About Items in Your Car — Car break-ins happen more frequently than home break-ins, so make sure you lock your car doors even when it’s in your driveway. Plus, lock your glovebox if it contains personal identifying information, such as with your car registration and insurance cards. And don’t leave other items such as checkbooks, receipts, cash and any identifying information in your car. And, listen to your mother, don’t leave store packages or anything expensive inside your car that can be easily seen!
Eliminate Temptations with Visible Items — A simple way to prevent burglaries is to not have valuable items visible, such as near first-floor windows for intruders to see from the outside, or even storing items such as bikes on a front porch. Many crimes tend to happen in the daytime, but remember to close blinds or shades at night so you’re not shining a spotlight on expensive items such as TVs, laptop computers, etc.
Fences and Gates — These can be a way to prevent intruders from coming onto your property, but don’t forget to lock them. Never make it easy on burglars since they’ll move on to another property if your home has a barrier like a locked gate and fence. However, high fences can provide hiding spots so you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons depending on your yard and neighborhood.
Garage Security — Don’t get lax when it comes to your garage since it can provide easy access from the outside to the inside of your home. A few things to keep in mind: prevent access to the emergency release cord to open the garage door; consider door alarm sensors; make sure you always lock the inside door to your home from garage so if anyone gets into garage they can’t get inside the main part of the home; and don’t leave your automatic garage door opener inside your car if it’s parked outside.
Hiding Keys Outside — So many homeowners do this in case someone in the family forgets or loses keys. Don’t think your hiding space is that clever!! If you do decide to hide a set of keys, don’t put them under a doormat, inside a planter, or even near the door. Put them somewhere far away from the door and in a very unique spot. Or, have a trusted neighbor have a set of keys. Also consider getting a keyless door knob with a code to open the door.
Inventory of Assets — Protect yourself and your assets if your home is robbed with a detailed list. You can be more specific when notifying police of your stolen items, and you can have a smoother process when seeking claims with your insurance company. Your inventory should include valuable assets such as furnishings, antiques, paintings, jewelry, electronics. Make sure you include any item or serial numbers, and even consider taking pictures of each item. There are different apps or online systems that can help with this process.
Join Neighborhood Watch Group — Consider getting involved, especially if you have concerns about theft in your neighborhood or other crime. That way you’ll be on top of what is going on and have insight from police. Plus, many police departments will come out to your home and help you identify potential risk factors around your home.
Keyless Car Theft — You may love your key fob that easily opens your car doors without even pushing a button, but this device has made it easier for car burglaries too. Keep your key fob away from the windows and doors inside your home, and even better put them in a tin box or other signal blocking device when not in use. You don’t want the signal from your key fob to be “grabbed” from the outside and a burglar can unlock and start your car.
Lock Doors and Windows — Many homeowners assume they live in a safe neighborhood and get a bit overconfident when it comes to not locking their doors or windows. Why are you making it easy for anyone to enter your home, whether you’re busy working in your home office, running a quick errand, or leaving a door unlocked for a late night teen? Someone can go in and out of your home with no effort, so take the time to lock up.
Monitor Home After Service/Cleaning Visits — We all want to trust people, especially those who come to our homes to provide a service, but sometimes you have to be more vigilant. Unfortunately, many robberies are done by those who have already visited a home and scoped it out. Make sure your windows and side doors are locked after a visit, and even put away valuables before you have a service visit to prevent temptations for theft or misunderstandings if something is missing.
No High Hedges or Shrubs — You may pride yourself on your garden and yard, but keep in mind some high hedges and shrubs make your home less visible from the street and easier for burglars to sneak around and hide. Don’t let greenery overgrow near front windows and doorway. And always make sure second story windows near trees are locked since branches can make it easier to climb up and have access to your home.
Outdoor Lighting — To discourage burglars, make sure your home outside is well lit when it turns dark, either with motion sensor lights, porch lights, lights by outside sheds, walkway lights, etc. There are many options (some solar or with smart technology) to ensure your home isn’t pitch black and tempting to thieves.
Package Deliveries — Don’t let packages sit on your front stoop all day if you’re not home (or even when you are!). Get alerts to when packages are delivered so you or someone else can pick them up promptly. Or, have packages go to a drop off center. Also consider a door camera for monitoring. And when you buy large, expensive items, make sure you cut down boxes so that you’re not advertising what you bought when you put out your trash or recycling.
Quit Posting Pictures When Traveling — Do you like to share photos when you’re on vacation? Wait till you’re back home to post them since it won’t make your empty home a target for break-ins. You just never know who might learn you’re away, especially for extended times.
Reinforce Exterior Door Security — Make sure your front door or other outside doors are more secure. Usually a trip to a local hardware store will enable you to find some hardware and smart technology upgrades, or meet with a door manufacturer to improve the security. Smart home technology options will allow for remote access with door sensors for tracking who comes in and out.
Things to consider: replace old locks with better door locks and deadbolts that can’t be easily picked by intruders (many standard locks aren’t as secure); consider keyless entry systems; get a strike plate or door brace to ensure the door can’t be kicked in; get better protection on outside door hinges if a door swings outward; make sure your mail slot isn’t too wide for hands to reach your door knob; and get an old-school peep hole to see who’s outside your door.
Smart Home Security Tips — You’ll find many options for smart home technology to improve home security. Again, do your research to see what is best for your needs and whether you need to be tech-savvy or not. You can hire a company that could provide professional monitoring, or install some DIY options bought online or from a local hardware store.
You’ll find not only entire alarm systems that will tap into your WiFi (make sure you have a secure router) but you also can do it a la carte depending on your needs, such as alarm sensors for windows and doors, doorbell camera/video, outdoor cameras, panic buttons, motion sensors for inside hallways, remote control of door locks, inside cameras, various sensors with capabilities to check in through your smartphone app.
Timers and Automation for Inside Lights (and Dog Barking) — Burglars usually don’t want to enter a home with activity going on. That’s why you should always make it seem like someone is home when you’re out or on vacation. Consider getting timers for inside lights in different rooms or even for TVs to go on or off. Some homeowners even get simulated dog barking to scare off intruders. And many products come with smart home technology so you can control remotely.
Use Common Sense — Keeping your home secure requires you to stop senseless behaviors and become more aware of how your home may look to others. Have some house rules in place. Don’t leave bicycles or scooters on your front yard to be stolen; don’t leave your garage open all day with easy and quick access for those driving by; don’t get distracted by sales people at your front door (you don’t have to answer any doors!); don’t let packages pile up; don’t turn off alarm systems, and etc.
Vacation Strategies — Before heading out on vacation, let trusted neighbors know so that they can monitor your mail or any package deliveries, take out your trash, mow your yard, and be wary of any strangers around your home. And set up alarm systems, timers for lights, motion or break-in sensors, security cameras, and other smart technology devices to be used remotely while you’re away.
Window Alarm Sensors and Window Film — Even if you always lock your windows, you may want extra protection with alarm sensors. If your home has many glass windows or large glass doors, window sensors can detect or alert you when they open, close or are broken. Also consider window film that will catch glass shards if the window is broken by an intruder and will prevent access inside. Other products, such as window jams, only enable your windows to open just a few inches.
Valuables Kept in Safes and Etched — It’s smart to store valuables like expensive jewelry in a safe, especially if it has an alarm system. You can find several options for safes, some of which can be wall mounted, fireproof, waterproof, or even floatable if you home is at risk for flooding. And take it to the next level and have valuable items (even your car) engraved with an etching pen so there’s no doubt of ownership.
Your Second Floor Safety — Put as much thought on the security of your second floor as you do for your first floor, especially if you think your home and neighborhood are more vulnerable to crime. Consider window sensors on upstairs windows, especially if you have second level balconies, flat roofs, or a climbing tree near your home. Some homeowners put inside motion sensors in upstairs hallways, put extra locks on their master bedroom doors when sleeping, or have a “safe room” to hide in case intruders enter while they are home.
Zero In On Glass Sliding Doors — Bolster your sliding doors by adding a metal or wooden rod to prevent it from opening by an intruder. Or, add additional locking devices and install a door sensor to alert you if it opens or the glass is broken.
I'm Beth Little and I love helping first time home buyers make their first home more affordable and I love helping sellers looking to move up to their forever home. Let me know how I can help you make your real estate dreams come true.
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