The good news: Property crime has been declining steadily over the past 30 years.* The not-so-good news? Theft of personal property — including burglary and trespassing — still ranks as one of the most common types of crime you’re likely to experience.*
Try 14 ‘burglar-approved’ home safety tips
While most Americans tend to say crime is on the rise, the numbers show the opposite. Property crime has plunged by more than 50 percent since 1993.* And yet, annual losses are still estimated at $16.4 billion (based on the latest FBI data available).
Though things are looking up overall, it would be a mistake to ignore home security. On average, a property crime occurs every 4.4 seconds. This makes it essential to safeguard your home — especially around peak crime seasons, like the summer.
No need to set a booby-trap. Just take note of these “pain points” frequently used by burglars to keep your home and your belongings safe:
1. Lock your doors.
It’s simple enough, but this is one of the most important home safety tips you can put into practice. Take this basic precaution even when you’re at home, and it’s still light outside. Many homeowners are unaware that burglars are more likely to come in the daytime when your home is empty, instead of at night.
Action step: Along with entry points, make sure all windows are locked, including those on the second floor. On that note, store ladders in the garage — never outside.
2. Unpack your car at night.
If your car is parked outside, it could be vulnerable to a break-in. It should go without saying that it’s not a good idea to leave anything in your car overnight. Thieves may be looking for valuables and big-ticket purchases. Even if shopping bags are stored in the trunk, they may not be safe.
Action step: Take it further and avoid storing your car keys in a bowl or on a hook near your front door — making it easy for an intruder to grab your keys and go.
3. Phone a friend.
Ask a neighbor to watch your house if you’re planning to go on vacation. Don’t forget to pay them back the favor in return. When keeping an eye on your block, it’s critical to remember that intruders usually won’t “dress the part” and will instead look like your average worker or delivery person.
Action step: Whether you’re going out of town or are simply away at work, let a trusted neighbor know your schedule. Tell them to report anything suspicious to either you or the police.
4. Put away the spare key.
Or, give it to your neighbor for safe-keeping — as long as you don’t hide it in plain sight. Most people know that a spare key is likely to be under the mat (or in a fake rock), which is why this is the easiest way for a trespasser to get into your home while you’re out.
Action step: If you absolutely must keep a hidden key, consider using a doorknob-hanging safe that you can lock a key in, preventing anyone without the code from accessing.
5. Keep quiet on social media.
Especially if your profiles are public. While it’s natural to want to post about your upcoming vacation or weekend plans, it’s essential to post with caution. Social media gives everyone — including strangers — a clear view into your world, leaving you exposed and vulnerable.
Action step: Wait until after a vacation to post pictures, and definitely don’t “check in” at a hotel or airport.
6. Hold your mail.
This remains one of the most popular home safety tips because it works for a reason. A pile of mail in the mailbox indicates you’re not at home. And yes, this includes the many Prime boxes piled at your doorstep. Mail theft typically goes up around the holidays when more packages are delivered — and when thieves are hoping to find cards stuffed with cash.
Action step: Have boxes delivered to a work address so they aren’t sitting out on your porch for someone to grab. Also, look into buying a locking mailbox.
7. Hire a handyman.
Just like a fully-loaded mailbox that hasn’t been checked, your absence will be obvious when grass grows long or leaves begin to build up around your house. If you’re away for more than a day or two, it’s smart to make your home look lived-in.
Action step: Hire or ask someone to trim your grass, rake your leaves, or shovel snow, depending on the season.
8. Lock up your valuables and documents.
Preferably, secure them in a fire-proof safe. To add a little extra protection when you and your family are at work and at school for the day, close your blinds and curtains. Simple as it may be, closing the curtains can prevent passersby from checking out your valuables through your windows.
Action step: Also, think about investing in window laminate — known to be a low-cost and effective way to slow down an intruder by making it harder to enter your property.
9. Set your lights on timers.
Or, control them remotely using an app. Home automation is among the easiest home safety tips to practice: Just use your smartphone to check in on your house while you’re working or traveling. Most intruders are turned off if a home is well-lit, especially outside.
Action step: Start by setting up a few app-controlled lights, like a front porch and an interior light.
10. Beef up your security system.
Beyond smartphone-automated lights, you can level-up your security by putting in an alarm system that includes indoor and outdoor cameras. Having this in place also helps to catch a burglar in the act. Another perk? A home security system may knock up to 15-percent off your homeowner’s insurance.
Action step: While a security system with professional support is always recommended, even installing a fake camera may help to deter burglars in a pinch.
11. Put up some signage.
A “beware of dog” sign might scare some people off, but a home security company’s logo posted in the front yard works even better. Criminals are looking for easy targets. So, if your home seems protected, they’ll move on to the next. Having a real dog — preferably, a small, loud dog — is also a helpful deterrent.
Action step: Keep it simple and put up a home security sign in your front yard or front window.
12. Load up the car in the garage.
No need to make a big spectacle of packing up your car before heading to the airport. Transporting bags back and forth from your house to your car can tip-off anyone watching that you’re leaving town. (And if your garage happens to be detached from your house, don’t forget to close and lock it before leaving.)
Action step: Pack suitcases into your trunk from the security of your garage instead of from your driveway.
13. Turn on music.
Barring the Home Alone-style booby traps, this is one of the home safety tips that comes straight from Kevin McAllister’s playbook. Along with the automated lights, remember to play some music when you’re going to be out of town. Your house is much safer from theft if potential intruders believe someone is home.
Action step: Sync your music with your security system. Many smart-home systems allow you to schedule your TVs and radios to turn on and off throughout the day.
14. Cover your entry points.
When most homeowners Google “door kicked in,” along with their city and state, they’re shocked by what they see. Even with a stringent security system, it’s still possible for a thief to make forcible entry. For this reason, it’s important to take extra precaution, whether you’re running errands or heading out of town.
Action step: Guard your entry points with a high-level reinforcement device, like the Door Devil. Then you can leave home feeling extra-secure.
Let us worry about your mortgage
You have enough on your mind with making sure your home and your family stay safe. Lean on your loan officer to keep your mortgage in great shape. Maybe you’re wondering how much you could save each month if you refinance, or perhaps you have questions about paying ahead. Whatever your mortgage needs may be, we’ve got your back.
While refinancing could make a significant difference in the amount you pay each month, there are other costs you should consider. Plus, your finance charges may be higher over the life of the loan.
For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.
Sources are deemed reliable but not guaranteed.