Tips to Secure Your Home While On Spring Break

Family holding houseYou pull into the driveway, eyes drooping from a full-day’s journey. In the backseat, the kids have been asleep for hours. You exit the car, approach the front door, and turn the key. Flick! The lights reveal what looks like a hurricane scene. Your belongings litter the floor, rifled-through drawers are left open. The clean house you left has been ransacked.

Quite the way to end a vacation.

It’s the sort of scene that only seems to happen to “other people.” After all, you live in a safe neighborhood. But the reality is, uncommon though they may be, break-ins can happen to anyone. While you’re gone, you’re nearly powerless to stop it.

The good news is you don’t have to be Kevin McAllister to defend your home. Take some simple precautions before you leave, and you’ll go a long way to prevent breakins.

1. Illusions!
The house least likely to be broken into is the one with people in it. If thieves don’t know you’re gone, they won’t target your home. Use this checklist to create the illusion that you never left.

Mail — While you’re gone, envelopes, newspapers, flyers, and boxes pile up by your front door. This is the most obvious, clichéd way to recognize an empty home. One fix is to ask the post office to hold your mail until you return. This is an easy solution, but doesn’t solve the problem of independent Chinese take-out menus stuck to your doorway. Consider asking a trusted neighbor to collect your mail while you’re away.

Blinds — Most people close their blinds while they’re away and leave them open while they’re home. Intuitively, this makes sense. But there’s one problem — this makes “closed blinds” a tell-tale sign of an empty home. Consider closing your blinds for the few weeks leading up to your trip — when you’re obviously home — to not create any signals.

Lights — A dark house is an empty house. Lamps can easily (and cheaply) be set on a timer, to give the illusion of people in the living room.

Lawn — How often do you mow the grass? Imagine how obvious it would be if you missed even a couple weeks. Consider hiring lawn care for the time you’re gone, or getting a friend to do it.

Garbage — Once a week, everyone’s trash cans go out to the curb. Don’t let your stick out like a sore thumb. Ask a neighbor to move your can on garbage day.
Sitter — The easiest way to make a house look lived-in is for it to literally be lived-in. Get someone to housesit while you’re away — an added benefit is someone can take care of your dog and water your plants!

Stay off Instagram — We all love posting pictures from our vacation, but wait until you get home to brag about that view of the beach. It’s surprisingly easy to find out where someone lives, so make it a #lategram and don’t tip your hand.

2. General Safety

Sometimes, your illusion will fail and thieves will try to break into your house anyways. Don’t make it easy on them, but take some simple precautions to fortify your home.

Deadbolts — If you don’t have deadbolts on every door, add them and be sure to lock everything when you leave. It sounds obvious, but sometimes the simple careless mistakes are the worst.

Garage Door — Electric garage doors are easy to hack. Disconnect the door opener before you leave, so that a universal opener can’t set it off.

Doggie Door — Movie break-ins 101: enter through the doggie door. Don’t let this happen in your house. Secure the doggie door.

Secure Vault — So you keep your valuables in a safe. Great, but is there anything stopping a thief from just taking the vault and dealing with the lock later? While you hope it never reaches that stage, a vault isn’t much use if it’s not secured to the ground.

Hide Valuables — This is a last-resort guideline. If you have something truly irreplaceable, don’t keep it in an obvious place. Hide it someplace no one would ever look.

3. Weatherproofing
Home safety goes beyond preventing break-ins. If you travel during the winter, an empty house could be at risk of various weather-related problems.

Gutters — Clean the gutters before you leave, to ensure proper drainage, should a rainstorm come in while you’re away.

Pipes — If the weather freezes, your pipes could too, causing expensive damage. Be sure your pipes are properly insulated, or give a neighbor a key and ask them to turn your faucets to “drip” when the freeze comes.

Spare Key — Regardless of your pipes’ insulation, it’s wise to give a trusted neighbor a spare key, in case someone needs to get into the house and fix something.

Final advice — be sure you’re properly insured. Despite your best efforts and precautions, sometimes break-ins still happen. Check with your insurance agent or let Kuznieski Insurance Agency review your policy to make sure you are covered for both structural damages and loss of property. Don’t be caught without coverage!

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