Tips For Keeping Your Home Safe

Protecting your home and family go hand in hand. With the help of a little research, finding the right home security tools will prepare a homeowner, whether they’re just moving in, are already living in or are in the process of selling a house, for whatever may happen.

Most burglaries occur on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Homes that appear unoccupied during the day, are dark at night, and display signs of wealth (such as immaculate landscaping, expensive cars, and fancy decks), and are secluded or shielded by fences or shrubbery, are often targets.

Most burglars simply kick in a door (even doors with a deadbolt) or pry open a window or sliding patio door. They tend to shy away from homes with dogs, and homes with an alarm system.

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Your job is to make your home less target-worthy.

With so many home security resources available out there, gathering tips can be a bit overwhelming, but the best place to start is with the ones that are easy to do.

1. Change the Locks

Remember to change all the locks when you move into a new house. You’ll never know who had access to the keys before you moved in. If you lose the keys to your house, you should also replace all the locks for the maximum home security.

2. Install an Alarm System

Alarm systems are one of the best forms of home protection. They immediately inform emergency authorities and warn homeowners of any potential dangers. Seeing or hearing that a home has an alarm system often prevents an intruder from even attempting a burglary. Place video cameras by doors and windows. Most intruders won’t take the time to figure out if the camera is real — they’ll just avoid the house.

3. Conceal All Wiring

Keep your home security wires hidden so they can’t be disabled.

4. Give the Appearance That Your House is Occupied

For homeowners who are away from their home for an extended period of time, automatic timers are great ways to turn lights on and off while you’re away.

5. Don’t Leave Your Key in the Mailbox

This is a home security tip that everyone has heard, but many still ignore. One of the easiest ways to enter a home uninvited is by finding a key in the mailbox or under the doormat. Wrap your key in foil and place it in a secret spot that only your family knows about.

6. Light Up the Entrance to Your Home

Lighting with an infrared detector that automatically turns on when someone is in a specific zone or area helps prevent a potential burglar from staying in the shadows.

7. Install Deadbolt Locks

All exterior doors should have at least 1 inch thick deadbolt locks. Although more expensive than spring latch locks, dead bolts are much stronger and provide significantly more protection. When installing deadbolts, make sure to leave a minimal amount of space between the door and its frame. Doors can be reinforced with plywood or a piece of sheet metal.

Remove the 3/4-in. screws from the strike plate. Drill pilot holes into the framing behind the jamb. Then drive in 3-in. screws to anchor the strike plate to the framing.

8. Use Metal Bars on Sliding Doors

Any sliding glass doors, patio doors, or sliding windows should have a metal bar that is placed along the bottom track of the door or window. This can prevent the door or window from being forced open.

9. Use Interior Door Hinges

If your door has hinges on the outside of your house, the hinge pin could be removed to gain entry. Remove the door and reset the hinges so that they’re on the inside of the house.

10. Protect Your Windows & Trim Shrubbery Back Away From House

Protect vulnerable areas by keeping the area cleared of debris and well trimmed. Provide windows with window locks and/or resistant glass. Installing many small panes of glass instead of one large pain of glass is a good option as well.

For Sellers

When your clients are opening their doors to the public for showings, they need to take extra precautions. While a house is on the market, keep these tips in mind.

Maintain your property

Especially in the wintertime, many people stay indoors and neglect issues such as peeling trim or an overgrown yard. If a home looks unkempt, it can become a target. Shoveling walkways to clear them of snow and debris and removing holiday decorations and fallen tree branches in a timely manner will signal that the home is occupied.

Know your neighbors

Invite them over to see your home before it goes on the market, and introduce them to the people they may see regularly stopping by during this time (especially your agent). Then they’ll know who is and isn’t supposed to be at your home and can better assess when there may be a threat while you’re gone.

Assess your home’s vulnerability

Ask yourself, “How would I get in if I were locked out?” The first thing you think of, whether it’s the window with a broken lock or the door that won’t shut all the way, is exactly how someone might get in. Address immediately the issues that come to mind.

Lighting

The house that is well-lit at night provides a deterrent. It’s wise to invest in tools that make nighttime light automation easy. That includes dusk-to-dawn adapters that go into existing light fixtures and motion detectors. But beware of leaving your exterior lights on at all times, which signifies the occupant is gone for an extended period of time.

Make your home look occupied

In addition to lighting, smart-home technology has made it easier to make it appear like people are home, even when they’re not. Systems that remotely control lighting, music and appliances such as a thermostat can help you achieve this. Though not considered smart-home tech, simple lamp timing devices available at hardware stores are also good for this purpose.

Lock your doors

Some facts Sellers should know: In 30 percent of burglaries, the criminals access the home through an unlocked door or window; 34 percent use the front door to get inside; and 22 percent use the back door, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

Blare the sirens

An external siren is invaluable, whether as part of a monitored security system or a DIY alarm.

Mark your valuables and record details 

Use invisible-ink pens or engravers to mark identifying information on items. Log serial numbers and take photos of your belongings. Check to see if your police department participates in the Operation Identification program. They will have stickers for you to place on doors or windows warning that your items are marked. These steps can help you reclaim recovered belongings.

Install the right type of peephole

You never want to open a door unless you know who’s on the other side. A peephole lets you see who’s there, but entry doors don’t come with peepholes, and a lot are so tiny that they don’t clearly show you who’s out there. Strangers can hide slightly out of view or appear so distorted that they’re hard to identify.

Mailboxes are easy targets

Mail theft is a growing problem since unsecured mailboxes are easy targets. Consider using a security mailbox.

A safe option

Most of us don’t need a big, heavy, expensive safe to secure our valuables. For a few hundred dollars or less, you can get a safe that will protect your valuables. Be sure to fasten it to the floor or wall so it’s not easy to move. Safes go up in price for options such as fire protection and digital or biometric (fingerprint reading) opening systems.

Wireless window alarms are effective

Keep doors and windows locked and use wireless alarms, which are activated by doors or windows opening. Alarms are available at home centers or search online. Use the alarms for doors and windows in “hidden” areas of the house.

Pin Locks for Double-Hung Windows

The factory latches on double-hung windows are no match for a pry bar. But inexpensive pin locks (about $2 each) make that task harder. You can install a pin in just a few minutes per window. Drill a hole to lock the window closed, and a second hole a few inches up to lock the window partly open for ventilation.

Try solar motion detector lights

Motion detector lights are a proven deterrent, and standard hardwired models cost as little as $15. If running a power supply would be difficult, buy ones that run on solar power. Attach the lighting unit to the house or outbuilding (screws are included). Make sure the solar panel receives direct sunlight, although it still charges on cloudy days.

Alarm Systems Are Easier to Install Than You Think

You can buy a professional grade wireless alarm system for about $200 from many online sources. Installing professional alarm hardware is easy, but programming the system can be a challenge. A battery-powered wireless DIY alarm system requires no wiring. Just plug the control box into your Internet router, mount the sensors and arming station, and program the unit with your computer.

Stick yard signs by your front and back doors. Then plaster stickers on all the ground-floor windows so everyone can see them.

For other tips, you can contact your local police station.

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Charles McDonaldBy Charles McDonald - Charles, and his firm, Charlottesville Solutions, are known locally and around the world for helping people relocate to the Charlottesville area. His background (running his own engineering firm for 20+ years in the Silicon Valley) has given him the skills to not only develop this site but also to manage a stellar group of agents!
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