To me, Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season, regardless of which holiday you choose to celebrate. There will be trips to the mall, lots of eating out and of course entertaining and going to parties, visiting with friends, family and loved ones.
The question of the day is, are you and your home safe? There is nothing more depressing than having your home broken into and looted. It can be very traumatic to experience damage to your home, loss of personal property and just the whole depression that will surely engulf your entire family.
There are a number of steps that you can take which will help protect your home and minimize the chance of a break-in during this holiday season while giving you a much greater peace of mind while you are out and about celebrating with those who are the most important to you.
- Make sure your home looks lived-in
If you’re taking the family over the hills and through the woods to Grandmothers house or have any other travel plans, make sure you have made arrangements to pick up any packages that may be delivered and pick up all the junk-papers and flyers that habitually left in your driveway or on your doorstep. Let the post office know by going online and putting in a ‘vacation hold’ on your mail. It’s free and so simple.
Consider putting several lights, throughout the home on a timer to make it look as if someone is home. You can even have your television come on for a few hours, each evening. With today’s electronics, it is relatively easy to set up a fairly complex pattern of lights that would reflect your normal patterns.
- Holiday lights are important
Look around the neighborhood: do most of your neighbors have Christmas lights up? Well, so should you!
It’s fun to decorate, no doubt about it. However, if you are planning on being away, don’t dismiss the tradition. Hang the lights and set them on a timer – otherwise you might as well put a sign in the yard and advertise that you’re gone.
- Where is your Christmas tree?
Thieves are always looking for an easy point of entry and exit. A Christmas tree displayed in the front window might be a tempting target, when there are wrapped packages on display. The temptation to smash and grab might be too much for some.
- What’s in your trash?
Has Santa left a big screen TV, maybe a new X-Box 4 or even a new computer? These boxes in trash cans are an invitation for thieves to break into your home. Make sure any boxes from high-ticket items are broken down and put into either a trash bag or the recycle trash can (with the lid down firmly). Never leave boxes stacked at the curb!
- Creative spare key spots
How original is it to hide a key under a rock, in a planter or even under the front door mat? Don’t you think thieves know how to look for these keys? The best place to leave a spare key is with a trusted friend.
- Social media is not private
Today, ‘Social Media’ is a very integrated part of our lives – but please be careful. If you’re taking off – don’t announce your travel plans to the world. The details about when you’re leaving and how long you’ll be gone allow for a potential thief to schedule breaking into your home, at their convenience.
Also, as you’re traveling, resist the urge to ‘check-in’ and post pictures and posts about the wonderful things you are doing and seeing. Save it for when you get back and tell the whole story all at once.
- Don’t label your home
Is your name on display on the outside or your mailbox, above your door bill or perhaps there is a Welcome Sign with the family name on it. The problem with taking pride and putting your name on your home is that potential thieves can use this bit of information to research your family to gain information such as your phone number – so they can call you and see if you are home.
- “Signs” of the time
All alarm companies will provide the homeowner with a yard sign and window decals that announce that the home is protected by a monitored alarm. This is a strong deterrent that most thieves will choose to avoid.
If you don’t have an alarm, there are mock signs and decals that can be purchased. If you can’t find them in a local retail store, look online at places like Amazon or eBay. They are relatively inexpensive and will act as a deterrent while helping protect your home and possessions.
- What about your garage door?
There are many tools readily available to thieves that will scan for garage door codes. It only takes a moment for them to open your garage, drive in and close the door behind them, giving them ample opportunity to ransack your home and load their vehicle, while you’re off on your vacation.
The best way to combat this is to disable your garage door. My favorite is to go ahead and unplug it. You’ll need a ladder – leave it in place so when you return, it will be simple to re-plug it and open the door – but the thieves will never be able to open it or find your code for a future use.
- Securely store your valuables
It’s good to have an added level of protection for your valuables. Consider installing a home safe or take your jewelry and other valuables to a bank and put them in a safe deposit box. Of course, a safe deposit box is limited in size, while a safe can be purchased to accommodate all of your valuables and weapons as well.
- Install a home security system
Previously, we recommended that you install signs indicating you have a home security system. Well, the best thing you can do is take is a step further and actually install a home security system.
Not only do today’s systems notify the authorities in case of a break-in or fire, but they also can be set so that each user has a unique code so you’ll know exactly when each family member comes and goes.
Another feature available with home security systems is the use of wireless cameras that can be broadcast to a mobile device, through a WiFi connection to the Internet. This way, if the camera is triggered, you’ll not only be notified immediately, you’ll be able to see who is there.
- Fortify your home
No, we’re not suggesting bars on your windows, but there are steps you can take to fortify your home. Install solid core doors, heavy duty locks, longer screws in the lock strike plates and door hinges, and install secondary security devices on all accessible sliding windows.
Follow any of these suggestions and you’ll minimize the chances of your home being burglarized this holiday season while you and your family are out making a little Ho, Ho, Ho.
Mike Mason is the Broker/Owner of MASON Real Estate in Temecula and can be reached at (951) 296-8887