Tips to Make Your Home Safer

Amber Randhawa Homeowner and Homebuyer Tips

Photo Credit: Tierra Mallorca

While we all like to believe that we live in the safest of neighborhoods where no crimes could possibly occur, the numbers tell a different story. According to data released by the FBI, more than one million home burglaries are committed across the United States each year. During these crimes, victims suffer an estimated $3 billion in losses each year. It may not be possible to make your home an impenetrable fortress, but there are many proven tactics you can use to decrease the chances that you will fall victim to a home invasion.

An important thing to keep in mind is that most criminals are looking for an easy home to gain access to, and if a residence looks particularly difficult to enter, they will likely pass it by. Most burglars are smart -they are looking for easy access while undertaking minimal risk. One of the most common methods of defense employed by home owners is a monitored security system. These systems are so effective, that according to some reports, homes without one are actually 300% more likely to be burglarized than homes that are continually monitored. However, this doesn’t mean that such a system is the only way to protect your property. We’ve compiled a list of some additional strategies that you can employ to increase your home’s security and minimize your chances of being targeted by criminal activity.

Start with Your Doors and Windows

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According to ADT, a leader in home security, the most common way that burglars gain entry to homes is through an unlocked front door. This is followed by entering through a first-floor window, and then the unsecured back door of a residence. That means that securing these points of entry is the first step in protecting your home, family and valuables. A steel door is generally considered to be the strongest material that you can use for your home, but many homeowners prefer the look of wood, or else they are just more use to it. Whether you choose wood or steel for your front door, make sure it has a solid core, and pair it with a high quality lock. We suggest a Grade 1 or 2 deadbolt lock with a reinforced strike plate.

Window locks are also incredibly important, especially on the ground floor of your home, or on basement windows that can be access from the area surrounding your home. If you purchase a home that does not already have quality locks on the windows, aftermarket window locks are an easy and inexpensive purchase you can make that will add an an additional layer of protection for your home. These new locks don’t need to interrupt the aesthetic appeal of your home’s exterior though. Choose a lock that is compatible with your window frame material, and in a style that is complimentary for your window type. You might also want to consider covering some of your windows with a specialty film, especially those that are adjacent to a door. Security film holds shattered glass in place, making the windows more difficult to penetrate in the event that someone does try to gain entry through a broken window.

Landscaping for Security

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When you consider what type of trees and shrubs to plant around your home, you are likely only thinking in terms of your home’s appearance and curb appeal. However, as it turns out, the greenery you choose to plant around your home can impact your home’s security, as well. Thieves are always looking for the easiest targets, so they will be especially attracted to homes that they can enter and exit without being detected. The trees and bushes around your could give them just enough cover to make their way in and out without being seen. Luckily there are a few tweaks that can make your property less appealing to these types of intruders.

The most important change you to need to make is to make sure that your home’s entrances can be seen from the street. Perhaps you value your privacy hedge because it keeps away the gazes of nosy neighbors. However, those same neighbors could be your first line of defense against a break-in. And the bushes that block your neighbors’ view of your home could give thieves exactly the cover they need for their nefarious activities. One of the best things you can do to prevent break ins is to trim overgrown trees and shrubs that have been obstructing the view of your property. You want to leave thieves with nowhere to hide.

This doesn’t mean that you need to eliminate shrubbery around your home altogether, though. There are some varieties of bushes and shrubs that can actually act as more of a deterrent to robbers. Planting thorny rose bushes or sharp-leaved holly beneath your first-story windows can be a great move not just for the beauty of your yard, but also for protection. Another burglary busting move is to add some loose gravel that crunches when disturbed beneath all first floor windows. No criminal wants to make excess noise as they enter a home without permission, so they will likely leave homes with gravel like this alone.

Light Up Your Home’s Exterior

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Criminals want to do their bad deeds where they can’t be seen, but if it is pitch black dark around your home, it doesn’t matter whether you have overgrown bushes and trees for them to hide behind or not. This is where a well-designed outdoor lighting system comes in to play, as this upgrade can make your home both safer and more attractive. You can eliminate pockets of darkness around your yard and your home’s exterior by placing outdoor lights around your home in strategic locations. Use a combination of flood lights, spotlights and pathway lights to increase your home’s safety while also adding to your nighttime curb appeal by highlighting your home’s natural and architectural details.

Another type of light that should be apart of your upgrades are motion-activated security lights spaced around your home’s exterior. These lights flip on when they sense motion, which is a great way to startle intruders and scare them off before they attempt to enter your home. This is perfect if the soft glow of landscape lighting isn’t enough to dissuade a determined intruder. If you choose to install Wi-Fi connected smart versions of these motion sensing lights, you can set up the accompanying app so that you receive notifications on your phone when there’s movement on your property, allowing you to monitor your home when you aren’t around.

Make It Look Like Someone is Always at Home

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Smart devices of all kinds can help you keep your home safe by making it look as though your house is occupied even when it is not. The majority of home burglaries take place on weekdays between 10am and 3pm, the most common time of the day and week for homes to sit empty as occupants are away at work and school. If at all possible, leave a car in your driveway throughout the day. This may mean parking a spare care outside where it can be seen rather than in the driveway. Thieves see a vehicle parked in front of a home and they automatically assume that someone is at home. If you will be away on an extended trip or vacation, ask a neighbor to sometimes park in your driveway so that your house doesn’t begin to look empty. Another way to make it appear as though someone is at home is to leave a loud television going. A burglar may get close to your home and then think again when they hear sounds indicating someone is at home.  If you’re away from home and don’t want to leave your TV on for the entirety of your trip, try connecting your TV to a timer or smart plug. Most criminals report that before they break into a home, they will knock on the door or ring the doorbell to be absolutely certain that no one is around. However, if they see that the doorbell is a video version, they may simply skip by your house altogether. No thief wants to appear on camera and give you an easy tool to give the police when they need to be identified

Hide Your Valuables

Did you know that most home invasions are unplanned, spontaneous actions? This is because very few home invasions are conducted by criminal masterminds, with as few as 12% of burglaries planned out in advance. What can cause a criminal to decide on a whim to break into your house? Experts say one thing that puts you in danger is having valuables out in plain sight where they are visible from the outside of your home. The most commonly stolen items are cash (usually found in purses and wallets), jewelry, electronics, firearms, and drugs (including legal prescription drugs). So to protect yourself, take a walk around your property, looking in all windows that are viewable from the sidewalk, driveway or street, and make sure none of these items are easily visible.

If you have someone who regularly enters your home, such as a housekeeping service or pet sitter, remember that you should never be too trusting, especially if you contract these services from a firm that could send a different person than you are use to without prior notice. While it may not be practical to put everything of value behind a locked door, it is a good idea to lock up firearms, sensitive documents, and any items that would be too expensive or inconvenient to replace.

Make Your Security Measures Obvious

Once you have added security features to your home, make it obvious so that any potential criminal can plainly see that your property is not an easy target. In studies conducted after convictions, burglars state that they usually avoid homes with obvious protective measures in place. For example, when you install outdoor cameras, place them in locations where they can be easily seen rather than hidden behind gutters or trees. If you have a monitored home security system, you were likely supplied with a couple of signs by the security firm, which act as both free advertising and a deterrent to home invasion. Beware-of-dog signs are also effective, but in both instances make sure that you really do have a noisy alarm or barking dog that can back up the signs in case a criminal doubts their authenticity.