When you’re getting ready to leave for vacation, ensuring that your home remains safe while you enjoy your travels is crucial. An obviously unoccupied home is an easy target, so in addition to having a security system in place, creating the illusion that someone is home can significantly reduce the risk of a break-in and theft.
According to ADT, most burglaries occur in broad daylight between 10 am and 3 pm and during the summer months. While burglaries can happen on any day at any time, the most vulnerable times of the year are during summer vacations, the winter holiday season, and long holiday weekends when burglars assume that some people will be away on holiday.
The FBI reports that home burglaries happen every 25.7 seconds in the U.S., accounting for more than $3 billion in property losses. So, the goal is to make your home look like a more challenging target to discourage a burglar from trying to break in. You can accomplish this in two ways: one, to have a security system installed, and two, to make it look like someone is home while you’re away.
Learn more about whether homeowners insurance covers theft
Here are seven tips to help protect your home and make your house look lived in while you are away.
- Install a home security system. Get a reliable home security system with cameras and motion detectors. According to a burglary research study by the University of North Carolina (UNC), when the system is visible from the outside, it can deter 50% of potential burglars. Having a system with remote monitoring on your cell phone makes it easier to keep an eye on things from wherever you are.
- Set up home security lighting. You can buy smart light timers for your interior and exterior that you can also control remotely with your phone. If you program the interior lights to come on at different times of the day, it can throw off would-be burglars by creating the appearance that someone is home by turning lights on and off in different rooms.
- Pause mail, newspapers, and package deliveries. A pile of newspapers on your porch is a dead giveaway sign that no one is home. You can temporarily stop newspaper and mail deliveries or have a neighbor pick them up for you and check on your house occasionally. Learn about preventing package theft.
- Maintain your yard. Ensure that lawn and gardening care continues while you’re away. Also, ensure that your houseplants get proper care because dying houseplants and an overgrown lawn signal an empty house.
- Use smart timers for electronics. In addition to the lights, you can use smart timers to turn on TVs and radios set at a volume loud enough for someone outside to hear that they are on. Set the timer to come on at different times of the day or night to create the illusion of activity in the house.
- Get a house sitter. Having someone stay in your house to care for your pets and plants is a good way to protect your home while you’re away. Online forums such as House Sitters America and Trusted House Sitters connect homeowners with people willing to pet and house sit in exchange for free accommodations. You could also ask a neighbor to check on your home, water your plants, bring the trash cans down to the curb on trash day, and even park their car in your driveway to give the appearance that people are home.
- Be cautious posting on social media. You’re in a gorgeous setting, taking incredible vacation photos, but hold off on posting them to social media while you’re away. Once you’re safely back home you can share all your lovely pictures, but letting the world know that you’re away also lets people know your house is empty.
Final steps when preparing your house for extended vacation
These are a few final things you’ll want to do to vacation-proof your home before you leave for a long trip if no one is going to be staying in the house while you’re gone.
- Ensure that the valuables and cash in your house are locked in a safe or in a safety deposit box.
- Collect all the spare keys you have stashed outside your house and put them in a secure location. Burglars know about all the favorite hiding spots for spare keys.
- Clean out your refrigerator of food that will perish while you’re away. No one wants to return home to a smelly refrigerator.
- Check all doors and windows to ensure they are all locked. Keep some curtains partially open so it appears like someone might be home. The UNC burglary research study found that 25% of homeowners admitted to leaving doors unlocked while they were away and 35% left a first-floor window unlatched. Learn more about home window security.
Once you’ve followed these steps, you can have peace of mind while you travel that you’ve taken the steps to ensure your home is safe. Installing a home security system, hiring a house-sitter, and making your home look lived in are effective ways to protect your home while you’re away so you can enjoy your vacation in peace. If your adventure is taking you abroad, learn more about what travel documents you’ll need to bring with you.