Going on a trip? Take precautions to keep potential intruders away from your property.
When you finally take some time off for vacation, the last thing you want to worry about is what might go wrong at home while you're away. But the reality is that your home could be a sitting target for burglars when it's empty.
The good news? With this simple checklist, you can head for the sunshine knowing your house is safe and secured. The key to deterring intruders from your house? Make sure your home looks lived-in, even if you'll be away a couple weeks. Here's how.
1. Arrange for mail to be held while you're away. Mail quickly piles up in the mailbox (hello, catalogs!), and an overflowing mailbox is a sure sign to everyone that you're not home. You can easily stop mail delivery by notifying the post office online. Then you can pick up your mail when you get back.
2. Put your newspapers on hold. Besides the waste of paper (who's going to read old news when you return from vacation?), a pileup of newspapers on your doorstep is an easy red flag that you're away.
3. Show-off your alarm system. Make sure to have an easy-to-see sign on your door or window to alert everyone of your spiffed-up security system. Consider putting up a sign, even if you haven't invested in a high-tech alarm.
4. Don't button up the whole house. It's natural to want to "close up" the house while you're away, but you want to give the appearance that the house is lived in. Leave drapes and window treatments slightly open, rather than closed shut. Put some of your indoor lights on timers, and have some of them go on at night to give the appearance that someone's at home.
5. Invest in motion-sensing floodlights for the yard. Now is a good time to consider investing in motion-sensing floodlights. When you're on vacation, glaring light will deter potential intruders. And when you arrive home, it'll be easier to see what's going on at night.
6. Leave a radio on. To those outside, the buzz of voices will make it seem like there are people at home. Choose a talk station, like NPR, rather than an station that just plays music.
7. Leave a car in the driveway. If you're flying to your destination, simply leave your car in the driveway. If you're taking a summer road trip, ask a neighbor if they could park one of their cars in your driveway while you're away. It's also a good idea to alert a neighbor or friend that you'll be away, so they can keep an eye on your house.
8. Arrange for your lawn to be mowed. You want to stop some services (like mail delivery) while you're away. But others, like getting your lawn mowed, should continue on just like you're at home. Arrange with your landscaper to have your lawn mowed as usual while you're away. If you typically mow your own lawn, consider hiring a local to come mow your lawn once while you're away during extended trips. Long grass is another sure-fire signal to burglars that the house has been vacant.
9. Take a walk-around your house a week or so before you leave. Check for any shrubs, hedges, trees, or landscaping that looks overgrown (also look for tree limbs that provide an easy route to an upstairs window.) Trim any greenery that looks like it would provide a hiding place for intruders.
10. Make sure unnecessary electrical equipment is turned off while you're away. It's a good idea to plug your electronics in surge protectors that are easy to power on or off with the flick of a switch. You'll also be saving energy (and saving on your electric bill!) by powering off the TV, computer, and entertainment center. Many appliances are also known as ghost energy hogs, sucking energy even when they're simply turned off. By plugging these devices in a safety surge protector, you can stop the flow of electricity.
11. Give the cat-sitter or dog-sitter a spare key before you leave. You don't want to hide the key under a rock, doormat, or in the BBQ grill. These are all known hide-a-key tricks; they give burglars a free pass into your house.
Tip: Ensure you come home to a fresh house post-vacation. Clear your refrigerator of any perishable foods (you can offer your milk to your friendly neighbor) and make sure you take out stinky trash before you leave.