Safeguard your home and get a bonus – lower insurance premiums

Linda Childers

Taking measures to protect your valuables and deter burglars not only increases your home’s security. It also can decrease your home insurance premiums.

Experts say taking steps to protect your home against intruders doesn’t necessarily mean spending thousands of dollars on fancy gadgets and alarm systems. Instead, you can start with the basics, including strong locks and secure doors and windows.

“The more a homeowner can do to help minimize the risk of loss, the better both they and their insurance company will be,” says Brad Lemons, a vice president at Nationwide Insurance.

Lemons says that if a homeowner carries out some security measures such as installing a deadbolt lock or window grates, he or she can earn a discount up to 10 percent. Ask your insurer or your insurance agent about safety measures that can be taken to qualify for a homeowner’s insurance discount.

Safeguard your home and get a bonus – lower insurance premiums
Safeguard your home and get a bonus – lower insurance premiums

What security steps should you take?

While insurance discounts are a good reason to secure your home, peace of mind is another.

Michelle Boykins, a spokeswoman for the National Crime Prevention Council, suggests homeowners start the process of ensuring their home is secure by asking the local police department for advice on doing a home safety assessment.  Boykin also suggests that homeowners go through a security checklist that reviews whether all doors and windows have secure locks, and whether bushes are trimmed to eliminate concealed areas or hiding places.

“Begin by taking a walk around the perimeter of your home,” Boykins says. “Ask yourself how you would attempt to get in your home if you didn’t have your keys; a burglar is most likely going to access the same means of entry.”

To make sure your valuables are safe and properly insured, experts recommend these five steps:

1. Ensure you have enough coverage.

Lemons says a homeowner’s policy may limit coverage for high-dollar items like jewelry. In these instances, additional coverage usually is available at an extra cost. Lemons recommends that consumers review their belongings regularly to ensure coverage is adequate; for example, if you were given a $6,000 diamond ring as a gift, check to see whether your policy covers it or you need to tack on additional coverage.

2. Document your valuables.

Tully Lehman, a spokesman for the nonprofit Insurance Information Network of California, suggests keeping an inventory of all the valuables in your home. Compiling a list of your belongings as well as photographing or even videotaping them provides documentation for an insurance claim.

When drawing up your inventory list, be as precise as possible. For example, don’t just write “television” – list the brand, size, make and model.

3. Be proactive about home safety.

Lemons encourages homeowners to install security systems, trim trees and bushes around their houses and work with their neighbors to create a neighborhood watch program. In addition, Boykins recommends securing windows with locking hardware that requires a key or with removable pins so that a burglar can’t easily force open the windows. Also, consider installing motion-sensor lighting to keep your house well-lit at night.

4. Think like a burglar.

Boykins says you should leave spare house keys with a trusted neighbor or family member instead of hiding them under a doormat or in a potted plant.

Also, “look inside your home and see what’s visible when someone looks in a window,” she says. “Either take your big-screen television and computer to another part of the house, or close your blinds.”

Boykins discourages homeowners from posting their vacation plans or date nights on Facebook and other social media sites; that can alert burglars to the fact that no one’s at home.

5. Know your neighbors.

“Turn your neighbors into trusted allies,” Boykins says. “Let them know your daily routine, and they can be your eyes and ears when you’re away, and notify you or the police if they see someone at your house who seems out of place.”

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