Most of us relish the relaxed pace summer provides and eagerly anticipate spending time away from home with family and friends. But failing to adequately prepare your home and property for your absence can prove costly—and make them a potential target for burglars.
Don’t Let It Be You
Each year, there are more than 2.15 million burglaries, over 65 percent of which are residential break-ins, with the majority occurring in the peak vacation months of July and August, according to a July 2007 Insurance Information Institute (III) article.Nine out of 10 home break-ins could be prevented if homeowners would take steps to burglarproof their homes, according the III . Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson, I.I.I. says the average dollar loss per burglary is over $1,700. So, battening down the hatches could just be the answer to saving you hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars.
Losses from burglary can also directly affect the cost of your homeowners or renter’s insurance, so it is wise to prepare your home for your absence ahead of time to save you money and headaches later.
Readying Your Home
The best way to keep your home safe in your absence is to make it appear you are home, leaving absolutely no clue you’re actually away. Light, time and noise are your greatest weapons to accomplish this, according to the III. Follow these tips along those lines to ready your home and keep it safe:
- Ask someone you know and trust to keep an eye on your house.
- Stop delivery of your mail and newspapers—or have a friend or neighbor pick them up for you.
- Keep bushes and shrubs near your home’s entrance and walkway well trimmed. Overgrown shrubs provide easy camouflage for burglars.
- Use timers on lights, televisions and radios to provide sound and illuminate the inside of your home.
- Keep shades up and blinds and curtains open to make it appear you’re home.
- Keep the outside of your home well lit. Burglars won’t go where they can be seen.
- Arrange to have your lawn mowed.
- Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway, occasionally moving his or her car indicate your coming and going.
- Leave the air conditioner on. A silent compressor on a hot day is a good indication you aren’t home.
- Change the setting on your answering machine so it picks up on the first or second ring—or just turn down the ringer. A constantly ringing phone is also a good sign no one is home.
Protecting Against Disaster
Protecting your home from electrical mishaps, fire and flooding while you’re gone is also important.
Before you leave, unplug everything but the refrigerator, freezer, and the lights and radios you have set on timers. Check to be sure the oven and stove, as well as small heat-generating appliances such as hair dryers and curling irons, are turned off.
If you’ll be away a week or more, turn off the water to your sinks, toilets, dishwasher and washing machine. Many a homeowner has returned home too late, only to find that an aged washing machine hose or dishwasher part has broken, flooding their home and causing hundreds or even thousands of dollars in damage.
This not only requires costly repair, but can also raise the price of your homeowners or renter’s insurance.
Setting your hot water heater on the lowest heat setting possible will keep it functioning at a minimum level, while saving you money on your energy bills.
“A significant number of break-ins could be prevented with simple precautions such as canceling a newspaper delivery, placing timers on lamps, and having a neighbor take in the mail,” says Lauren Russ, executive director of the Burglary Prevention Council, a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public on crime prevention.
But there are other measures you can take to guard your home against break-ins, too. The article “15 Keys to Protect your Home While you are on Vacation” reports that some 28 percent of burglaries occur without the perpetrator using force to gain entrance—which means they enter through an unlocked or open door or window. This underscores the importance of locking your home’s doors and windows when you leave on that vacation.
Examining your house from the street to make sure no valuables are within sight can also deter burglary. If a passerby can see your expensive artwork or electronics, so can a criminal.
The article states houses without security systems are about three times more likely to be burglarized than those with them. In fact, burglars tend to avoid neighborhoods with burglar alarms altogether. In addition, most insurance companies provide discounts of two to 15 percent for safety devices such as smoke, fire or burglar alarms; deadbolt locks; and window grates or bars. This provides you with extra incentive for installing such safety equipment in your home.
Sliding glass doors provide another point of entrance for burglars, and should be secured by placing a metal rod in the track, or by adding a bolt lock. This will prevent an intruder from forcing the door open and gaining entry into your home.
Finally, automatic garage door openers should be unplugged on your way out. Savvy burglars can discover the code and use it to open your garage door. You do not want to return home from that relaxing vacation, only to find you must place a homeowners insurance claim to cover your loss!
Insuring Your Home
Never leave home on your summer vacation without making sure you have adequate home insurance protection for your house and belongings. How much you need depends on the value of your home and its contents. Talk to a local homeowners insurance agent to find out exactly what type of policy you need and how much coverage is warranted… before you go.
Remember, increasing your home’s protection against intruders can save you money on your home insurance premiums. So take every precaution—and enjoy the savings!
“Going on vacation should be the most relaxing time of the year,” says Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger. “Taking a few precautions can help ensure tranquility during your time away from home—and when you return.”
Don’t let your home and everything you’ve worked so hard for become a target for burglary or disaster. You can prepare, relax and get away from it all…and then return to your home sweet home.