It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but prolonged homeowner absences and holiday gift-giving causes burglaries to spike during the holidays. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, nearly 400,000 burglaries occur in the United States between November and December each year. Use these tips to be extra vigilant this holiday season.
Secure Your Entryways
In 2010, 33 percent of burglaries occurred without force and nearly 61 percent occurred using force, such as breaking down a door, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program. With that being said, if you've been thinking of replacing your builder-grade front door, the holidays are a good time to do it. An added benefit; entry door replacement is one of the best home improvements for home value.
If you don't need an entire entry door replacement, consider replacing your deadbolt with a model that is at least 1-inch long and is reinforced with a metal strike plate.
Be Discreet with Expensive Item Packaging
If your holiday gifts included items like a computer, flat screen TV or any other expensive item, make sure to break down and conceal those boxes as much as possible when you place them on the curb for trash or recycling pick-up. Better yet, place packaging on the curb the day of collection.
Don't Broadcast Your Out-of-Town Holiday Plans Online
In the last few years, connections have been made between home burglaries and homeowners who recently shared their vacation plans online. Wait to share pictures and memories of your vacation on social media until you return home.
Give Yourself the Gift of a Home Security System
While alarm systems are possibly the biggest no-brainer in deterring theft, only 14 percent of homes have security systems. This could be because of a false belief that alarm systems come with a hefty price tag. An alarm system doesn't need to break the bank; starter systems are available at home improvement stores for as little as $25.
A monitored home security system with an alarm company is your best bet. The monthly fee can be more affordable than you assume and should be considered.
Another great smart home security item is a SkyBell Wi-Fi Video Doorbell, which alerts homeowners via smart phone if someone is near their front door and doesn't even ring the doorbell. Featuring one-way video, two-way audio, motion sensor detection, photo snapshot, night vision, silent mode and more, you can keep an eye on your front entrance from basically anywhere using your phone.
Be Wary of Door-to-Door Solicitors
Remember Home Alone? The door-to-door salesperson is still a common ruse used by criminals to assess the entry points to your home, case your belongings and determine whether or not you have plans to leave town for the holidays.
If something seems awry, ask to see the salesperson's ID connecting them to the company they claim to be selling for. Alert your local police department if you have any suspicions.
Strategically Place Your Christmas Tree
Though you probably want to show off your Christmas decor, avoid placing your tree in front of a window. Christmas trees mean presents and presents indicate opportunity. Keep window treatments closed when you're away to deter window peepers who may be casing your home.
When You're Away, Make It Seem as Though You're Home
If you've left home for a family holiday celebration, keep up the appearance of a lived-in home by using timers to turn interior and exterior lights on and off during evening hours. It's also a good idea to keep a car parked in your driveway, if possible.
Enlist Your Neighbors
Nothing says you're not home like a full mailbox and a stack of newspapers accumulating at your front door. If you are going to be gone for a period of time, ask a neighbor to pick up your mail and newspapers and shovel your driveway and sidewalks.
Though you'd like to think you'd never come home to a ransacked house, you need to be prepared in the event it does happen and you want to file a claim through your homeowner's insurance. It's a good idea to take an entire home inventory of expensive items like televisions, jewelry, computers, and other electronics once a year.
Taking pictures and keeping receipts on major items will be helpful to your insurance company if you do decide to go forward with a claim.
Looking for more tips as a first-time homebuyer? Download our free Mortgage 101 Handbook for everything you need to know about buying and financing your first home.