Keeping home secure when you're on vacation

A few basic precautions become second nature when leaving your home for the day. You might lock the door, arm a security system, and make sure to close the garage door.

When leaving for a vacation, these steps might not be enough. It may become apparent that your home is not occupied, making the property more vulnerable to burglary.

It's helpful to recruit a friend, neighbor, or hired helper to look after your home while you're away. Jaron Clinton, writing for Realty Times, says this person can pick up your mail, water your plants, or take care of your pets as well. This assistance can help minimize any obvious signs that the home is temporarily vacant.

When informing trusted neighbors that you'll be away, you might also invite them to use your property to some extent. For example, you might ask a neighbor to throw away some of their trash and recycling in your own receptacles and bring the bins to the curb as necessary. The home security resource SafeWise says you can also invite neighbors to park in your driveway or have guests leave their cars there.

If there is a local neighborhood watch group, inform them when you'll be leaving and when you'll return. You might also be able to ask your local police department to check on your property while you're gone.

Don't make a break-in easy for burglars by leaving a door unlocked. You may want to invest in a stronger lock or update your current one before you depart. Paul Hope, writing for Consumer Reports, says deadbolts attached only to the door jamb can be forced open more easily than those secured to a home's framework; replacing short screws with two-inch ones will create a sturdier mechanism.

Look for other potential openings around your home. You'll want to make sure all of your doors and windows are locked, along with the garage door. The home improvement site HomeAdvisor recommends disconnecting the automatic garage door opener, since thieves may be able to access it with a universal remote.

Cellar hatchways are best secured when they are locked from the inside, since exterior padlocks can be removed by burglars. Use a dowel or a locking bar to secure windows with mounted air conditioners, since thieves can simply remove these units to access the home. Clinton says dowels placed in a track are also effective in keeping an intruder from opening a sliding glass door.

A gradually accumulating pile of mail or newspapers is a sure sign that no one is home to collect them. SafeWise says you should place holds on these deliveries or ask a friend or neighbor to pick them up.

Similarly, a lengthy absence will be noticeable in the state of your yard. If you'll be away long enough for the grass to become overgrown, hire someone to come by and mow it midway through your trip. During winter vacations, make sure someone will be able to clear your walk and driveway.

Don't make any changes in the appearance of your windows. While closing the blinds or curtains can keep unwanted visitors from peering inside, it can also send the signal that you don't want people looking into your home because no one is there. An observer may also note the change and conclude that you're away from the home.

Putting certain lights and appliances on timers can give the impression that the property is still occupied. Clinton says these can create a variable routine where lights in different rooms, along with devices such as radios or TVs, are turned on and off. Hope says you might even invest in smart light bulbs that pair with a home security system, learning when you typically activate and deactivate the lights in each room; the lights can then be set to replicate this use while you're away.

Another possibility is to turn down the volume of your doorbell and leave a battery-powered radio on. HomeAdvisor says that some burglars ring the doorbell first to see if anyone is home, and that a loud radio may convince them that someone is in the property but couldn't hear the bell.

Consider getting a security system if you don't have one. In addition to the protection a system offers, Hope says burglars may pass your home by if they see a sign indicating that it is protected. If you already have a security system, contact your monitoring service to let them know when you won't be at home.

Avoid posting photos or other information about your trip on social media until after you've returned. Clinton says these posts can inadvertently inform the wrong people that your home is more vulnerable to a break-in.

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