The American dream centers around homeownership, and feeling secure within that space is a key part of enjoying it and the neighborhood. Home security and real estate experts agree: Some relatively inexpensive tools, tricks and changes can keep that home safe while also ensuring your most valuable asset continues to grow in value.
Most homes already come with the basics: Well-sealed doors, windows that lock properly and exterior lights are essentials that make sure potential criminals know your home has eliminated possible vulnerabilities. But some additional investments in things ranging from smart plugs to complete home-security systems can boost the chances that your home will remain safe.
“The bottom line is that opportunity offenders – and more determined offenders – will be persuaded to look elsewhere or give up entirely when they realize that breaking into your home is not worth the effort. They only have the skills to take advantage of what you leave them,” says Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a former senior specialist for crime prevention for the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Justice Reference Service.
Here are 10 effective ways to ensure your home is secure against crime and is safe for your family and friends.
Add Screens and Security Bars
After you check your windows weekly to make sure they’re all locked, place a security bar in the frame of your sliding door for added protection, says Bill Herzog, president of LionHeart Security Services in Tempe, Arizona. Herzog, who has more than 25 years of law enforcement and security experience, says security screens and doors are essential because “they add an extra layer between your door lock and windows. If you can’t afford to do your entire home, it is important to at least install these devices on the front areas of the home.”
Install Glass Block
Timothy Dimoff, president of SACS Consulting Inc., a high-risk security consulting firm in Akron, Ohio, says homeowners should look at glass-block windows for basements. “Many homes are breached through basement windows. They are so near the ground, usually hidden by landscape and easy to access while hidden from view,” Dimoff says. “Clearing landscape materials from outside the windows is also a good idea.”
Lock Up Tools
Burglars are inventive. A homeowner should consider locked storage like a garage or shed to store heavy items such as tools, ladders and lawnmowers that a burglar could use to access a window or glass door, says Elizabeth Lewis, a licensed real estate broker in Delray Beach, Florida.
Upgrade Your Garage Door
Today’s Wi-Fi connected garage doors often include an app that lets a homeowner know whether they have left their garage door open and push a button to close it securely, Herzog says. “Amazon even has an app and conversion kit you can install that allows you to get a notification when a delivery takes place and allows the delivery person to open and close your garage door,” he says.
Move High-Value Items Off Site
You may enjoy looking at your anniversary diamond pendant, but you also may feel more secure if you keep expensive valuables in a bank’s safe deposit box or in a secure location outside of your home. That box also should include copies of important documents like your home title and insurance.
Smart locks, especially in combination with a home security system, are a great way to ward off potential intruders, says Tim Reneimo, co-founder of Security Guards Only in Toronto. “Smart, password-protected locks on your doors are more secure than standard deadbolts, especially if they have a video component, like the Ring doorbell,” Reneimo says.
Use House Sitters
Avoid letting your house look empty when you’re not at home for longer periods of time, like vacations, says Glen Bhimani, CEO and founder of BPS Security in San Antonio. “Having a house sitter, getting a family member to come over and spend time at the house or having remote-controlled lights that you can turn on and off via your phone gives the impression of someone being at home,” Bhimani says.
Be Prepared With Packages
Don’t advertise there are things worth stealing in your home, says Cathy Habas, a home security and safety expert at SafeWise in Salt Lake City. “If you get packages delivered, get them off the porch as soon as possible. Or use a service like Amazon Locker to pick up packages at a separate location,” Habas says. “When you’re ready to recycle all those boxes, remove the address labels and take the cardboard straight to a recycling dumpster or facility.”
Think About Online Safety
Criminals also can tap into online devices such as home routers, so you need to have some protection in place to avoid cyber threats. This can range from the simple – such as changing the default password on your routes and disable guest access – to the more sophisticated, like using a VPN or virtual private network to keep your online activities safe and secure, says Sam Silver, a Realtor at Fathom Realty in Santa Clarita, California. He also recommends homeowners “shred all confidential documents and credit cards before tossing them. Your trash can is the first line of defense in your home,” Silver says.
Know Your Neighbors
A neighborhood where people look out for one another is a great security measure, says Jennifer Osterhout, founder of Everyday Old House in Wakefield, Massachusetts. “One of the easiest, cheapest yet commonly overlooked home security tips is to simply get to know your neighbors,” Osterhout says. “Keep them in the loop with your general schedule (and) alert them to vacations so that they can keep an eye on your home while you are away.”