Simple home security tips: Keep your home safe from theft

February 28, 2023

Smart and practical ways to protect your home and your family.

Family using home security system

While a burglary may seem like the high-intensity plot line of an action movie, the reality is that home burglaries are more common than you think. A home burglary happens every 15 seconds in the U.S. alone, typically in residential areas.

So how do you keep your home and family safe? Before drawing up plans to replace all your doors and windows and install a high-tech safe room, know that the best at home security is simple home security. Most burglars are amateurs who enter homes without force, likely through unlocked doors, open windows, or unsecured garages. But the good news is, they aren’t hard to deter!

Read on today as we cover simple but effective home security tips you can implement right now!

Make home safety your routine

Basic home security starts with implementing practices in your daily life that prevent you from being an easy target.

Lock your doors and windows even when you’re just going for a quick errand, a walk, or to talk to a neighbor.

Secure your wifi network from hackers. Set your router to require a password to access it, and change the password from the default to something secure (“password” won’t cut it). When naming your network, avoid anything that will point back to your home like a street name or house number. This is also especially important if you use any smart home technology, which can potentially give hackers physical access to your home as well. 

Avoid oversharing on social media. It's best to avoid posting intimate details about your home online. In the age of unboxing videos and house tours on social media, it can be tempting to share everything. However, burglars often use social media to find easy targets. Avoid posting your address, large purchases, and compromising information, like if your security system is faulty. If you’re going out of town, wait until you get home to post about your trip.

Conceal trash and recycling. Your trash is a dead giveaway for what’s in your home. It's a good bet that the high-end TV pictured on the giant cardboard box sitting on the curb belongs to the house behind it. Even smaller boxes for expensive electronics are quite telling. After making large purchases, break down the boxes and fold them, so logos and brand names aren’t visible. Place them inside your trash or recycle can if possible, or cover them with a bag if needed. If possible, keep your trash and recycling behind a locked fence until the morning of collection. 

Be mindful of deliveries. For packages delivered to your doorstep, consider asking the post office to hold the package or using a locker service if you won’t be home. If you have a neighbor you can trust, you can ask them to retrieve your package.

Know your guests. Ensure anyone needing access to your home is well-vetted and trusted. Also, make sure to have an effective way to communicate with them to avoid leaving notes on your door where burglars can see them.

Be cautious with strangers. Ask salespeople for credentials through your door and check their offices before letting them inside. If a stranger comes to you needing to use your phone, ask them for the number, name, and message and make the call for them from a secure location. It's always nice to lend a helping hand, but there's no need to lend them your personal phone or invite them inside your home. 

Lock spare keys securely. If you need to leave a spare key for someone like a babysitter or neighbor, keep it in a lockbox and give them a secure code to access it. The days of being able to keep a key under the doormat, in the mailbox, beneath a flower pot, or under the doormat are gone. These spots are obvious and the first place burglars will look.

Talk to your neighbors. Not knowing your neighbors has become the norm for many of us, but building a community in your residential neighborhood is a great preventative measure for home security. Neighbors can tell you about suspicious activity in the vicinity and help keep your home safe when you aren’t home. And if you find a need for collective security to decrease crime in your residential area, you may be able to form or participate in a neighborhood watch group.

Simple security measures for homeowners

While improving security for your home doesn’t have to be complex, it does require keen observation from you and your loved ones. Use this list of practical actions you can take today to get started.

Security for your new home

If you’re new to your home, change or rekey the door locks immediately after moving in. You may give a spare key to a few trusted family members and individuals in your circle. The previous owners may have done the same. Changing the locks and tumblers ensures that only authorized people can access your home.

Don’t list your full name on your mailbox, entryway, or telephone book. It’s best to use an initial and your last name. If you have a mailslot, use a cover to prevent anyone from reaching inside. Having a dog of any size and breed is an excellent deterrent for burglars. Obedience training can teach your pet to react to intruders.

Install a home security system

Alarm systems are one of the most effective ways to protect your home. Even security signs outside your home showing you have a system installed can deter burglars. And if they break in, they’ll likely leave at the first sound of an alarm. Systems range from simple to fully loaded with 24/7 smart home capabilities and camera monitoring. Do your homework to find the best option for your home that fits within your budget.

Install security cameras in and around your home. With the increase of doorbell camera videos going viral online, home security cameras are becoming one of the biggest deterrents for porch pirates and thieves - no one wants to get caught AND go viral! While many security systems already include cameras, you can buy them separately. Cameras that connect to your phone are best for alerting you whether or not you’re home. When installing, consider placing exterior cameras where burglars can see them, which may be enough to put them off. Keeping interior cameras hidden is best so burglars can’t evade them.

It's also worth noting that many homeowners insurance providers are willing to offer a discount to policyholders that install security systems, so make sure to talk to your agent if you're considering (or already have) a security system. 

Inspect your doors

Before we talk about locks, let’s talk about the door itself. Good quality, strong door frames on your exterior doors are ideal. Adding a reinforcement plate and strike box to the door will help prevent forced entry home invasion tactics. If the hinges on your external doors face outside, reset them to be indoors to avoid attempts by a burglar to use a hinge pin.

As for the locks themselves, check the ones currently in your home while thinking like a burglar. Watch out for spring-latch locks that can be breached with just a credit card. You’ll want your exterior doors to have deadbolts without too much space between the door and doorframe, leaving room for burglars to use hacksaws, power tools, or wedges to force their way past deadbolts. If you find faulty, nonfunctional, or weak locks around your house, call a locksmith to replace them with something more secure.

For sliding glass doors, even an extra hard pull may be enough for someone to bypass the lock and come inside. Use a barrier bar and locking pins, a pipe the same length as the door track, plywood, or even a broom handle to reinforce the door on the door track.

Inspect your windows

First-floor windows are the most common way that burglars get inside of homes, so you’ll want to inspect them as entry points for burglars. Along with keeping your windows locked when they aren’t in use (including those in bathrooms and rooms you don’t use), take time to check their functionality as well. Window locks on older windows tend to be nonfunctional and must be replaced. If you have the opportunity, install burglar-resistant glass or glass with several small panes instead of one large area of glass that’s easy to break.

For double-hung windows where you can operate the upper and lower sash’s, window wedges and small rubber feet can prevent the windows from opening more than a few inches. For a permanent solution, consider pins and bolts or window dowels. You can also install contact window sensors to alert you of unexpected activity for extra security.

Add light and landscaping to the exterior of your home

The outside of your home can do more for you than add curb appeal. Good lighting and intentional lawn maintenance can nip some property crimes in the bud.

Because dark and shadowy areas are excellent places to move undetected, light is a criminal’s worst nightmare. Using yard, porch, and deck lights, strategically light your front, back, and side doors and windows.

Motion-activated lights conserve energy and can draw your or a neighbor’s attention to movement. Infrared motion detectors are triggered by heat rather than movement alone, which can capture burglars skilled in avoiding basic sensor lights by moving slowly or being outside of the light’s range. Make sure your motion sensor is set to the correct sensitivity to avoid constant detection of pests or wildlife, desensitizing you from checking for criminals.

Keep hedges and bushes trimmed when landscaping to reduce the number of hiding places in your lawn. Trees that give access to the upper floors of your home should stay trimmed, and you can add cameras or reinforced windows and terraces to secure the area as well. Furthermore, a well-kept yard lets people know that the home is regularly occupied. 

Secure your garage and sheds

You may not live in your garage or shed, but that doesn’t mean they should be neglected when it comes to security! Not only are attached garages an access point to your home, garages and sheds are places where valuables, like tools and furniture, are stored.

In addition to always keeping the doors closed and locked, try frosting or covering the windows of these locations to prevent burglars from scoping out what’s inside or seeing if your car is gone and your house is empty. A peephole in the garage door separating the house and garage can allow you to look inside without opening the door if you hear a suspicious sound. You’ll also want to ensure your garage door opener is left in a secure location and only given to people you trust.

Home security for when you’re on vacation

Even with the best security, it’s no surprise that burglars are attracted to an empty house. When you’re on vacation or away for an extended amount of time, the best thing you can do is make your home look lived in. Here are a few creative ways to make that happen.
  • Place lights, radios, and televisions on timers that follow a natural schedule.
  • Lower the volume of your landline phone so unanswered calls aren’t noticed.
  • Ask trusted neighbors to use your trash cans or driveway while you’re gone to make your home look lived in.
  • Stop your mail, so it doesn’t pile up, or ask your neighbors to retrieve it.
  • If your plans have been publicized online or in your community, consider hiring a house sitter. Even if this isn’t the case, giving trusted neighbors your contact info is a good idea, just in case anything happens.

Protect your valuables

Even with the best precautions, a persistent criminal may find their way into your home. If that happens, you’ll want to be able to protect everything the best you can. Now is a good time as any to create an inventory of your valuables.

Take photographs, document value, and get items appraised if needed. Then, keep these valuables in a safe or a well-hidden hiding place. Remember that mattresses, drawers, figurines, and behind pictures are very common, so you’ll want to find more obscure but secure locations like hidden tiles or custom, hollowed-out furniture.

You'll also want to keep up with your home inventory checklist for insurance purposes. This handy document will be important if you experience a loss of any kind, whether it's theft, weather, or a fire. 

How does homeowners insurance cover theft? 

As you may know, most homeowners insurance policies include protections for theft through the personal property coverage, or Coverage C. If a window or door is damaged during a break in, your dwelling coverage, or Coverage A, can pay to replace or repair the damage.

Your personal property coverage limit is a percentage of your dwelling coverage limit, but will have sublimits within that coverage. Sublimits are simply the maximum amount your policy will pay to cover certain items, like jewelry, fine art, computers, or firearms. 

It's always a good idea to review your policy or speak to your agent to understand your specific sublimits and your deductible. If you are concerned that you may not have enough coverage for your valuables, carriers often have additional options, such as raising sublimits.

Thieves don't just take your valuables - they can take your sense of security and peace of mind. Fortunately, by following these simple yet effective home security methods, you can deter criminals and prevent them from taking either. At the end of the day, those are perhaps the most valuable things for you and your family.  

Simple home security camera

For more information about how Germania can help you protect your belongings, request a free quote online or reach out to your local Authorized Agent today!

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Strategist at Germania Insurance.

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