No one wants to come back from a relaxing (and potentially expensive) holiday to find they’ve been burgled! Unluckily for my peace of mind, I’m one of those who gets super-paranoid when I’m away on holiday, constantly conjuring up visions of nasty thieves hiding in the bushes, ready to ransack the house the moment I step into my taxi bound for the airport. Sometimes I get so heartsick, I consider cancelling all my vacation plans and staying at home, armed with a angle grinder, ready to tackle my imaginary crooks.
For a while, I was fantasising about setting Home and Away-type traps for burglars: ingenious little snares like scattered marbles under a window, vuvuzelas triggered to blow non-stop all round the back door or garrotting wire set at knee height at the front door. However, there is the off-chance my landlord might decide to do a surprise stop by the house, therefore promptly severing his own leg when he walks in. I have a feeling that might end any possible chances of renewing my lease in the future.
Short of creating my own mini minefield right at the front door, though, I do have a few useful tips on keeping your home burglar-proof while you’re away. So read on… and no, no garrotting wire to be used in any of the below tips:
1) Have a house-sitter: Get a trusted friend or family member to house-sit for you while you’re away. The deal is they get a place to stay rent-free while you get a little piece of mind while on holiday, knowing someone is there, looking after your home.
However, if you can’t get anyone to house-sit for you…
2) Have a trusted friend, family member or neighbour check on your house once or twice a week. While they’re there, have them collect the mail, ensure that all doors and windows are secure and check for any plumbing or gas leakages or electricity shortages. If they’re willing, ask if they would also do a quick tidy-up of the garden or front doorstep to make the place look a little more lived-in while they’re there. As a thank you gift, treat them to a nice dinner or bottle of wine or a lovely present when you’re back.
3) However, friends and family do have busy lives so you could also take the option instead of hiring someone to weed the garden or mow the lawn while you’re away so it doesn’t look too overgrown – an obvious sign to burglars that no one’s been at home for a while.
4) Contact your local police or neighborhood watch to let them know you’ll be away and ask them to drop by and check on the place every now and then too.
5) Buy a couple of light timers from your local hardware store and set a couple of lamps to turn on and then off again each evening. This way, it looks as if someone’s at home and with light timers (and also energy-saving bulbs), you won’t come back to find a super-high electricity bill waiting for you.
6) If you already have an alarm system installed, don’t forget to make arrangements to have the security company contact a friend or neighbour while you’re away. That way, if something or someone inadvertently sets the alarm off, the security company is able to reach your friend though you’re away on holiday and potentially unreachable.
7) If you don’t have an alarm system, perhaps try checking with your local hardware store to see if any of the cheap DIY-installation alarm systems might be suitable for use while you’re away. If you’re also making plans to have someone check on your home while you’re away, don’t forget to let them know about the system too!
8) Make arrangements to have as much regular mail as possible stopped from coming to your home – e.g. bank statements, the regular paper round, bills, the milk round (does anyone still have milk delivered to their doorstep?). If you can, try going the paperless route and arrange to have items like bank statements and bills sent to you electronically. This could save you money as most institutions now charge a fee for mailing paper statements and bills – and this way you won’t have to worry about playing catch-up on bills when you’re back as you can access everything from your e-mail while on vacation!
9) If you don’t have home contents insurance, get it – right now! And if you already do have home insurance, it pays to give your insurance company a call to ensure your cover is all up to date and takes in all possible events – like storms, accidents, leakages and burglars.
10) Lock up your jewellery, laptops, stereos and other big-money items thieves go for – or arrange to have these valuables stored in the bank or at another friend or family member’s place while you’re away.
11) Check that all windows and doors are properly secured before you go away. Secure any loose shutters or locks; fix that screen or grill door that you’ve been meaning to.
12) Put your car away in your garage so observant lurkers won’t notice that your car has just been sitting outside an empty house for quite a while.
13) Door Décor! Most of us go away during big holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving or New Year. One way of creating the illusion that someone’s at home is to put a wreath or some other holiday-worthy decoration up on your front door. And if you’re feeling super crafty, pre-arrange a line-up of different decorations and simply have a friend pop over every now and then to switch the decoration on the door to give the illusion that one very nifty decorator is still at home!