Winter is Coming: How to Keep Your Home Secure During the Holidays

Jennifer Riner, Trulia
Winter is Coming: How to Keep Your Home Secure During the Holidays

Home cooked family meals, ample presents, and snuggling by the fire are a few of the enticing activities associated with the holidays. But, a less attractive aspect of the joyous winter season often goes ignored: burglaries and break-ins. Unfortunately, criminals use the holiday season to take advantage of traveling, dining and shopping homeowners at higher rates this time of year. Per FBI data, approximately 400,000 burglaries are committed throughout the United States between November and December.

Homeowners and renters can still partake in winter merriments but are wise to prepare themselves for worst-case scenarios. Employing the proper home security tactics keeps you, your family and personal belongings – including those pricey presents – safe and sound.   

Security Prep Before You Move

If moving to a new city like San Francisco, Boston or New York, understand your new environment. Crime tends to be higher in the city due to population density, among other factors. Go around your new building and introduce yourself to other tenants, condo or co-op owners. If you live in a townhome or single-family property, join a club or committee popular within your area. Neighbors are far more likely to report an incident when they know you personally and can spot an unfamiliar intruder.

Whether moving to a high-rise or single-family home, consider a comprehensive security system that includes door and window sensors, motion sensors and an audible alarm. Single-family homeowners with yards may also consider exterior motion activated lights to signal strange actions around the property. Ample lighting, both inside and outside of the property, acts as a major deterrent for criminals attempting to move about undetected.

Modern security systems include the above and more. Smart home technology links to your mobile device and provides remote camera access. Although unrelated to forceful entry, look for a security system that contains carbon monoxide and smoke alerts for when you’re out and about. As a bonus, high-end security systems can pay you back when it comes time to sell. Smart homes with extensive safety features stand out to buyers – particularly families. Renters, on the other hand, should invest in movable wireless security systems that don’t require major installation. Lessees can also purchase deadbolts and setscrews (to secure door hinges) upon their landlords’ consent.

Maintaining a Safe Home for the Long-Term

The most important part of staying safe is staying smart. No matter where you live, never let a stranger into your home – no matter how compelling their story sounds. Thieves often scope out properties by disguising themselves as charitable solicitors, especially during the holiday season when individuals are more likely to give back. Always ask for identification or a card to verify the individual works directly with the charitable organization they claim to represent. No matter the cause, do not let anyone you don’t know first-hand into your home. If you don’t want to be bothered or already volunteer or donate in your spare time, fix a no soliciting sign at your front door.

In addition, keep your vacation plans off social media. Post your picturesque mountainside images and faraway family get-togethers after returning home. You never know who might be keeping tabs on your whereabouts to benefit from your absence. As a rule, set all personal social media profiles to private and only accept friend or follow requests from people you know.

If you’re taking a long trip to a second home, be stealth. Ask a neighbor to come by and check on your home, water the plants and keep the home looking lived-in while you’re away. Put your valuables away or take small goods with you. Pack up the car in the garage, if possible. Set home automation lights, accessible via your phone, to make the home appear occupied, even when empty.

The holidays should be filled with cheer. Don’t let the season be spoiled by making your home vulnerable to criminals. And, never forget the rule of karma. Keep an eye out for your neighbors and they are likely to return the favor when you need it most.