Palm Beach is at its height in the real estate market from January through May, and for many obvious reasons – not the least of which is the gorgeous weather we get during the winter months. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to live here?
As a result, people want to sell their houses. Recently, I was asked a great question by a seller client: What if my home is broken into while it’s listed?
So here’s my very best advice for home security while you’re on the market, open to the public, and most vulnerable to crime.
1. Hide Your Lockbox
If you are not at the home and it’s vacant, please do not have your Realtor put your lockbox on the front door. It will draw attention to an empty home. Put it on the side of your house, where it’s less conspicuous and less obvious. (Your Realtor should have thought of this…it’s a rookie move. Upgrade your Realtor, and Hire us instead.)
2. Maintain Your Property
Don’t allow your bushes or yard to become overgrown. If the home looks unkempt, it looks abandoned. And if if looks abandoned, well…it’s a target for criminal activity. Further, mail at the door or newspaper left in the driveway is a clear sign that no one is living there. Have a neighbor pick it up, or place the service on hold.
3. Keep the Lights On
Thieves don’t like lighting. Put in dusk-to-dawn lights to help deter criminals. They are inexpensive and easy to install. No need to put all your lights on inside; that could be a sign that you’re not there. Instead, leave one or two bedroom or living room lights on, so it looks as if someone is inside.
4. Invest in Good Locks
Know the difference between a single cylinder lock and a double cylinder lock. Simply put – the double cylinder lock is much more secure. Also, double-check that your door jam is installed correctly, and won’t budge. Doors that swing open inside the home are particularly vulnerable to break-ins, because a desperate thief could break in by kicking the door hard enough to bust through a weak door jam.
5. Lock The Doors
Yes, I have to say that. A recent FBI crime report showed that 30% of burglars access the home through an unlocked door or window. Of the doors that were accessed, statistics show that 34% of break-use occur at the front door, and 22% of burglars use the back door. That makes sense – someone accessing a house looks more suspicious when doing so from the back, rather than the front. Lock your doors, period.
6. Get a Home Security System or a Siren
Burglars can get in and out in five minutes. The best option is to invest in a security system at a monthly fee. But if you cannot afford that, at the very lest, install a door siren, and display security stickers on your windows and yard signs that advertise to the world that you have a system, even if you don’t.
7. Surveillance Cameras
If you can afford to do this, it’s worth it! Ring is a device that works with the doorbell and records the person at the front door. When Los Angeles encouraged homeowners to invest in security cameras, burglaries were reduced by 55% in the first year. You can purchase this for $199, and it’s well worth it. Nest also makes some great wi-fi enabled security cameras.
8. Put It Away
Put all of your jewelry, guns and personal belongings in a safe, or better yet, remove them from the property altogether when you have your home listed and open to the public for showings. You don’t want an expensive piece of jewelry or gun to go missing, and unfortunately, it happens all the time.
9. Mark Your Valuables and Record Them
If you can’t remove certain valuables from your home (maybe it’s too cumbersome to move, for example) then at least log them. Take photos, and record vital information like serial numbers and visual descriptions, and store the files somewhere in the “cloud” (iCloud, or Dropbox). In fact, its a good idea to do this anyway, as insurance companies often deny a homeowner’s claim due to burglary or theft because the homeowner didn’t have any record or description of the items stolen.
10. Assess Your Home’s Vulnerabilities
Take an overall, honest assessment. Walk on the sidewalk in front of your house, and walk around your house. Are your fences and gates locked and tight? How about the garage, or the shed? Try to determine your weak spots. Look at your home from a stranger’s eye. Ask yourself: How would I get in if I was locked out? See the vulnerabilities from a burglar’s perspective. If you don’t find them, they might.