Looking after your home while on holiday

Looking after your home while on holiday

If you are going on holiday and leaving your home unattended, you might have some concerns. As a former police officer and crime scene investigator (and of course someone who is around houses all the time), I’d like to help you keep your home safe these holidays.

Don’t advertise your absence

Think about how your home looks as someone is driving past:

  • Leaving your curtains pulled and lawn unmowed are clear signs to burglars that your home is vacant.
  • Clear debris from gutters, trim your lawn and hedges.
  • Leave curtains the way you would if you were home.

A friend or trusted neighbour may be invaluable. They can imitate all the things that normally change when you are at home by:

  • Checking on your property.
  • Taking letters away.
  • Opening and closing your curtains.
  • Turning your lights on and off and switching around which rooms are lit each night.
  • Don’t leave notes and signs on your door for the mailman. Have the post office hold your packages, and cancel your newspaper deliveries – or better yet, have the person you trust clear them away for you. Having packages delivered can help make it seem like you’re home.
  • When not on holiday, leave your garage door closed so you establish a pattern that won’t change once you’re away and your garage door is closed all the time.
  • Turn the ringer down on your phone so that it can’t be heard from outside the house.
  • Buy timers for your lights to turn them on at night and off during the day.
  • Cue sounds to play to create the impression that people are home.

Most importantly, tell as few people as possible that you will be away from home. Even if it’s just a social media post, break-ins usually happen when the culprit knows the house, what’s in it, and that nobody’s home.

Make it hard for the burglar

Burglars move on to another house if it’s hard to break into or avoid a house altogether if it looks like it will be difficult. Don’t make your house an obvious target and signal that you are a cautious home owner and that yours is a secure house.

  • Make sure you lock doors and windows securely.
  • Remove spare keys.
  • Leave entryways and windows clear of branches and shrubs.
  • Use lights activated by motion sensor so that attention is called to anyone moving around your house when you are not there.
  • Don’t leave ladders, tools and other things that might help someone break in lying around.
  • A thick, imposing door and strong locks make it seem like it’d be harder to break in.

Plan for the worst. Here are our hints for what to do just in case someone does try to break in or succeeds:

  • Check the batteries of your alarm system if you have one. Burglars flick off power at the mains so you need your batteries to work.
  • Make sure valuables are hidden or out of the house.
  • Clean surfaces to make it easier for fingerprints to be left.
  • Check with your insurance company – how long can you be absent before they stop covering you in case of burglary? Especially with houses you have for sale, does it have to look lived-in in order to be covered? You can use these same tips to imitate an occupied house in order to discourage burglars from a staged home.

Don’t forget!

  • Turn your water off to protect your house from potential water damage.
  • Turn down your water heater to save on bills.
  • Unplug your electronics and they’ll be safe from power surges.

You can hire a house-sitter if you want, especially if you have pets or a garden you want taken care of, but it can be hard to find someone you trust and who in turn has the time and inclination to look after your house. Instead, if you play it safe and prepare a little, you can go on your travels with peace of mind and have a great time enjoying yourself.

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