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How to Keep Your Home Safe When You’re on Holiday

In New Zealand, around 300,000 burglaries happen every year. Of that, less than 10% are solved. Take a few simple steps to make your home unattractive to potential burglars. Make sure you come home to all your possessions intact after a holiday.

Keep your home safe everyday…

There are a number of things you can do to make your home less likely to be a target of burglaries. Burglars look for unattended properties that have easy access, are hidden from the street, with good escape routes. Your job is to make all these things as difficult as possible.

In NZ, the most burglaries happen on Saturday, then Sunday and then Fridays. Contrary to popular belief, it’s usually during the day between 11am and 4pm. Most of these are crimes of opportunity- an offender is walking past, sees an open window and takes advantage.

Whether you are going away for a month or just nipping down to the shops, there are some simple steps you should take to keep your home safe.

Keep shrubs and bushes trimmed so that your home can be seen from the street and there are less hiding places around your section. Even around your driveway and front path, it’s wise to trim plants back. Lock garden sheds and garages, and always put away ladders and tools- burglars may use your own possessions to break into your home.

Deter burglars with visible security cameras, stickers from security companies indicating the property is monitored, and motion-sensor lighting. It’s surprising how many people have a home security system but never use it. If you have one, make sure you use it. If you don’t have one, investigate getting one installed. There are systems that monitor when windows and doors are opened, which may be all you need. Potential burglars will be put off by the presence of security cameras. Even fake cameras are very effective. You can buy a range of security cameras online for reasonable prices, from simple 24/7 black and white through to high definition motion sensor colour cameras.

Lock all doors and windows. More burglaries happen in summer when you are more likely to leave windows ajar. Further to this, install locks on windows and dead bolts on doors. You can install stays on windows so that you can leave them open but still have them locked tight.

Finally, take photos of your valuables and possessions, alongside their receipts and warranties (this is great for insurance purposes too). This includes things like bicycles and tools. You can even register your tools online at SNAP. Mark your assets by etching your driver’s licence number on it. This makes it far harder to dispose of. Contact your local neighbourhood watch group as they will supply you with a sticker indicating your contents are marked.

…And when you go on holiday

When you’re going on holiday, there are extra precautions to take.

Put a hold on your mail and newspaper. A full mailbox is a sign of an unattended house. Before you leave, put valuables out of sight- electronics, jewellery and other small portable items are to be tucked away in drawers and cupboards. Then go around the house and make sure all windows and doors are shut and securely locked. Tidy up outside and put away anything that could be easily stolen (it’s surprising and annoying how often one chair from an outdoor set is stolen). Make sure your home and contents insurance is up to date. This can be a good time to evaluate whether you have the right amount of protection. AMI Insurance offer a handy online quote.

Don’t leave your home unattended

If you are comfortable with it, getting a house sitter to live in your home is the best solution. If you have pets, this means they won’t have to go to a cattery or kennel. Your plants get watered, mail collected, and the house looks lived in. Even if you don’t have pets, a house sitter is a great option to keep your house safe.

Don’t advertise your absence

If you don’t have a house sitter, the next-best-thing is a daily visitor, often a neighbour. Get them to clear the mail, turn lights off and on, close curtains at night, park their car in your driveway, and maybe even hang their washing on your line some days. If you’re away for a few weeks, make sure someone mows your lawns and keeps the gardens tidy.

On social media, don’t publicise your absence. Be careful about who you tell you’re going on holiday- and who might overhear.

If you can, set up your home lights with timers (and even your TV, turned up) or install a smart home system so you can control the appearance of someone being in the house. If you have a home phone, have the ringer turned down or go straight to answerphone so that no-one can hear the phone ringing unanswered. Also, don’t change your answerphone message to say when you’ll be back or what times you are home.

These might be very simple things to do, but they are effective in deterring burglars and other undesirables. You can go on holiday knowing your home is safe, secure and you’ll return home to the house just as you left it.