Purchasing a vacation home comes with many perks.
Besides tax breaks and increased home equity, a second house diversifies your investment portfolio. However, a vacation home is more than just a monetary investment — it is a priceless space for you and your loved ones to escape and enjoy a few days of relaxation.
But a vacation home often sits empty many months out of the year. To keep your mountain cabin or beachside bungalow safe from home invasion, take a few steps to increase your property’s security while you’re away.
Tips for Keeping Your Second Home Secure
You might not think your home is a target for burglary. You don’t keep expensive heirlooms, antique jewels or stacks of cash on the property — it is just a quiet, simple vacation home.
However, almost every home has something of value to a thief. Grills, TVs and equipment like ATVs and Jet Skis could all put your property at risk for burglary.
Sometimes, the goal of a break-in isn’t theft. Instead, many home invaders target vacation homes as an easy space to squat unnoticed for a few months. These measures will not only protect your home against theft, but they will help deter potential squatters from breaking into your vacation house.
Here are nine tips to help you secure your second home against burglary or forced entry.
1. Install a Security System With Monitoring
One of the best ways to secure your second home against break-ins is to install a security system.
Besides traditional alarms, many modern security systems give you instant access through an app on your smartphone or computer. Not only do these updated services alert you instantly about any suspicious activity, but many also let you adjust the lighting and security of your home from miles away. Some systems even monitor and connect to other non-security elements, such as thermostat settings, carbon monoxide levels and locking or unlocking doors.
The best systems combine perimeter alarms and sensors, video surveillance, motion-sensor lights and 24/7 monitoring software. Here are some of the basic security and monitoring services to look for when installing a new system.
- Alarms: The basic feature of a security package is an effective alarm system, and different services offer different alarm types and placements. Alarms and sensors can be located around the perimeter of your property as well as on doors and windows.
- Security cameras: Video surveillance gives you visual data of your property and home’s entrances. Also, in the instance that your home is burglarized, you’ll have hard evidence to show the police.
- Motion-sensor lights: Motion-sensor lights illuminate the shadowed corners and pathways of your property. They can effectively deter approaching criminals — the sudden burst of light is often enough to startle burglars and keep them away from your home.
According to FBI crime statistics, homes without security systems are 300 percent more likely to be burglarized than homes with a security system. In addition to keeping your home safe from intruders, instant monitoring systems are useful if your vacation home is in the path of a storm, flood or fire — you can use your phone to quickly check for any damage during a natural disaster.
2. Hire a Property Manager
Another way to secure your second home is to hire a property manager. A property manager gives you local eyes to watch your property, and because of their proximity to your property, they can swiftly respond to any problems or suspicious activity.
Some property managers go farther than just supervising the outside of your property. If you want to rent your property out year-round, property managers can be your on-the-ground representative, monitoring renters and handling cleaning and maintenance crews. A property manager can examine the interior of your vacation home, checking lights and appliances to see if anything looks damaged or in need of replacement.
3. Notify the Police You’re Leaving
Let the local police force help you keep your vacation home safe. When you leave your vacation home, notify the local police department. Tell them how long you’ll be gone, and ask if they can periodically monitor your property while you’re away.
Many towns in the U.S. offer police checks on vacation homes, which ensures that an officer or volunteer will routinely monitor the perimeter of your property while your house is empty. However, some cities put a 30-day limit on the monitoring, which might not be long enough if you are absent from your vacation home most of the year.
Still, letting the police know that your home is empty is a wise choice. If your home is in a small town, an officer might drive by your property while on patrol. If anything suspicious is noticed by an officer or neighbor, the department will already know to investigate.
4. Hold Your Mail
When you vacate your vacation home, the last thing you want is to leave signs that point to an empty house.
Stacks of wet newspapers or yellow phone books in the front yard are clear indications that no one is home. To avoid an overflowing mailbox, ask the post office to hold your mail — the USPS will hold mail at the local post office for up to 30 days free of charge.
Another option is to arrange for a trusted neighbor or friend to pick up your mail and keep it for you. However, this is not practical if you are gone for the majority of the year — if your vacation home is empty for more than 30 days at a time, consider setting up a forwarding address. The post office will automatically forward all mail sent to your vacation home address to your primary residence, so you don’t leave a pile of unopened envelopes at your vacation home’s doorstep.
5. Leave Spare Keys With a Trusted Neighbor
If you are gone from your vacation home most of the year, one of the best ways to increase your property’s safety is to get to know your neighbors.
Building good relationships with your neighbors has clear social value, but it also can elevate your home’s security. Many vacation homes are in small, tight-knit communities. Neighbors are familiar with your property and casually pass or observe it on a daily basis. If anything looks damaged or disturbed, they can immediately notify you, your property manager or the police.
Close neighborhoods tend to experience fewer break-ins — strangers and suspicious activity stand out, and close neighbors are more likely to notice when something seems off.
Neighbors can also hold a spare key while you’re away. Ask a trustworthy neighbor if they would keep a key to your property and leave them your contact information — if you need to check something on your property, you can call and ask them to enter your home. They can also let the police into your house in the event of a break-in and can notify you if anything looks different or damaged.
Giving a neighbor a spare key increases the chance they’ll keep an eye on your property — they will likely feel an extra sense of responsibility.
6. Install Keyless Locks
For experienced burglars, traditional locks are easy to pick or bump, which leaves no trace of forced entry. If you leave spare keys hidden around your home, chances are they will be found — burglars are familiar with all the typical hiding places such as under doormats, potted plants or walkway stones.
Keyless locks increase your home’s security. Impervious to lock picking or bumping, keypad locks allow you to set and change entry codes whenever you want. Traditional locks get worn down over time, which makes them prone to malfunction.Because they don’t require the repeated friction of inserting and turning keys in a lock, keypads are highly durable.
Keyless locks are especially convenient if you rent out your vacation home while you’re away — instead of making and distributing copies of your keys to each tenant, you can simply set a new code for each new renter. This keeps your property secure and lets you manage your home’s settings from a distance.
7. Secure All Windows and Doors
While it might seem obvious, one of the best ways to deter crime from your house is to keep all windows and doors securely locked while you’re away.
Many vacation homes are broken into merely because the owners forgot to lock a window or door. Around 30 percent of all burglaries are unforced entries — first-floor windows are a favorite target, especially if an intruder could hide in vegetation close to the house.
Before you leave your vacation home, walk around the property and thoroughly inspect every door and window. Once you’re finished, double-check them — a window could have just been jammed, not locked. If your house has sliding glass doors, make sure to lock them using a security bar. Sliding doors can easily be popped off their tracks and re-inserted after a burglary, leaving no trace of a break-in.
Lock all pet doors and safely put away any ladders or other climbable equipment. Check basement and cellar doors to make sure they’re locked, and examine the doors to any external structures such as pool houses or garden sheds.
Besides locking your doors, consider reinforcing them to withstand forced break-ins. Many doors are built with half-inch nails or screws in the door plate, which makes it easy to kick down. Instead, replace them with 4-inch screws to ensure your door is almost impossible to force open. Deadbolt locks also help to secure doors against forced entry.
8. Install Outdoor Security Lighting
When trying to break into your home, burglars search for dark, shadowed areas of your property — places obscured from the view of the street or your neighbors.
Unfortunately, many homes have plenty of places to hide — beautiful landscaping may increase your curb appeal, but it can also create a natural screen of greenery. To reduce the chance of your home being seen as an easy target, install outdoor security lighting to illuminate the dark corners of your property.
Outdoor lighting around the back and side of your home helps spread light where it’s most needed. Instead of choosing one or two bright floodlights to illuminate your yard, go for several not-as-bright lights instead — steady and consistent lighting is more important than a few brightly lit areas. If you add security lighting to your property, make sure you avoid creating blind spots — areas where the lights don’t reach.
9. Make the Home Look Occupied
Burglars study patterns when looking for targets. A sudden change in the appearance of your home will quickly broadcast that you’re not at home, leaving your vacation getaway vulnerable to a break-in.
When you leave your vacation home, try to keep the routine as consistent as possible. This means creating the appearance of a lived-in home, and while it might require a little extra effort, it’s well worth the investment. Here are some fast, easy ways to make your second house look occupied while you’re away.
- Install light timers: Install timers to manage the lights on your property, both outside and inside your home. Many homeowners will leave a couple of lights on when they leave for a trip, but if you don’t already have a pattern of leaving lights on all night, the sudden change could alert burglars that your home is empty.
- Maintain landscaping: Keeping up your yard while you’re away helps your home look occupied and maintained. Consider hiring a landscaping service to keep your garden and lawn in good shape. A well-mowed yard and a weed-free garden suggest your home is lived-in and a poor target for a burglary.
- Don’t lower all the blinds: Many homeowners lower all the shades and draw the curtains when they leave home. However, unless you regularly close the blinds of your home, the suddenly dark windows can signal to potential criminals that your home is empty.
Also, make sure to leave any cars in a garage if possible. While a vehicle in the driveway may signal that someone is home, over time your vehicle will accumulate dirt and debris. A burglar will notice that the car is never moved, which indicates that your home is empty and vulnerable.
Choose Wayne Alarm Systems to Protect Your Vacation Home
Many homeowners don’t spend much time securing their vacation home until it’s too late. Don’t wait until a break-in happens to protect your property. If your getaway is located in the Massachusetts or New England area, Wayne Alarm Systems can help.
Wayne Alarm Systems has over 50 years of experience, and we take pride in our reputation of providing the best possible service. We offer a wide range of services, including security, communications, fire and access control systems. Our professional, five-Diamond certified staff offers 24/7 monitoring and complete residential security systems, so you can rest secure knowing your vacation home has the highest possible protection.
Wayne Alarm Systems is dedicated to keeping you and your property safe. Give your vacation home state-of-the-art protection — call us at 781-595-0000 or contact us online today to start securing your property.