Owning a home can be full of rewards—just to get to the point of being able to buy a home and call it yours is an achievement in itself.
But with opportunity comes challenge, and thus, with a new home comes a host of other items of which you need to be mindful.
Atop the list is protection. To us, the home is our safe haven, but to shady outsiders, it’s a target—full of valuables or simply a roof and space out of the elements.
The only thing that might make your home even more of a target is making it obvious that you aren’t inside, and perhaps won’t be for a long time as is the case when you’ve purchased a new home and are in the process of selling, or undergoing a major rebuild, addition, or other renovation.
No matter the reason, there are a handful of procedures and safeguards to undertake in order to mitigate the risk of your vacant home being broken into.
How to Keep a Vacant House Safe
Here are a few tips on how to keep your vacant house safe.
Keep All Entryways Secure
When leaving an empty home, you might be tricked into a fall sense of “nobody is going to want to break into a house with nothing in it.” In reality, though, such thinking couldn’t be any further than the truth, with plenty of criminals targeting vacant properties.
Why? Well, remember the fact that it’s not cheap to build a home. Labor aside, the materials used to construct a house and make it pretty can be quite valuable, from flooring, countertops, piping, and more, a house can easily be rooted for sellable items.
So, yes, you need to keep all windows and doors locked just as if you were leaving your furnished and “living in” home to go to the grocery store. This includes garage door theft protection, side gates, and any other entry point.
Keep Neighbors in the Know
One of the most valuable assets a homeowner can have is a good neighbor. You’ve probably already experienced this one way or the other, either with a neighbor who couldn’t be bothered enough to say hello, or, more favorably, a neighbor who would go out of their way to let you know they were there if you ever needed anything.
When your house is vacant, there has never been an easier time for your helpful neighbor to keep a lookout. They know you’re gone, and outside of the realtor, there shouldn’t be anyone else lurking around. This might be a little more difficult if the house is vacant because it’s undergoing major construction, though.
Think About All Types of Protection
Don’t neglect the fact that protecting your home and its value extends to your yards and curbside appeal. Especially when attempting to sell the home, first impressions mean everything. Keeping a gardener employed and sprinklers on timer will help uphold attractive landscaping.
Not to mention that while it’s not possible to tell if a burglar is watching your home while you’re away, you can be sure that it won’t take much for someone to notice the maintained house on the corner is now being neglected.
Keep Surveillance & Alarms Running, If Possible
Sure, it might be an added cost to keep things like your alarm system running, but it’s certainly worth it to deter any breaking and entering.
While one of the cons of a video doorbell and similar device is the fact that they rely on wifi to be useful, you can keep your alarm system running by simply extending your power and alarm system subscription payments.
Really, when it comes to leaving your home vacant, it’s all about reducing signs you’re gone while erecting barriers to entry. Thus, the perfect storm – no pun intended – for a home intruder can come when they know the house is vacant AND power is knocked offline for whatever reason. How long an alarm lasts varies by supplier, but you can be sure alarms can’t run off backup power for extended periods of time, leaving more than a window for someone to break in.
Check Your Insurance Coverage
You’ll most likely need additional insurance protection to cover you from vandalism, theft, and more when your home is left vacant and unoccupied.
This aptly named Unoccupied and Vacant Home Insurance or Vacant Home Insurance does just that, as Farmers explains, “offers insurance options and features that can provide coverage for vacant property,” like “If you choose vandalism and malicious mischief coverage, it can help if someone intentionally damages your vacant home.”
You should also brush up on signs of forced entry, and what would happen in the event of someone breaking in without force
Double Down on Exterior Lighting
For most of us, having just enough lighting while occupying a home is generally all that matters. In fact, there are some people who shoot for as little exterior lighting as possible given how intrusive some bulbs and setups can be.
But when you’re away, you should go above and beyond in making sure every dark corner and main area is well lit, and to the point of scaring someone off who you don’t want around.
Home is Home, No Matter How Vacant
At the end of the day, while home is what you make it, the structure holds the value. Thus, your property needs to constantly be cared for with the goal of upholding as much of that value as possible.