Before you leave home, protect your home!
Julie Garton-Good, GRI

If you're like many Americans, the threat of having your home burglarized is a mounting concern. If you can't afford an alarm system, what other precautions can you take to protect your home?

Let's investigate some low-cost or no-cost steps you could take. Outside, make sure that all lights are in working order and that shrubs and bushes are cut away from view of the house. Patrolling police will need a clear line of vision to doors and windows in order to make their surveillance effective.

When you're away for more than an hour at a time, put several lights on timers as well as leave a radio on to give the appearance that someone is home. Leave your drapes open, particularly on upper floors that don't provide a full view of your home.

For extended trips, stop all expected deliveries, including the newspaper and have your mail held. Let at least one neighbor know that you'll be gone and that you'll not be expecting anyone to drop by. Many a thief has made off with an entire household posing as a moving or delivery person.

If you have a telephone answering machine, change the message from "we're not home" to "we can't come to the phone right now".

Double-check to make sure all doors and windows are securely locked, particularly hidden entrances like those from your garage into your home. Deadbolt locks are best and are most likely to cause a would-be burglar to move on to an easier target. Don't be foolish and leave a spare key near any door---if you can get it, so can a burglar.

Even the most secure home can't be completely protected. Move small valuables, such as jewelry, to a safe deposit box before you leave. Mark larger valuables with your driver's license number through the police department's property protection program. Itemize a list of home furnishings and valuables and place it in your safe deposit box. Or better yet, videotape your possessions and place the video in the safe deposit box. This serves as documentation should the property be stolen or destroyed.

Taking the time and the effort to help burglar-proof your home should not only result in increased safety, but in peace of mind as well.