Whether you’re going up to the cottage for the weekend or traveling abroad for an extended period of time, one of the most important things you have to consider is how to protect your home while you’re gone.
Make Your House Look Lived In
If you’re going to be away overnight or longer, set up automatic timers for both your interior and exterior lights. You don’t need to have all of them come on (as that would be a waste of both money and electricity), but if you can have at least one light come on that’s close to a window, it can make a significant difference in how lived in your home looks. It’s also good to set your porch light on a timer so that thieves feel more exposed when approaching the house at night (and will therefore be less likely to try anything).
If you’ll be leaving your car behind (or have more than one), you might want to ask a neighbour or friend who you trust to stop by every couple of days and move it (or them) around so it looks like they’re being used regularly. If you normally store your car in your garage, make sure it’s firmly locked and don’t store the key anywhere that it’ll be easy for thieves to find.
The number one giveaway that someone’s not home is the build up of mail that can collect outside the front door. While the easiest thing to do is call the post office to hold your mail and newspapers, it’s often easier (and safer) to have a neighbour come and collect it for you. This way, there’s visible activity at your house and any potential burglars might be deterred from trying anything if they know someone’s keeping an eye on your house.
Prevent Accidental Floods and Fires
This is less about burglar prevention and more about protecting the state of your home, but turn the water off if you’re going to be away for longer than a day or two and consider either shutting the power off completely or just unplugging all of your electronics (in case there’s a power surge and to minimize risk of accidental fire).
Keep your thermostat at a temperature that won’t run your energy bill up but will still keep your home liveable (depending on the time of year you’re away, you don’t want the pipes to freeze or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, for anything inside to overheat and possibly cause serious damage).
Make Sure Your Pets are Safe
If you have any pets that will be staying behind, make sure that the temperature you’ve set is comfortable for them and that your pet sitter has your spare key and understands exactly what other household tasks you might need taken care of (they can also be a good option to collect your mail, move your cars around, water your plants etc).
Make sure you secure any dog or cat doors prior to leaving as they’re an easy way into your home.
Secure Your House Prior to Leaving
Before you leave, hide or secure any valuables rather than leaving them in plain sight. If a burglar sees your big screen TV through your window, they’re more likely to pay special attention to your house. Secure or hide any jewelry, smaller electronics, or cash that might be lying around.
Be very careful about where you hide spare keys; a thief is just as likely to check in potted plants or under doormats as anyone else. It’s better to leave your spare key with a neighbour or friend who lives nearby, but if that’s not an option, make your key as difficult to find as possible.
Prior to leaving, don’t do anything to advertise your trip on social media. While it might be tempting to gloat about your upcoming week on the beach, you’ve just painted a giant red target over your property. Any potential thieves now have confirmation that you’ll be gone and know exactly what timeframe they have to work with. The same goes for your landline’s voicemail – don’t advertise the fact that you’re away/for how long.
Lastly, try to make your house as unappealing a target as possible. You want to do whatever you can to deter a thief from choosing your property. Get rid of high shrubs, bushes, or trees that might block your front door from street view. Thieves will look for houses where they can hide more easily. Take away anything they might be able to use for cover so they feel as exposed as possible. Make sure any ladders you might have are put away and secured so thieves can’t use them to try to access the roof/upper level windows (the same goes for tree branches that could allow access into your home).
And finally – invest in a good lock for both your front and back doors. They’re your first line of defence, and the harder it is to get past them, the better.