As the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to become distracted by the anticipation of a well-deserved holiday, but don’t let this blind you to the risks of leaving your home unprotected. Criminal activity increases during the holidays, so it’s important to take precautions before you leave, in order to help keep your home and belongings secure while you’re away, Mike Greeff, CEO of Christie’s International Real Estate offers the following tips.
The most effective tool you could invest in is a home monitoring system,” says Greeff. “The peace of mind is well worth the financial outlay,” he adds. Consider cameras linked to beams on the exterior, which can be monitored offsite – you simply use an app to view live video of your property at any given time, on your smartphone, from anywhere in the world. You can set your alarm, or disarm it. You can open and close gates for a gardener or pool service, for example, and most importantly, live video playback allows you to see whether your beams have been activated by a swinging squirrel or a dangerous intruder. Video footage is also useful evidence for successful arrest and prosecution.
- Test your alarm system and cameras before you leave to ensure that all connections in all the zones are operational.
- Inspect the perimeter of your home and mend any holes in your fences.
- Make sure to advertise your security systems and armed response. Place signage in areas of high visibility.
- Your valuables should be locked away in a safe or hidden in an ordinary container in an unusual spot within your home.
- Avoid hiding your spare key under a flowerpot or in any other place outside your home. The spare key should be given to a trusted neighbour for safekeeping.
- Sensor lights are vital – ensure yours are in working order or install some before you go.
- Disconnect your remote-control garaged doors and lock them manually to prevent the use of a universal remote to open them.
- Use timers to switch lights on and off at night to provide the impression that someone is at home every night.
- Cut back shrubs and bushes on the sidewalk outside your home and near the gates – these are perfect hiding places for criminals to stake out any comings and goings.
- Make sure that your insurance premiums are up to date and that your home is alarmed at all times when unoccupied. Your house sitter or neighbour must understand this in no uncertain terms, since many insurance policies will not cover you for theft if the property was not alarmed at the time of the robbery.
- Employ a trustworthy house sitter
- While you are away, it’s important that your house does not appear unoccupied. A house sitter is the obvious option. If this is not possible, provide your neighbour with a set of keys and instructions to open up for regular cleaners, gardeners, a pool service or any other usual maintenance you hire. Ask the house sitter or neighbour to clear your post-box daily and put out your dustbins on collection day; criminals tend to stake out potential targets and fundamental changes to usual routines signal that premises are unoccupied.
- Provide a clear and thorough checklist of procedures for your house sitter or neighbour. This should include how to arm and disarm your alarm.
- Specify the location of the electrical box and mains switch.
- Point out the location of your property’s water mains stopcock in case of a burst pipe. Indicate the location/s of manholes in case plumbers need to unblock overflowing drains or sewers.
- Ensure you have your insurance provider’s contact numbers in your possession as well as your policy details.
- Don’t be tempted to shout about your holiday on social media.
- You can rave about your trip as much as you like when you return home, but before and during the holiday, it’s safer to maintain a low profile. Check your online privacy settings as well as the contact information you have loaded – ensure that your physical address is not visible to anyone online. To this end, delete previous posts, invitations or event announcements that may include your phone number and address. It’s quite possible to do an online search which can link your address to your phone number.