Moving into a new home, there are a million different things to worry about. Even if security is one of the last things on your mind, it should be among the first things you do when you get to the new house. Your new home may be beautiful, cozy, and ready to be unpacked into but you also need to remember that crime doesn’t stop just because it’s move-in day. From professional burglars to opportunistic neighborhood teenagers to previous owners who still have a key, your first concern should be making sure that your home, possessions, and family are safe from any local criminal elements. No matter how nice the neighborhood is.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a thorough run-down of how to secure a new home from day one. In fact, you can begin before the moving truck even arrives.
Change the Locks
The very thing every new homeowner should do is change the locks. The previous owner may have said that they gave you every copy, but even they might not know how many of their friends and relatives still have a key to the house. If they never bothered to change the locks, there’s even a possibility that people two homeowners ago might be able to gain access.
While you might be perfectly happy to host previous residents revisiting their old neighborhood, no doubt you’d prefer if they knock and ask permission to come in first. As a plus, this is your chance to pick some beautiful new door handles and deadbolts for your home or even install one of the new smart-home compatible electronic locks.
Check the Window Latches
Windows are supposed to lock with a sliding or turning latch, but not all of them do. Older windows may have warped so that their latches no longer work, latches may have been broken off, or there might even be older windows with no latches at all. Do a full check of all windows in the house and make sure they both latch and cannot be opened from the outside. Watch out for latches that feel loose when you close them. This could be an indication that the mechanism isn’t actually latching.
Look for Signs of Rot and Wear
Rot is one of the biggest security risks in any home, especially one made primarily out of wood and drywall. A rotted timber exterior door becomes soft and easy to use a crowbar on to pry open and a rotted doorframe is worse. Both allow a burglar to simply scrape softened wood away from the metal latches to get the door open.
Rot around windows is equally problematic and can usually be seen in the window frame or sill. You should also check the structure of the windows themselves, as the glass settings and pane dividers are often also made of wood that can rot, soften, and create an easier access for criminals.
Inspect the Garage Door
Like windows, your garage door is something that is supposed to be impossible to open once closed, but isn’t always. Older garages may still be designed so that it’s easy to pull them open and closed without automation. To check, close your garage, then go outside and try to open it. If you can’t budge it, your garage is safe. If the garage does open with a tug, go inside and see if there’s a latch on the bottom of the door that needs to be closed. If there’s no latch, consider installing one or upgrading the garage door.
Replace, Repair, or Reinforce
After your thorough inspection of doors, windows, and garage, don’t hesitate to fix any security problems you’ve noticed. If something is mostly secure, think of ways to reinforce it like with a stronger security strike plate on the doors or new latches for the windows. If something is broken, repair the piece or find a replacement. If a door, window, or frame really is rotted through, you may need to plan for new parts and reinstallation. Leaving your home less than secure should not be a long-term option.
Consider a Home Security System
Home security systems are all the rage and are becoming more affordable as the home automation industry rapidly changes. You can go for a fancy traditional home system or build your own with a combination of modern smart devices. There are wifi door and window sensors that can be easily installed, wifi cameras that don’t need to be connected with long cables, and you can run it all from a variety of home security mobile apps. Home security has never been so easy.
Eliminate Hiding Places
Now that we’ve covered the security basics of securing your apertures and monitoring possible entrances, let’s start thinking like a burglar and taking more clever preventative steps. The first thing to do out in your yard and driveway is eliminate hiding places. These could be trash cans, pushes, boxes stacked outside, or anything else that a burglar might hide behind as they sneak up to your house to avoid being detected. Keep your lawn and driveway clear of anything big enough to hide even half a person to make your home much less appealing to even approach.
Light the Exterior
Of course, the second half of deterring the approach of a burglar or local hooligan is lighting. Everyone knows criminals hate bright lights, and not just in old-fashioned cop interrogations. Being illuminated is a great way to be spotted by a neighbor and reported so don’t be shy about a few lights on the exterior of your home. If you do have some landscaping or driveway features that could be use as cover, point a light right at them at night to eliminate their usefulness to would-be burglars.
As a bonus tip for keeping burglars away from your home, consider planting rose bushes or something equally thorny and attractive under the windows of your home. This will make it much more difficult for burglars to sidle up to the house and sneak through an open (or broken) window.
Put Up a Security Sign
Whether or not you have a home security system, put up a sign that suggests that you do. It doesn’t matter which sign you use as long as it clearly indicates that you have a real home security system. In many cases, a burglar would rather take their chances on a home that doesn’t boast a security system and they won’t gamble on the off-chance that you’re bluffing.
Touch Up Your House Numbers
Make sure your house numbers are incredibly visible from the road and easy to identify as belonging to your house. Put them on the curb, on your mailbox, and consider another set for above or beside the door. While burglars are not inherently afraid of house numbers, it will help the police and emergency services find your home just in case you have a need to call them.
Meet the Neighbors
Getting to know your neighbors is falling out of fashion but from a security standpoint, it can’t be beat. These are other people who share an interest in eliminating crime in the neighborhood and who may be home or awake at times when you are not. Simply say hello, let them know which house you’re in and have a friendly chat about being new to the neighborhood. You may be able to get some pointers on what to expect from the utilities, the HOA, or the best grocery store in the area. Then mention that you’re interested in neighborhood security and that you’d be happy to keep an eye out if they’d return the favor. Friendly neighbors can also be relied on to keep an eye on your house when you go on vacation.
Perform a Mock Burglary
When you think you have all your bases covered, challenge yourself and your family to find ways to break into the house. Perform a mock burglary on your own home to identify any security weaknesses on the property. Try every window and door, check for unlocked gates, backyard sheds, and don’t forget to look for any valuable objects that could be taken without even getting into the home.
Agree on Household Security Policies
Of course, the security hardware in your home only works if you and the family use it. Get everyone together and agree on a list of policies that everyone can help to maintain during your day-to-day. This should include rules about when to lock the doors, closing and latching windows, how to lock up at night. Make sure that everyone who might leave the house on their own has a key and find an unusual place to hide your spare key that everyone can get to just in case. When good security measures become part of your family routine, you can be confident that your doors and windows are locked when it matters.
Build a Plan for Emergencies
Finally, just in case something does happen, the best way to keep your family safe is to already know what you would do in that situation. Talk to your family about how to deal with situations like suspecting an intruder in the house. You may want to collaborate with a friendly neighbor who is willing to offer a safe place to wait for the polices after a call or for your children to run to in an emergency.
No matter how hectic your move-in process is or how excited you are about the new house, never forget that security comes first. Consider bringing a new set of locks on the first day and start the ball rolling on any repairs if necessary. For more great first-time homeowner tips, advice, and best practices, please contact me today!