It's only February, but not too soon to start thinking about your summer vacation plans. For many people that means relaxing, fun-filled trips away from everyday routines. But it can also mean being gone from your home for an extended period of time, which has one reader asking, "What are recommendations for the best way to safely and efficiently close down a home for several months at a time?"

Even if you live in a gated community, leaving your home vacant for an extended period of time can be a huge risk, a costly lesson and an emotional heartache. So the best way to close down a home is to make it look like it is being lived in daily, even though you're away.

Here are some security tips compiled from insurance companies, homeowners and law enforcement agencies.

Stop all deliveries such as mail and newspapers -- this is a very simple thing to do, but it is frequently overlooked by homeowners. When they're gone papers pile up indicating that no one has been home for a while.

Set indoor and outdoor lights and even TVs on timers to come on and light up rooms of your home and exterior surroundings. Nothing says nobody is home like a dark house. A television or radio that's set to come on periodically makes anyone lurking around think that someone is home.

Turn down the telephone ringer on your phone and the volume on your answering machine.

Unplug automatic garage door openers. Burglars can sometimes figure out the code and gain easy access to your home. Also lock any doors from the garage that give access to the house.

Do not close all the blinds, shutters of curtains, leaving them partially open gives an everyday-lived-in look.

If you have a willing neighbor, ask him to occasionally park in your driveway. Burglars will often survey a home at different times and on different days to study traffic patterns.

Keep your landscaped trimmed back. Overgrown trees and shrubs are not only a fire hazard but also a great hiding spot for burglars. While you're gone have a gardener maintain the landscape.

Install extra safety fastening devices on sliding doors, windows and other openings.

Use your security system. If you don't have one, buy one. A good security alarm system that is connected to a dispatch center usually will qualify you for a discount on your homeowner's insurance.

Put a "beware of dog" sign on your fence; even if you don't have a dog, this can be a good deterrent.

Never leave a key under the mat, in a nearby planter, etc. -- or any other common, well-known hiding places. Many burglars don't have to force entry into a home; instead they enter through open/unlocked doors and windows or even with a key, if it's left out for them!

The vital element to keeping your home burglar proof is making it as difficult as possible to break into. Burglars look for easy targets -- leaving a home unattended for a long period of time can put your house in the easy-target category. However, if you take precautions to secure your home before you leave, you'll have greater success keeping a burglar out of your house.

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Zachary's Avatar
Zachary replied the topic: #12021
We installed a high-tech alarm system in our home. Well worth the money spent for peace of mind.