Summer home safeguards

summer home safeguards
Summer home safeguards (infographic from crime prevention pamphlet

Did you know that the AAA estimates that there will be about 100 million Americans who will take a family vacation this year (  If you’re one of those millions planning a trip this summer, you’re likely stressing over your plans.  Some of that stress is certainly vacation planning, but some may be about leaving your home vacant for several or more days.  Besides planning your vacation, you should also plan to “summerize” your home by taking some summer home safeguards.

Just like winterizing a vacant home before winter, summerizing is safeguarding your home while your away on vacation.  And just like winterizing a home, summerizing is implementing a preventative plan to secure your home and possibly save a few dollars. Here are a few common knowledge ideas for summer home safeguards.

To save a few dollars, many homeowners adjust the HVAC thermostat while vacationing.  Some even turn off the HVAC system.  However, if you have a basement or cellar, consider adjusting the thermostat to a reasonable temperature (and/or use a dehumidifier) to prevent mold growth in a dark and potentially humid area of the home.

If your home will be vacant for an extended period, consider unplugging “zombie” appliances.  Zombie appliances are appliances that consume electricity even when they are not in use.  Many small appliances and internet connected appliances (such as your TV and other entertainment devices) are included in this category. 

One of the biggest concerns while away is the potential of returning to a waterlogged home.  A faulty valve or supply line can leak at any time.  If you’re away, you obviously can’t immediately respond to this scenario.  Although some home owners turn off the water at the main valve, this can interfere with a sprinkler system.  Most shut off specific valves to appliances and fixtures.  Some vacationing home owners also shut off outside water hose bibs to prevent others from using water at their expense.

Securing your home can deter burglars and pests.  Although it’s tempting to brag to your friends about your vacation, refrain from posting about your plans on social media.  Store your valuables in a safe, inconspicuous place.  If you don’t have a security system, consider installing a camera and lighting system that can alert you of unexpected activity.  An exterior camera and lighting system can be a major deterrent.  However, interior cameras can also alert you of a determined intruder so you can take appropriate action. 

To deter mice and other rodents from ransacking your home while you’re away, ensure that the home’s doors and windows are shut and secure.  Also, make sure the exterior dryer vent cover is closed.  Find and seal any holes where rodents can gain access your home. 

You may also want to employ some common some summer home safeguards strategies that make it appear as if you never went on vacation.  Connect a few lights to a timer to give the impression that someone is turning on lights at night.  Ask your neighbor or a friend to park in your driveway (or reserved space).  Although stopping the paper and mail while on vacation may seem clever, some home owners have a friend or neighbor pick up the daily paper and mail. 

One of the most common aspects of some summer home safeguards is having a trusted neighbor and/or friend occasionally check on the home.  They can ensure the home is secure, pick up any packages left at the door, and deal with any necessary maintenance (such as adjusting the thermostat).  Spreading this responsibility among multiple “guardians” can make it less of a burden and increase the frequency of “check-ins.”

Many local police departments offer a home security survey. Consider going through the survey to help with your planning.

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By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Protect your valuables when selling your home

Preparing your home sale is more than just deep cleaning, decluttering, and minor repairs. Prepare and plan how to protect your valuables during the sale.

protect your valuables
Protect Your Valuables when Selling Your Home (infographic from Elders Real Estate

I often write about preparing your home for a sale.  Of course, that preparation is to make your home sell quicker and get the best price.  However, preparing your home is more than just deep cleaning, decluttering, and minor repairs.  Preparing and planning how to protect your valuables will not only keep the prying eyes of nosey home buyers focused on your home’s spaces – it can also thwart would-be criminals.

Homes for sale are prime targets for thieves, and your home is not an exemption.  Don’t make it easy for them.  It may sound obvious – use common sense.  However, you’d be surprised how many home sellers don’t lock up their valuables.  In my many years of selling homes, I have seen how home sellers can be careless by leaving credit cards, cash, medications, and financial statements on counters and desks.  There was one instance where the owner left their gun cabinet open!

And theft doesn’t only occur during open houses.  Your possessions can go missing at any time.  Anyone can have “sticky fingers,” even rogue real estate agents (agents have been arrested for stealing from a listed home).  A Washington State agent was caught stealing prescription medications last year.  Another agent faced criminal charges for stealing jewelry.

Additionally, criminals take the opportunity of an open house (and even virtual tours) to stake out your home; only to strike at a later time. So think about laying out your expensive china just to stage your home.

Yes, thieves are looking for anything of value in your home.  Besides jewelry and cash, they will take anything they think they can personally use or sell.  Medications are a commodity to thieves; and anything with personal identification can be used in ID theft.

I am often asked, “Should I install surveillance cameras?”  A few years ago, a home with surveillance cameras was not typical.  Seeing the cameras often turned off home buyers because they felt “creeped out” and didn’t like the idea of being watched.  However, in today’s cyber-world, where surveillance cameras are nearly everywhere, surveillance cameras have become increasingly commonplace.  Before you go out and install cameras in your home, you need to understand the legal implications by consulting with an attorney or privacy legal expert.

Don’t just put away your jewelry and other items of importance, lock them up!  If you’re not one of the millions of home owners who has a safe or strongbox, there are other options such as storing items in other locations (safe deposit boxes; someone else’s home; and even a rented storage unit).

Burglar alarms are a mixed blessing.  Besides deterring crime, real estate agents often set them off; which can be a nuisance and possibly result in a fine for you (more info on false alarms and fines can be obtained from the Montgomery County Police False Alarm Reduction Section).

If you haven’t already deployed crime deterrents in and around your home, consider using interior and exterior lighting.  Exterior lights can help identify night time visitors, as well as possibly deterring would-be thieves.  Consider using timers or motion sensing lights.   Motion sensing lights will activate the light when people approach your home.

Would-be thieves casing your home look for easy entry points.  Lock up your ladders and secure your shed so as not giving criminals the tools to get inside.

And although you may be told that lockboxes are fool proof, only allowing agents in your home – it’s the user that is the weak link.  Careless agents sometimes leave doors unlocked or open, or do not fully close the lockbox, leaving the key free to be used by any passerby.

Your agent can be part of your protection plan.  Consider having your agent accompany all showings.  Additionally, have more than one person during an open house.  This can not only help protect your valuables, but the direct agent contact may be influential in your home sale.

For more information on protecting your valuables, check out Montgomery County Police’s brochure “Home Security, Safety Tips to Keep Your Home and Valuables Safe.”

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Copyright © Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Vacation home preparation

vacation home preparation
Vacation home preparation (infographic from Tower Hill Insurance

Summer vacation home preparation is much like preparing it for the winter or severe weather.  Much of the plan is conventional wisdom and incorporates penny pinching advice intended to prevent a potential hazard.  The goal is to anticipate and minimize problems while your away by safeguarding the home’s systems and implementing a security plan.

Many electrical items we use are considered to be “zombie” appliances; meaning they use electricity even when not in use.  Unplugging such items as the toaster, Keurig, and other small appliances that won’t be in use while you’re away will conserve energy (and may save you a few pennies).  More so, shut down (and unplug) your computers and printers to not just conserve energy, but to also thwart hackers while your away.

Some people play with their home’s thermostat to save some money.  The thought is that by setting the thermostat temperature much higher than usual, the air conditioner will not run as much (or at all).  However, if you have a basement or cellar, you might consider setting the thermostat temperature to a more reasonable temperature to prevent mold from growing in your dark and humid basement.

Some shut off the water to the house to prevent a water hazard.  However, shutting off valves at faucets, fixtures, or appliances may be a better plan if your home has a sprinkler system.  And to prevent someone taking advantage of your absence and wash a car or two in your driveway, you might also consider shutting off the valves to the exterior hose bibs.

Besides protecting your home’s systems, think about home security too!  First, refrain from posting your plans on social media.  Although you may want to inform your Facebook friends and Twitter followers of your itinerary, broadcasting vacation plans in such a way could also get the attention of a would be criminal looking for their next break-in.

Although storing your valuables in a safe place could minimize loss, consider implementing crime deterrents as well.  Installing motion activated lights on the home’s exterior may deter activity around the home at night; while electronic devices, such as the camera-doorbell, can notify you if there is any activity around the house during the day.

You may also consider implementing some common tactics to make it seem as if you never went on vacation.  Having a few lights on a timer will appear as if someone is turning lights on and off.  Besides having a neighbor pick up the mail and newspaper (many stop their paper and mail while they’re away), have them park in your driveway to make it seem as if someone is coming and going to and from the home.  Additionally, have a neighbor or friend check in on the home regularly to ensure it is secure.  Depending on the length of your vacation, they may drop in a few times, picking up any packages left at the door and adjusting the thermostat as necessary.

A summer vacation home preparation idea if your home is on the market – consider restricting showings to be by appointment only to ensure the house remains secure.  Talk to your agent about how to contact you in case of an emergency, your agent may check in on the home regularly too.  Don’t worry about missing out on a great offer on your home – if you will have email access, your agent can send you any offers and have you sign them electronically.

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Deterring and preventing home burglaries

by Dan Krell © 2009

Another sign of our troubled economy is the increase in incidents of crime. Unemployment and rising tensions can sometimes change behaviors in people who would otherwise be law abiding. Homes are being burgled by thieves who take what they can from garages, cars and homes; the thieves have also become brazen, as some have entered homes while the owners are inside.

Statistics reported by the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) indicate that a burglary occurs somewhere in the United States every 14.6 seconds. In about 84% of burglaries, the thief entered the victim’s home. Statistics from Pennsylvania indicated that 81% of break-ins occurred on the first floor; 34% of entries are through the front door. A Connecticut study reported that 12% of burglars entered through unlocked doors (

“Not to worry,” you say, you have a security system in your home. However, the NBFAA states that the security system is only part of the overall security plan. Home owners who rely solely on their security system for protection have higher incidents of break-ins than homeowners who use a combination of preventative measures and deterrents along with a security system.

Experts agree that burglars will spend about sixty seconds to break in to a home. If it takes longer than sixty seconds they move onto the next home; the longer it takes to break in, the higher the chance of being caught. Preventative measures will make it more difficult for someone to break into your home and increasing the chances of thwarting the criminal.

According to a pamphlet distributed by the Montgomery County Department of Police (“In Case of Burglary…Keeping Your Home and Family Safe”), the best way to protect your home and belongings is to secure your home. A simple way to begin securing your home is to lock your doors and windows. When you move into a new home, change the locks immediately. Keep ladders and tools out of site as burglars can use these items to get inside your home. Secure your shed and outbuildings with high quality locks.

Additional deterrents include interior and exterior lighting. A well lit exterior allows for easy identification of visitors as well as anyone attempting to break-in to your home. Motion sensors are often recommended so as to activate when people approach your home; these lights can also be set to activate when you are away. Having a monitored security system can be one of the most effective deterrents, but its efficacy is diminished if you do not activate the alarm.

If you plan to be away, security experts recommend identifying someone who can respond to emergencies that may occur in your home. Additional recommendations include stopping newspapers and mail service and having timed lights to give the appearance of someone occupying your home.

Many local police departments offer a free security survey of your home to help you identify areas in and around your home that are vulnerable to burglars. Security items often overlooked by home owners include: overgrown shrubs and trees that can offer burglars cover while attempting to break-in; unsecured sliding glass doors; unsecured garage doors; doors with inadequate locks and strike plates. Having your home surveyed doesn’t only increase crime deterrents, but it may also give you a little peace of mind.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of February 9, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell.

How Protected is your home?

by Dan Krell
© 2007

Have you thought about home security lately? According to the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (, a Temple University study indicated that homes without a security system are almost three times more likely (2.2 to 3.1 depending on value range of home) to be broken into than homes with a security system.

The study also indicated that 81% of the intrusions into residential properties occurred into the first floor. Of these first floor intrusions, 34% occurred through the front door, 23% occurred through a first floor window, 22% through the back door, 9% through a garage, and 4% through an unlocked entrance. In another study, 41% of homes with alarm systems were burglarized because the system was not activated.

If you haven’t noticed, security systems have changed significantly over the years. What were once unsightly additions of window tape, boxes and other equipment to protect your home are now cleverly designed apparatus that appear part of the décor or at the very least inconspicuous. Older systems needed to be hard wired, meaning that actual wires and connections were installed behind the walls and onto windows to create a circuit throughout your home; when the circuit was broken the alarm was activated to alert the police.

Some newer systems include closed circuit TV. Some systems even have CCTV that is activated by motion sensors and have thermal imaging capability. Some newer technology is being implemented to not only deter burglars, but to identify them for prosecution.

When older systems were activated, police were notified by loud alarms and/or monitoring stations. Monitoring stations were once only notified by alarms through telephone lines, however, internet technology has allowed security monitoring via broadband connections. Additionally, newer systems can not only notify police electronically, but can send you a notification to your work or cell phone.

Many new homes are pre-wired for sophisticated security systems. If your home is not pre-wired, it can be costly to install a hard wired system because technicians need to cut dry wall and feed wire through your home.

If your home is not pre-wired for a security system and/or you don’t want to spend a lot on the installation of the system – don’t worry. Home security systems have many wireless options. In fact, wireless systems offer flexibility that hard wired systems do not, such as mobile panic buttons that you can carry in your pocket.

If you are considering a security system here are some tips to get started: get at least three estimates and compare all the equipment that will be included; get a detailed list of equipment being installed; determine whether the estimate is a purchase or a lease; ask for credentials from the sales representative and the installation technician; find out if the monitoring company notifies you or the police first; get clarification on the warranty and what it actually covers; make sure the alarm system has adequate instructions and support; find out who is responsible for repairs or upgrades; make sure you have a telephone company approved alarm jack if the system is to be connected to line.

Although we are protected by one of the best police organizations in the country, having a home security system can add a layer of protection that gives you peace of mind.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of June 25, 2007. Copyright © 2007 Dan Krell.