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.

Big brother is watching – surveillance cameras in home listings


Surveillance technology is everywhere these days; some are obvious and others covert. A growing awareness of government and law enforcement surveillance has become a major aspect of the growing debate of “reasonable expectation of privacy.” However, in a time when many are pushing back against surveillance, home sellers are increasingly turning to video cameras to protect their homes, valuables, and trust. And as the technology becomes cheaper and easier to use, the trend could become the norm.

The thought of the home seller remotely viewing your activity may seem creepy at some level; however, you might reconsider if you caught the recent ABC’s 20/20 segment “Caught on Tape: Real Estate Agents Gone Wild.”   Highlighted were real estate agents who were caught on camera violating the trust of the seller; including: a Maryland real estate agent who was caught rummaging through a woman’s underwear drawer; the New Jersey agents who used their listing as a rendezvous point for sex; and a number of other agents caught stealing jewelry and prescription medicines from trusting home sellers. Real estate broker and author Brendon DeSimone, who was interviewed about how to protect your home during the listing period, suggested that the video camera can help you keep your agent honest; he stated: “just ‘cause they’ve done a lot of deals, it doesn’t mean they’re trustworthy.”

According to a infographic (The History of Video Security Cameras), the idea of “video monitoring” was first widely spread with the 1949 publication of George Orwell’s “1984.” Two years later, the first tape video recorder is operational. Since then, there have been mega leaps in technology making cameras smaller and easier to use. It wasn’t until 1992 when the “nanny cam” was introduced; before then, surveillance cameras were primarily used for law enforcement purposes and commercial applications. The “IP” enabled camera with onboard video analytics was introduced in 2005 as the internet technology and usage greatly expanded. Today, surveillance cameras can be placed almost anywhere and watched from any remote location.

Don’t get carried away with your voyeurism just yet; there are legal implications when using surveillance cameras, as well as possibly interfering with your negotiations. Rather than using the cameras for protection, there are some home sellers who are tempted to use the videos as a way of understanding the buyer by analyzing their gestures.

Does a home buyer have a reasonable expectation of privacy when viewing your home? After all, many sellers vacate the house so the buyer and their agent can view the home on their own; although sometimes they are escorted by the listing agent. Even though there has yet to be some ruling or professional opinion from a real estate board about the matter; an increasing number of home sellers are using obvious and observable cameras to monitor their homes. Aside from the “broker blooper reel” that was put together for 20/20, it seems as if the cameras have helped some home sellers go after rogue real estate agents.

For most people, a notice indicating they are being video recorded is enough to alter their behavior; sometimes a notice is enough to deter theft. However, there are some whose bad behavior is not deterred, even when looking directly at a camera. If you’re considering using surveillance cameras in your home during the listing period, you should consult an attorney about legal implications.

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By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2014

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.

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.