Buying your first home is an occasion worth celebrating. But before you get caught up in decorating and planning that housewarming party, it’s important to make certain your new home is secure.
New homeowners are especially vulnerable to security risks, as they are just beginning to learn about their new home and neighborhood. Get a head start with these 10 home security tips for first-time buyers from experts in the home security field.
1. Assess the security situation before you buy.
Aim to be an informed resident of your neighborhood before even moving in. Chris McGoey, president of McGoey Security Consulting, suggests to those still in the house-hunting phase to try to move into the best ZIP code you can afford.
“Neighborhoods with single-family homes usually have lower crime rates, while high-density housing areas with many rental apartments usually have higher crime rates,” he adds.
2. Take your neighborhood for a test drive.
Drive around the neighborhood during the day and at night, suggests David DeMille, online manager of A Secure Life. This allows you to gauge the happenings of your new neighborhood at different times of the day and week.
DeMille also advises new homeowners to get a feel for the day-to-day chatter on Nextdoor, a social network for neighborhoods.
3. Do your research.
SafeWise’s community safety consultant Sarah Brown suggests researching the area’s crime rates – for both property and violent crimes.
“You should also consider neighborhood watch programs and other city initiatives that may increase the safety of the neighborhood,” Brown notes, as even the safest neighborhoods are not immune to crime.
4. Meet your neighbors.
New homeowners should get acquainted with their neighborhood and neighbors, says Ralph Goodman, a lock and security expert with United Locksmith. Talking to your neighbors about neighborhood crime and safety will provide a sense of the kinds of security precautions needed in your home.
Getting to know your neighbors also leads to an increased awareness of trends in criminal behavior in your neighborhood, thus reducing the risk of being a victim, according to Chris LaNasa, director of product marketing for Vivint Smart Home.
Brown agrees, and adds: “New homeowners should meet their neighbors and then immediately get involved in neighborhood watch programs.”
McGoey even suggests considering turning one of your neighborhood watch meetings into a game – collectively assessing how neighbors might burglarize each other’s homes.
“It’s surprising how quickly they will spot your security flaws and bad habits, like leaving your garage door open,” he says.
5. Perform a home security audit.
After you’ve moved into your new home, DeMille advises homeowners to inspect all of the home’s entry points and identify any outdated or malfunctioning locks.
LaNasa recommends considering electronic door locks as you update your new home’s locks. “They give you the option to assign personalized key codes to others, allowing you to track the people going in and out of your home,” he says.
Goodman suggests specifically looking at locks to windows and rear doors, as well as your exterior and garage lights.
And don’t forget to re-code your garage door opener, reminds McGoey.
Brown echoes the need for a thorough home audit, cautioning new homeowners that many break-ins are by people who have had a chance to scope out your home.
“If you haven’t had a chance to find your weak spots, someone else will do it for you,” Brown warns.
6. Identify your local emergency services.
Once you’re aware of the kinds of crimes that occur in your area, Goodman advises new homeowners to then determine the proximity of emergency services to your neighborhood – and then work this information into your security and safety plans.
Furthermore, after neighborhood watch members are trained on what to do when suspicious activity is seen, they should know who to contact and what information should be provided when reporting crimes to authorities, LaNasa says.
7. Focus on prevention.
Even if you decide not to get a home security system, you can still address home security issues.
DeMille warns against showcasing valuables through open curtains and discarded packaging on the street. And McGoey suggests adding secondary blocking devices to sliding glass windows and doors so they can’t be easily forced open.
Additionally, LaNasa recommends securing your garage. “If a garage door is left open when you leave the house, your belongings and family become vulnerable,” he says.
He advises new homeowners to consider installing a garage door that can be controlled remotely via a smart home app. “If you find yourself second-guessing whether you actually closed the garage door when you left for the day, there’s no need to turn around,” notes LaNasa.
McGoey reminds first-time homeowners to be especially mindful of who enters your home, including service vendors, delivery persons, contractors, and even friends of your children.
“Once inside, they have a chance to look around for things worth stealing, and they can determine if your home security is real or fake,” he adds.
8. Shop around.
“The [home security] industry has a history of aggressive sales tactics, so it’s more important than ever to find a provider you feel comfortable working with that can offer advice and guidance without pushing a product,” says DeMille.
Assessing your family’s specific goals for a security system is key. “Are you looking to catch a burglar in real-time to contact police? You’ll probably want monitoring,” he says. DeMille also notes that those looking for a way to document evidence to provide to police may want a motion-sensing camera.
LaNasa favors a full smart home or security system, noting that they allow you to rely on cameras to keep an eye on your home’s surroundings and flag any unusual movement inside.
9. Don’t rule out DIY systems.
You can purchase a wireless alarm system without paying for installation or monthly monitoring. “If the alarm is activated, it triggers a loud siren, which is good enough to scare most burglars away,” McGoey notes.
He says the best part of any security system is the sign in the lawn advertising that you have a security system. “Many burglars will bypass your home due to the sign alone.”
10. Consider financial benefits.
Beyond the security benefits alone, a home security system also often bring you a home insurance discount of up to 10 percent. A reduced insurance rate is not a universal rule, however, and any possible deduction will vary by insurance provider, Goodman points out.
In addition to potential home insurance discounts, Goodman suggests taking into account that some home security systems help homeowners conserve energy costs, as they can be integrated with thermostats and outlets, and monitored remotely.
It’s all about preparedness
Ultimately, proper home security precautions stem from research and preventive actions. Take a critical look at your new neighborhood, home, and lifestyle to best determine your family’s specific security needs.
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