How to improve your home’s security

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When you first move into a new home, there’s often a chance that everything about that neighborhood is new to you.  Unless you’re just moving a few blocks away you’ll have all new neighbors, new traffic patterns, a new commute, new stores nearby, and you might find yourself having to rethink your security.

Sometimes having work done on your home, or just being a new resident can attract attention, and that often means updating your strategy.

Other reasons could be that a house near you has gone gone vacant, and been taken over by squatters, or you have a problematic neighbor, or perhaps some new shopping areas have popped up nearby and the increased foot traffic has brought you petty theft, lurkers, or vandalism. Maybe you’re just a proactive person.  Whatever it is, this is a quick guide to help you improve your home’s security, from many angles.

Fences

Often the first thing that homeowners think of is a fence. If they’re placed well, they can deter prowlers, and provide some auditory cues that you might have an intruder.  The downside, however is that they provide cover.  It’s hard for your neighbors to see what’s going on.  For that reason, we like what is known as “livestock fencing”, as pictured below.

Tip: Use a metal detector to find buried metal pins that define your property line.

Locks

There’s seemingly limitless options for locks these days, especially with the advent of electronic door locks.

This article has some great reviews on different smart locks.

We also think it’s worthwhile to replace your door’s screws with longer, more kick-proof screws.

Tip: Deadbolts, window bars, chains, etc are low tech, but time proven solutions.  They also don’t run out of batteries!

Cameras

Cameras are good and bad, in my opinion.  They will tell you about everyone that comes into the camera’s view, and they will give you a nice tool for law enforcement if something ever does happen. There are two things to consider though

  1. If you have them hooked to your phone, you’ll get a lot of notifications about solicitors, dog walkers, and random things going by your house.  It might drive you a bit batty to know all the people that walk by your house during the day.
  2. Cameras are a clear indicator that there’s something of value inside your property.  Often with these things, there’s a law of unintended consequences.  Cameras definitely fall under those.

If you do decide to opt for some cameras, here’s my person recommendations

  1. Be sure they have variable sensitivities.  There’s nothing like getting errant notifications for every bird or cat walking by your home.

Security System

Security systems can be very effective. Most burglars consider them a deterrent, however many do not.

Some of their benefits are:

  • Often they are integrated with your internet, so things like camera systems and remote activation are convenient
  • Many have features like water sensors, fire detection and glass break sensors which can be life-savers if you travel for extended periods
  • They will often lower your insurance premiums

The downsides:

  • There is almost always a monthly cost associated
  • It can give potential future buyers an uneasy feeling about the neighborhood
  • Like cameras, it also signals the “there’s something in here of value” vibe to would-be criminals

One company we like a lot is Simplisafe. You buy the equipment and install it yourself (which is fairly easy) and then pay a small monthly fee for monitoring, which is about half the normal monitoring cost.

We’re pretty sure that between Nest, Ring and others, more DIY solutions will come out in the coming months.

Tip: Keep your cameras up high, and protected from the weather.


Meeting Neighbors

One of the most effective methods I’ve found is just simply getting to know your neighbors. Most neighborhoods have retirees, remote workers, dog walkers, and stay-at-home parents.  They are your eyes and ears when you’re not home, looking for people coming and going that are not you.  Decidedly low tech and zero cost, this is one of our favorites.

A more recent technological adaptations of this is Nextdoor.com. Often criticized for being full of pearl-clutchers, blinds-peepers, and those who love to argue for hours about dog waste and the like, (all of which are sometimes true), Nextdoor is a good place to hear about what’s going on in your neighborhood, and to connect with block-watches and to report other happenings. For a humorous take on Nextdoor, check out Twitter’s “Best of Nextdoor

Tip:  Most of the neighborhood sites will broadcast your posts to thousands or tens of thousands of your neighbors.  Never ever announce that you are leaving town, or if you advertise for a house-sitter never post dates.  This can leave your home very vulnerable to intruders.

Motion Detector Lights

There’s lots of motion detector solutions.  The one we like a lot is Ring. The main thing about motion lights is that they are a fixed, long term solution.  The downside is that they usually do require dedicated wiring (probably by an electrician), and they can give you some false positives. (Especially if you have critters or lots of foot traffic)

Randomizing Lights

There’s a number of great random lights like Etekcity’s solution, that works with a lot of home assistants.  Teckin also makes a fantastic solution. In fact there are nearly limitless solutions for smart plugs that can be controlled by timers, voice, apps, smart home hubs and more.


Sounds, signs and more

Amazon and others sell a number of fake dog barking solutions, some tied into your doorbell, others that are motion sensors, etc. Many people also recommend playing a radio or TV while you’re gone.  On the plus side, we also feel that it gives our real dog a little company while we’re out.

Those simple “security camera in use” signs also have proven very effective in many neighborhoods around Seattle.

Real Dog

As long as we’re talking about home security, we’d be remiss not to discuss the original home security system, the trusty guard dog.  As we’ve talked about before, there’s no such thing as having perfect home security, but the name of the game is to make your house just a little less desirable.  Most well-socialized dogs have an innate sense of when something isn’t right, and the added attention of barking is likely to help deter any would be snoopers around your house.

Not only that, but they provide an extra layer of security when you go on walks, and nothing makes a house feel like a home more than an adorable animal that is genuinely happy to see you every time you come home.  There are literally tens of thousands of dogs waiting to be adopted at shelters around the country, and dozens of great internet resources to help you  pick the perfect animal.

Pro tip: Research breeds.  Be honest about energy levels that you can deal with, and potential health problems of some breeds.

Car in Driveway

In a survey of 86 burglars, one strong deterrent that they cited is having a car in the driveway.  This is especially important during the day, as most of the respondents said that noon-2:30 was their preferred break-in time.

In our neighborhood, neighbors often have neighbors park in their driveway when they are gone to give an impression that the home is occupied.

Digital Security

While we often concentrate of physical security, digital security is becoming more and more of an issue.  Between home assistants, internet connected devices like baby monitors, and our internet routers themselves, there are often a number of vulnerabilities in every home:

Here’s some of our tips:

  • Make sure that your wifi is using secure passwords. A secure password consists of numbers, letters both upper and lower case, and special characters like *&^%$#@!. You can also change your SSID, which is the name you see when you look for WiFi networks to be unpublished, which makes it so that people cannot find your WiFi networks as easily.
  • Your wifi’s router has a password of it’s own. Many routers default to simple username/password combos like admin/password. You can often find your router by typing in one of the following addresses: 192.168.1.1, 192.168.0.1, 10.0.0.1.  A quick Google search of “find my router” and “is my router secure” will help you to solve this problem.
  • When clicking on social media posts, especially one’s that seem particularly scandalous or incendiary, don’t re-enter your password.  We see phishing all the time, where a site that looks like a well known social media site will ask you to re-enter your password. Don’t do this!
  • And lastly, related to Real Estate, never ever wire any funds based on an email you received.  Your wire instructions should come directly from your title and escrow company.

We’re always glad to give a free evaluation of your security issues, or chat about any other ways that you can spend money to improve your home.

Give us a call at 206-458-1311 and let’s have coffee!

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