The trouble with making your home look lived in when you’re not there is that it’s not being lived in and you’re not there! For this reason there is no real substitute for having someone visit. A great example of this is that a timer can turn your lights on and off but if someone is watching your property closely that won’t deter them if the snow that’s settled on your garden path hasn’t been trodden on for a week. We’ll get into a few more examples as we go but this should highlight that a trusted neighbour or local family member is the best way to keep your unoccupied home looking lived in while you’re away.
So you’re new to the area, and don’t yet have anyone you can trust locally. Not to worry, there is still loads you can do. Similarly, if your house has no front garden the point about the snow is pretty irrelevant and if it can’t be seen from any public place then you really don’t have much to worry about in terms of lighting either. There are still things you should be aware of though and we’ll get it all over the next few pages.
Ask a friend to help – First important thing to note is that if a friend is visiting but your neighbours are aware that you have left, make sure you tell everyone about each other. You don’t want your neighbours seeing someone moving around in the house and end up reporting the very person who is securing it. A clue as to the car they have should be enough.
Secondly, you want to tell as few people as possible. Break-ins often happen when the culprit knows the house (and what’s in it). Visitors can use any chance to get inside to see the layout/security measures and opportunists will use the knowledge of your trip to determine that your property will be unoccupied. With this in mind, don’t go crazy with excitement telling everyone online, and don’t share this information with people you don’t trust.
Should I leave the landing light on?
The answer to whether you should leave your lights on when you go away is “do you leave you lights on constantly on any other normal day?” Of course not, it’s not green and the bill would cost more than your holiday! If you have no one to turn them on and off for you then a timer is a cheap and simple alternative. The trick is to make your house look ‘normal’, otherwise it just looks ‘suspicious’.
Should I close my curtains when I go away?
For outside appearance, the most important thing is that the curtains change regularly from being open to closed. It’s then less important that they are open in the day and closed at night etc. Have your visitor open or close them each time they visit. If you have no one to do this it’s best to leave them open. The property will appear less ‘closed up’ with them open. Make sure you remove anything valuable from sight of course but at least someone checking the property i.e. police or friends, can see in to assess any situation easily.
How does it look as I drive past? Is the snow trodden in? Or in the summer, is the grass cut and plants watered? Is there mail sticking out of the letter box? Is there a car in the drive? Or a great big sign asking the delivery driver to leave the packages in the shed? Whether you do what you can before you leave or request these tasks from whoever is stopping by, these small details will hold up against the scrutiny of anyone driving around looking for a potential home to enter.
Spare Keys – Someone breaking into your house doesn’t want to do any damage if it can be avoided. They will want to get inside and then leave without leaving any obvious signs to them having been there. If they suspect your property is unoccupied, knowing more time is available, they may have a good look round for a spare key. If yours, like most, is under the rock or in a jam jar in the shed, or anywhere else that wouldn’t hold up to a determined search you are offering a free pass to anyone who wants to get inside.
For a fee you can request the Post Office withhold your post while you are away with Royal Mail Keepsafe.
Despite all your efforts, someone has got into your home while you are away. The last thing you want to do is make it easy to find those few really valuable items. These may be items with some monetary value or just the ones that you can’t replace i.e. sentimental jewellery or photos or even intellectual property on a laptop). Find a place to store these items where they won’t be found or even drop them off at another location while you’re gone.
Don’t give them any help. Remember, the culprit may drive past your house every day on the way to work. For someone who is actively looking, small things can scream that your property is unoccupied. And if they do get in, don’t hand them your treasured possessions on a plate.