For many homeowners, landlords and tenants, Christmas often involves packing up and traveling away to see loved ones leaving your home unattended. And as well as being a busy time for Santa, unfortunately it is also a busy time for burglars.
Lettings and sale agent, Benham and Reeves, have provided their top tips to make sure your property is safe this Christmas while you're away:
1: Don’t hide a key
This applies all year round but the temptation seems to be even greater at Christmas and many of us stash a key in case of emergencies. While you’re away visiting family potential thieves will conduct a thorough search and often find it. Give a key to your neighbours, family or friends instead.
2: Up your security
Again an obvious one all year round but if you are leaving for a prolonged period of time, upgrading your security system and alarms is money well spent. Today there is a range of products that can bring added peace of mind including video doorbells and security cameras accessible via your smartphone.
3: Outdoor security lights
Even the presence of security lights with motion sensors can be enough to discourage potential break-ins so make sure yours are in working order and if you don’t have them, they can be an affordable addition to your home security set up.
4: Don’t forget the garage
There’s no point in keeping your home tighter than Fort Knox if your garage is letting the side down. It’s often the first place a burglar will try and many people neglect to secure it, providing an easy route into your home, or at the least, the items stored within it.
5: Keep your tree out of sight
It’s tempting to place your tree and the presents beneath it right by the window so all can see your festive setup, but doing so will broadcast to potential thieves that there are valuable goods easily accessible from the front window of your house. Try to keep your tree and presents under wraps and out of sight from public view.
6: Other valuables
If you are going away, don’t leave other valuable items on show or out in the house. Also try to avoid obvious hiding places such as your sock draw as if you are broken into, these are the first places a burglar will look. If you don’t have a safe or place to lock them away, hide the most valuable items separately in hard to find places.
7: Don’t broadcast your absence
Traditionally you might have boasted to a neighbour in the street about your Christmas plans or getaway, but today many of us take to social media to broadcast them to the world. Doing so can alert people that you are away from home and leave you open to a break-in. Save the photo uploads for later and enjoy a day with your family without your phone!
8: Create the impression you are still home
You might not go the full Kevin McAllister and set up a fake Christmas party but creating the impression you are home can deter a break-in. Timed switches for lighting are a good place to start although ensure they come on sporadically not at the same point every day.
Keep curtains closed, hide any washing racks or other indicators you’ve not been home for a while. Tidy the garden before you leave and cancel any newspaper or milk deliveries as these are clear signs you’re not home if they start to build up. Even keeping a car parked in the drive can help.
9: Locks and keys
Before you go away double-check every window and door is locked and that no keys can be reached from outside of the house - usually through the letterbox.
10: Check your plugs and pipes
It’s not just criminals that can ruin Christmas. Reduce the risk of fires by turning off everything other than the fridge freezer if necessary.
We know it’s one of the most complicated things on earth, but utilising your boiler’s timer feature while you’re away can ensure that pipes benefit from circulation in colder conditions and can avoid any burst pipes or flooding when you return.
While you’re at it, check that they are insulated and you have no cracks that can be made worse by the freezing conditions.
11: Check your insurance
Double-check your home insurance and make sure you are covered for every eventuality. Christmas is expensive but a few extra pounds on upgrading your policy can save you a lot in a worst-case scenario.
Having an adequate level of cover for contents and possessions seems obvious, but check if there are any exclusions in your policy that could render it void if, for instance, you are away for more than a certain number of days. Indeed other variables could influence your policy, such as allowing someone access to look after pets or a non-family member staying in your home while you are away
Marc von Grundherr, Director of Benham and Reeves, commented: “You’re statistically more likely to be a victim of water damage from a burst pipe than you are to be burgled so while the chances are slim, there are a few simple steps you can take to minimise the risk even further.
No one wants to be broken in to but it can be particularly devastating in the lead up to Christmas or while you are away, whether it be for the whole holiday, or just the day itself.
With opportunist thieves looking for any indication of an easy job, it’s worth spending that little bit extra money and time to make sure you have done all you can to deter them.”