Burgler breaking into a Scottsdale home

Feeling safe and secure in your own home is essential, and we're here to help you achieve that peace of mind. In this blog post, we'll explore 7 practical strategies and tips to fortify your home against potential threats. From simple precautions to advanced security measures, we've got you covered. Whether you're a homeowner or renting, taking steps to protect your property and loved ones is crucial. Let's dive in and learn how to create a safer environment for you and your family.

1. Enhancing Security Through Landscaping

3 ways to upgrade your Scottsdale home's exterior with photos of a security camera, bushes, and lighting

While curb appeal and maintenance are important considerations for outdoor landscaping, the choices you make can also impact your home's security. Thieves often target homes they can enter and exit without being detected, so strategically placing certain landscaping elements can make your property less appealing to potential intruders.

- **Enhance Street Visibility**: Make sure any trees, shrubs, and other foliage are trimmed so that your home's exterior is visible from the street. Overgrown landscaping offers an ideal environment for criminals to hide, and you don't want that surprise! Another benefit is that if your neighbors have security cameras, you might have a different angled view of any thieves as they are lurking or trying to break in (hopefully they won't accomplish an actual break-in).

- **Choose Your Plantings With Security in Mind**: While you don't want to have a barren, greenless front exterior, certain plants can become a pretty obstacle. In Arizona, we have a huge selection of cacti that will obstruct a thief from getting too close to a front window. There are other plants for different areas that cacti won't work in such as rose bushes and other shrubs that have stickers. Adding loose rocks/gravel that makes noise when it's walked on can also alert you to any unwanted visitors.

- **Consider Lighting and Landscaping Together**: When planning your outdoor lighting (more on that in the next section), consider how the placement of trees, shrubs, and other landscaping elements may create shadows or dark areas that could provide cover for intruders.

2. Illuminate Your Outdoor Space

Proper outdoor lighting is a crucial component of any effective home security strategy. Not only does it improve visibility and safety for your family, but it can also deter criminals who prefer to operate under the cover of darkness.

Beautiful lit pathway to a home in Scottsdale

- **Implement Thoughtfully Placed Outdoor Lighting**: Brighten up your yard and home's surroundings by strategically placing outdoor lights to eliminate dark areas. Spotlights will really shine some light on your exterior and installing them to show off your landscaping is a bonus and safety feature. Just aim them correctly. When we put one up in our backyard one of the neighbors behind us (actually across the street as we back up to a road), knocked on our door to tell us the floodlight was shining right into their house at night. My husband moved it so it didn't bother them. We only use it when we let our dogs out at night as we have a large backyard and they're small dogs. We have to watch out for the local critters.

Most people in our area keep their porch lights on all night and some will also keep their exterior garage lights on. I think that is enough light to make a burglar think twice, especially coupled with some of the other suggestions here. Lights flanking your entry sidewalk are also very pretty and any added lighting can also increase your home's value plus add some peace of mind at night.

- **Install Motion-activated Security Lights to Surprise Intruders.**: I love these lights. Motion-activated security lights can startle home invaders and draw attention to their presence on your property. The only downside is when they go off because of high winds and you're inside hoping that's the reason they just turned on. You can take your security to another level by selecting a Wi-Fi connected smart option to stay informed via phone notifications when there's activity on your home's exterior. It can be helpful whether you're in the house or away.

3. Let Them Know You Have Invested in Home Security

A Scottsdale home security camera with a mountain in the background

- **Use as Many Cameras as You Can Afford**: If you have some good exterior lighting most thieves will be able to see any security cameras that have been installed. They might give up with all of the lights and cameras. Install the cameras front and back and on any side where there are windows and doors. Use them inside too! Sometimes home robbers will wear masks that fall down after they've actually broken in, and only the interior cameras will give a good look at their face.

- **Give Them a Warning**: If you have a paid security service you probably have stickers announcing it. Use them! You can also use signs on a door or entry or in your yard stating that you have a security system, cameras, dogs, or even that you own guns and will shoot.

- **Make It Alarming**: You might also want to set up a loud alarm system if they break in, but that will only go off after they have breached a door or window. It might scare them away and it will definitely alert you and hopefully your neighbors. If you didn't hear the actual break-in, the alarm should at least give you a little time to be prepared. This could be part of a paid security system or you can install alarms yourself.

4. Ensure Your Windows and Doors are Secure

Unlocked doors and windows are the most common entry points for home invaders, and although they will enter through different locations, the front door is the most popular entry point. Securing these potential vulnerabilities should be your first line of defense.

And they don't need to be unlocked. Have you seen YouTube videos where the Ring camera catches criminals kicking down doors and throwing bricks or other heavy objects through windows and sliding glass doors?

> "A solid core door paired with a heavy-duty deadbolt lock is one of the best ways to deter kick-in burglary attempts." - *Bob Vila, Home Renovation Expert*

multiple doors and locks in different Scottsdale homes

Here are some tips for fortifying your doors and windows:

- **Review the Security of Your Doors and Locks**: This is where your heart and brain might have a little fight. I'm sure we all know that steel is stronger than wood. But people love and prefer wood doors. There are nicer selections for steel doors but they can be pricier than wood. You can also pair the exterior doors with metal storm doors that also lock. This is the set-up we have and it makes me feel very secure. There are some very pretty storm doors available, unlike in the past when the choices were dismal.

Many years ago I realized that the handle had been broken off my cheapo storm door. It was still locked, just the grab part was broken. I found out that someone had walked into our next-door neighbor's house where the door was unlocked. The woman of the house (actually a daughter that lived with Dad - no Mom) had just had neck surgery and was sleeping on the couch in the front room and she sat up and screamed. Thankfully, this frightened the home invader away. I'm not sure if he came to our house first or after. All I know is that the old-fashioned storm door we had protected us.

- **Enhance Security With Window Locks and Security Film to Safeguard Your Home.**: You might always lock your windows, but it might be time to consider installing better and stronger locks. Have you ever heard of window film? I think my current house has a film on the small, high windows in one of our bathrooms, but it's for privacy, not safety. Those windows would be the last ones a burglar would choose to climb in as they are wide but short. I'm not sure if it would do what security window films do, which is to hold the glass together vs. having it shatter into little pieces all over the place. Supposedly, it makes it more difficult to actually break through. I looked it up and it does look interesting, but the film on the bathroom window always makes the window look dirty and I bet it's a pain to put on. One thing I do like about this idea is that if someone is trying to break the window to get in, you will probably hear it happening, and if it makes it more difficult you will at least have a little more time to get out or otherwise protect yourself while calling 911.

- **Check for Vulnerabilities**: Walk around your home's perimeter and check for any loose or easily accessible windows or doors. Pay special attention to basement windows, pet doors, and other potential entry points you may have overlooked.

5. Make it Appear That You're Home

Not all home invasions occur in the wee hours when criminals figure you're in bed sleeping. It might seem brazen to break in during daylight hours, but most thieves prefer to stay away from the homeowners.

- **Keep Your Television or a Radio On**: As mentioned above, most burglars do not want to encounter anyone in the home. If they hear noise coming from inside they might reconsider trying to break in. With more people working from home today, you might want to make your presence known. I have three little dogs and if they hear anyone near the door they all start barking ferociously.

A video doorbell on a Scottsdale home

- **Put up a Video Doorbell System**: This could also fit in with the security system measures above. But what is good about a video doorbell is that you can answer the door remotely. They might be ringing doorbells just to make sure no one is home, so if you answer they might change their minds.

- **Keep Lights on Timers**: When you're away from home, keep some interior and exterior lights on timers or smart plugs to make it appear as though someone is home. Varying the timing and location of the lights can further enhance this illusion.

- **Consider Other Smart Home Technology**: With the rise of smart home tech, there are numerous options for simulating an occupied home while you're away. Smart lightbulbs, speakers (to play audio like a TV or radio), and even robotic vacuum cleaners can all contribute to the illusion of an occupied home.

6. Hide the Good Stuff

You want to remove any temptations that may entice a spontaneous robbery attempt.

- **Ensure Valuables Are Not Visible Through Windows**: Step outside your house and look through the windows and think like a criminal. Make sure that items like cash, jewelry, electronics/laptops/computers, guns, and medications are not visible from the outside. Sure, some thieves steal TVs but they are bulky and many are attached to a bracket, creating more work to get to them. It is much easier for them to steal easily accessible items. If you have a spare vehicle, don't leave those keys in plain view. Take them with you or hide them well - try to find a place that a robber won't have time to look deeply at. It is tempting to keep car keys in the house near the garage door, but it's better if you take them to bed with you at night, especially if your home is set up where you can easily and quickly get to the garage before the bad guys can. This could be your escape if they get in.

A Scottsdale home safe

- **Store Irreplaceable Items in a Large, Heavy Safe**: If a safe is light enough to carry, thieves will take it with them and break into it later. So if you do use a safe, make sure it won't be easy to take. A large, upright safe can store everything from money, guns, jewelry, important papers, and any other valuables you have. Most people store these safes in the garage, and if there are multiple thieves with a truck and there are no cars in the garage, even a large safe could be taken. So keep that in mind. A basement or upper level might be a better option if you have the space.

Consider the possessions that are on display inside your home that aren't visible from outside. It's always a good idea to lock up firearms, sensitive documents, and expensive or irreplaceable items when you have housekeepers or other service providers inside your house.

7. Don't Advertise That You're Away

When you're away on vacation, you'll need to follow all of the tips above, and then some. Thieves love unoccupied homes full of the owner's possessions. If you don't have any kind of alarm set up you won't even know they got in until you return. And that gives them more time to go through everything and take what they want, even larger items. They can start in the daylight and remove things in the dark.

A cartoon of a girl on Instagram with a No circle in front

- **Be mindful of social media posts**: It is so tempting to post photos of your travels in real-time - as soon as you take them. Thankfully, I always want to review my photos and crop them or improve lighting or whatever edits are needed. So I never post anything while I'm actually out of town. If you really have the itch to share immediately, then before you do make sure you change your settings and only your "friends" get to see them. I wouldn't take the chance though. And then you'll have to remember to change it back if you prefer anyone to see your page.

- **Don't Let Mail or Newspapers Pile Up**: Either have your neighbors collect it all or halt delivery temporarily. Try to make sure you won't get any boxed deliveries during your absence from Amazon or the like, especially if you don't ask your neighbor to keep an eye out.

- **Tell Your Neighbors That You'll Be Away**: Even if you're not close to your neighbors, just let them know you are going on vacation and give them the dates. If you know and trust them, you might want to give them a house key.  At least make sure they have your phone number.

What Happens When You Have Your Vacant House Up for Sale?

A family with the words your Scottsdale home is safe with usThere are a lot of second homes in the Greater Phoenix area. If you're listed with us, you shouldn't have to worry. We're not going to move in and be there 24/7, but we will check the house to make sure everything is locked up and nothing has happened. We will alert you immediately if there is an issue.

We had a second home listing where the owners forgot to pay the water bill and it was shut off. They didn't realize it was off and thought it was a plumbing or pool issue as their pool man informed them that the pool system wasn't working correctly and it appeared the pool was losing water. My husband/assistant, Jimmy Herter, drove to the house and realized that the water had been turned off by the water company. They paid the bill and all was fine.

We've also noticed leaky faucets, a burst water heater, dead light bulbs, dead bugs (and scorpions), and the horrible noise of constantly beeping smoke alarms that need a battery replacement. We've also discovered broken pipes spewing water. 

If we can put our sign up it will have our contact information so if a neighbor needs to reach us they'll have it. We try to contact your neighbors to give them our card so they have that on hand in case of emergency.

We use a showing system that keeps track of different appointment times and the agents that will be viewing your home. The system even asks for feedback from these agents, but keep in mind, feedback is not required and some agents will not provide it. I explain this to my sellers and if you'd like clarity please contact me at 480-906-1500. We also use Sentrilocks that record home showings so we know when an agent has been in there. They need to be signed up with the system and use their phone to be able to unlock it and get the key.

We are not house cleaners, but when we do our check-ins we will clean up any litter or debris we see inside or outside. We'll make sure the house is at a comfortable temperature for the time of year. Although it is still a Seller's Market, homes are sitting on the market longer than in the past so we'll let you know if you need a professional cleaner and we'll check that the landscaping and pool (if there is one) are being taken care of. We want you to have peace of mind when you have your home listed and don't live in it.

Posted by Judy Orr on
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