There were 7.9 million seasonal properties in 2009, according to the Census Bureau. That’s an awful lot of television sets, appliances and personal items that are left up for grabs, at least potentially.
It goes without saying that you should lock all locks, secure all access to your property through gates and windows, and install — and use — an alarm system.
But we’re talking well beyond the usual steps most homeowners take when they go on vacation. Stopping the newspaper, putting your mail on hold and asking the neighbors to keep an eye on your place only goes so far when you are gone for two or three weeks.
Apart from those obvious precautions, a number of steps can burglarproof your property when you won’t return for six or seven months.
Be sure to give year-round neighbors your phone number. That way, if there is suspicious activity that they observe, the neighbors can call you and, if necessary, contact the local authorities.
Take the time to make the property look lived in. Start by putting several of your interior lamps on timers. Use the kind that can be programmed to go on and off at various times, and equip lamps in two or three rooms so they are lit at different times.
To avoid disruptions to your well-planned timing mechanisms caused by power outages, opt for sunlight-activated timers.
Another tip: Leave the light above the range on at all times. The kitchen is one room that tends to have lights on the most.
You also may want to “seriously secure” all entry doors but one. If you use something like a foot lock to jam two of your three doors, you’ve cut down the chances that someone can get in by two-thirds.
Outside, make sure that exterior lights are on motion sensors or even timers, and that they are mounted high enough so they can’t be reached without a ladder. A thief usually won’t put up a ladder because it is too conspicuous.
Consider putting your TV set on a timer so it goes on and off in the afternoon and again in the evening. But even if you decide against that, it is a good idea to at least leave a radio on — to a talk station as opposed to music. The broken pattern of human speech is more consistent with someone being home.
Turn down your phone so a long series of unanswered rings doesn’t alert someone to the fact that you’re not there. Or better yet, keep the answering machine on, with a message that says, “We can’t get to the phone right now” rather than you are not home. And check the machine occasionally so it doesn’t become full.
Should you close the drapes? Some say closing them is a sure sign that no one’s home, but others argue that open drapes allow someone to peer inside. So how about a compromise? Leave the first-floor drapes closed, but open those on the second floor.
And lastly, consider hiring a reputable Home Watch Service who can check on your place while you are away and complete all of the items on the list above. They can also meet with contractors, perform maintenance, check the mailbox, do interior inspections for water leaks, empty trash, flush and check the toilets and faucets, and anything else you need for piece of mind while you are away. If there is a problem they can be your point of contact for police and fire, alarm responses, alarm resets, securing your property, etc.