The day you move into your new home can be enormously exciting – in the rush to complete the purchase, arrange the delivery of your shiny new fridge, sort out the insurance and a thousand other things, it’s easy to find yourself crashed out in your new living room, smiling that it’s “all over” without having paused to think about the safety and security of you and your home.
If you're about to move into a new home or have recently done so, it pays to stop hanging pictures or worrying about where to position the wi-fi router for a moment, and run through a checklist of things that could protect your home from burglars. Many of these are an easy fix; so first walk down your street and cast a glance at your home. put yourself in the burglar’s shoes: does your property look like an easy target? Here are some of the things that can pique a burglar’s interest:
- A front door with thin-looking (sometimes decorative) glass panels that can be quickly smashed, allowing a burglar to reach in and unlock the door from the inside
- Flimsy or rotting wooden ground-floor windows and side doors
- Lots of cover (such as overgrown bushes) that could shield a burglar from passers-by
- Ladders in the garden – or random tools that could potentially be used to break a window or prise open a door
- Sliding doors – these can be easy to force open if the owners haven’t taken extra security measures
“Burglars are looking for a weakness,” says security specialist Jonathan Pass of Safe.co.uk. “They’re looking for an easy target and will go for properties that have no CCTV, no alarms, no pets – they want to get in and out without any problems.”
A new home is a major purchase, and it makes sense to pause and think what you can do to protect it. The very first thing you should do, according to Pass, is to change your locks. “You just don’t know who else has a key to your house,” he says. “It could be anyone from old friends of the previous owners to builders who have worked at the property, so change the locks as soon as you move in.”
Don’t panic if an inspection of your home leaves you feeling it’s shouting “Pick me!” to any passing burglars; if you’ve spotted any potential weak spots, rest assured that ladders and tools can be easily locked away; flimsy windows and doors can be improved with locks and bars; decorative glass panels can be replaced with toughened glass or strengthened with specialist films; and forest-like gardens can be trimmed back. A visit to your local DIY store or locksmith will quickly bring you up to speed with the latest locking devices that can help give peace of mind.
There is a multitude of areas that safety and security-conscious new home-owners can consider if they want to be pro-active – as several involve some pretty high-tech solutions, they’re rather cool, too. Here are some of the options:
One of the best ways to keep burglars at bay is to give them the impression that your home is occupied even when it’s not. Smart timers controlled by an Amazon Echo or a Google Home device start at about £20; they will let you automate when your lights come on (non-smart timers can be picked up for as little as £6). Another trick is to leave the radio on. Many burglars will check to see if anyone is home before taking the risk to break in, so lights and sound will often fox them into thinking you’re around.
This mainstay of hotel rooms is easily added to a homeowner’s front door, and will mean you don't need to open up to see who’s on your doorstep. Basic spy holes cost about £20 and can be installed by using a drill. Or you can go high-tech: the Ring Video Doorbell 2, for example, is placed next to the front door and alerts you on your phone when someone presses the doorbell or triggers its motion sensors. You can then see who’s at the door on your phone screen.
Where once these required a degree in electronics and 100 metres of cables, many modern kits have wireless sensors and are easily installed – plus a big box on the front of a house that advertises the presence of a noisy alarm. Kits cost as little as £100, although it has to be said you get what you pay for. If you’re prepared to dig significantly deeper, a professionally installed and monitored system can be had for several hundred pounds or more, with ongoing monthly costs (roughly £18 – £42, depending on the service and provider) for monitoring.
With identity theft a growing problem, it’s a good idea to have a small safe (costing from as little as £30) secured to a brick wall or concrete floor – preferably somewhere out of sight. As well as credit cards and passports, safes are obviously a good place to keep jewellery and cash.
Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms
With the former costing as little as £7 and the latter roughly twice that, these devices are a must in every home. Google-owned Nest makes a smart alarm for around £100 that detects both smoke and carbon monoxide – and warns you with both audible and phone alerts if something is amiss.
Around £20 – £30 will buy a pair of solar-powered outdoor lights with built-in sensors; position these in places where burglars could linger and, hopefully, once they see themselves lit up like guests at a movie premiere, they’ll move on. Wired devices don’t need to be any more expensive, but they will require professional installation.
A few other things to remember
- Even if you’re home, don’t leave unattended windows open or doors unlocked as many burglars are opportunists
- Don’t leave spare keys under doormats or in flowerpots
- Do get to know your neighbours. Not only can they warn you of any neighbourhood issues, it’s always good to have a friendly pair of eyes on your home when you're away
- You don’t need a colossal budget to make a difference: window locks cost from around £10 each and, as security expert Jonathan Pass reiterates, CCTV and alarm systems can be bought for a couple of hundred pounds or less