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How to protect your home from burglary

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Burglar alarms, secure shutters and other business and home security measures can make a significant impact on your safety and insurance premiums. And insurers consider the presence or absence of security features when determining your home insurance premiums.

10 simple ways to protect your home against theft

Some signs of security measures are better than none, so try taking some of these steps to help protect your home.

  1. Lock up your home. Every time you go out — even if it’s just for a short time.
  2. Keep landscaping trimmed. Bushes can obscure your front door and give places for thieves to hide. And an unmowed lawn can make your home look vacant.
  3. Put your mail on hold. If you go on vacation, put your mail on hold or ask your neighbor to collect it.
  4. Hide new, expensive items. Keep valuables like power tools in a locked garage. After you get a new TV, break down the box so it’s not as obvious you made a big purchase.
  5. Get an alarm system. Security systems and dogs are both thief deterrents. Can’t afford either? Put a ‘Beware of dog’ sign prominently in your yard.
  6. Invest in a solid front door. A good deadbolt is also key.
  7. Add privacy film. This can be applied to glass on and around exterior doors and helps distort the view from the outside and prevent window shopping.
  8. Get to know your neighbors. They can keep an eye on things when you’re away.
  9. Scatter your valuables. Keep valuables throughout the house in unusual locations. Bedroom drawers and desk drawers are the first places thieves look.
  10. Backup your data. Hide USB or hard drives with important information, and don’t keep them plugged into your computer.

What kind of security is the best deterrent?

Most burglars interviewed by an Oregon news outlet in 2017 stated that a big barking dog was enough to put them off of a potential target. Other widely agreed upon deterrents included seeing a car in the driveway, a house being very visible from the road and hearing a TV or radio going.

Security cameras were met with mixed answers, with the majority thinking twice about breaking in, but some saw the cameras as an indicator there might be valuables.

What are the most commonly stolen items?

When a burglar enters a home, they’re generally looking to get in and out within a few minutes. They will take whatever’s valuable, and usually start in the master bedroom.

Some of the most stolen items include:

  • Cash
  • Jewelry
  • Prescription medications
  • High-end electronics
  • Tablets and laptops
  • Tools

Does home insurance cover theft?

Yes, personal possessions are generally included in home, renters and condo insurance. For example, typical policy conditions may include the following:

  • Limited coverage for valuables. Electronics and jewelry might be restricted to a maximum per item and an overall maximum on the total amount covered.
  • Limited coverage for outdoor items. Often, only specified items such as lawnmowers and barbecues will be covered, and only up to a limited amount.
  • Security system requirements. If you’re getting reduced premiums by having certain safety measures, like security lights and burglar alarm, then you may be required to ensure they remain fully functional and are tested regularly.
  • Keeping property in good repair. A rusting padlock on a shed, broken windows or deteriorating door might all make it easier for a burglar to gain entry. You may not be covered if it’s found that a failure to properly maintain your property was responsible for the break-in.

Are there any theft exclusions?

Exclusions are conditions where a policy won’t pay out. Other terms may also apply. Generally, these match real life burglary risks. For example, you won’t necessarily be covered in the event a burglar gains access through an unlocked front door while you’re out of the home.

For home, contents and business insurance, you won’t get coverage for theft in these scenarios.

  • You’re away from home with a door unlocked or windows open.
  • You left a garage or shed unlocked.
  • Your house is left vacant for an extended period, typically 60 days.
  • The thief was in the house with your consent.
  • Your house shows signs of not being inhabited. Mail collection or cancellation or regular yard maintenance while you’re away may be required.
  • A non-covered item was stolen, such as larger watercraft, go-karts, dirt bikes and other motorized personal vehicles that may be frequent targets of theft.

Can I get home insurance discounts for taking anti-theft measures?

The most effective countermeasures are often rewarded with lower insurance premiums, but different insurers might consider different aspects. If you’ve recently installed or upgraded your security measures, including installing security shutters or renovating your garage, it can be worth reassessing your policy to see if you’re entitled to home insurance discounts.

You could typically save up to 20% on home insurance if your home has any of these features.

  • Deadbolts
  • Security system
  • Burglar alarms
  • Security camera

How to think like a burglar

Most burglars are likely to look for easy targets. According to a study by the University of South Florida, there are four types of burglar profiles — organized, disorganized, interpersonal and opportunistic.

  • Opportunistic is one of the easiest types to guard against, because the person is taking advantage of a door or window that’s unlocked or a garage that’s open. By securing your house before you leave, you can thwart this type of burglar.
  • Organized burglars are difficult to protect against. They plan out their actions and are methodical, but almost three-fourths of break-ins overall were stopped by an audible alarm.
  • Disorganized burglars are difficult to predict because they typically act out of desperation. A security alarm stops most disorganized thieves.
  • Interpersonal burglars are possibly the most unnerving type due to being someone you know, but they can also be guarded against by having a home security system.

How do most burglars break into a home?

According to the FBI report, 57.5% of burglaries were forcible entry, and 36.2% were unlawful entry. Burglaries are more likely to occur between 6 am and 6 pm.

Over half of all burglaries involved breaking and entering. A sign indicating you have an alarm system or a dog can potentially deter would-be thieves from attempting to break in, and an active alarm can chase away those who do get in.

How do burglars pick a target?

Over 80% of the burglars surveyed in a 2014 study out of UNC Charlotte stated they check if their target has an alarm system before deciding whether it’s worth the risk. Some ways burglars make their choices include:

  • Minimal security. According to the same study, around 60% of burglars interviewed stated they would choose another target if a home security system is present. Posting a sign that your home has a security system is a good start, but additional measures — security lights, solid doors, even a video doorbell and the like — can help further protect your home.
  • The weather. Burglars are more active in warmer weather, with most occurring during summer months.
  • The house looks unoccupied. Since the majority of home burglaries occur while people aren’t likely to be home, an empty house with overflowing mailbox and unmowed lawn can look like an invitation.

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Bottom line

By taking appropriate precautions, you can make sure the risk of burglary is minimal and reduce your home or business insurance premiums. A similar principle applies to other risks like storm, fire and flood, and it can be worth looking for the best way to protect your home from all potential hazards as you compare insurance policies.

Frequently asked questions about theft and home insurance

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