It’s not uncommon to feel like Kevin McCallister from “Home Alone” when first purchasing a home and experiencing the newfound freedom that comes with owning a place. While homeownership is an ultimate aspiration for many, there are inevitable associated risks that come along with a household. It’s important for both proud new homeowners and longtime owners to plan ahead and keep up with the latest updates in home safety to make a house feel like a home – and keep the Harry and Marvs of the world at bay.
Unsure where to begin to protect a new home or safeguard an existing property? Have no fear! After closing 1.57 million transaction sides worldwide in 2018, experienced RE/MAX agents have ideas to keep homes – and family members – safe:
Change the Locks
Changing the locks on all the home’s exterior entry doors is one of the first steps recommended to new homeowners after closing. “Re-keying a house is a relatively inexpensive process and one that can bring great peace of mind to new homeowners,” says Nate Martinez, Co-Owner of RE/MAX Professionals in Phoenix. “Over the years, previous owners may have given keys to various friends, family members, contractors and neighbors, so changing the locks is a safe option that also helps new owners feel more like the place is their own.” Don’t forget about doors connecting to enclosed garages, greenhouses or pools that need to be updated as well.
Install a Home Security System
One of the best ways to secure a home is to install an alarm. Yet only 17 percent of houses in the U.S. have a security system, according to the National Council for Home Safety and Security. “Often, security systems are an afterthought,” says Martinez. While there are financial costs to installing a home security system or upgrading your existing home alarm system, protection of your family and valuables is priceless. “Smart home technology has personally improved my home experience as I can keep an eye on my home remotely and even grant access to trusted individuals while I am away,” he adds.
Be a Good Neighbor (Embody ‘Old Man Marley’)
It’s one of the first things every child learns, and it’s called the Golden Rule for a reason: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Getting to know neighbors can help make any neighborhood a safer place. Is there an elderly couple nearby that sometimes needs help or are there small children that need looking out for? Having a good understanding of this can help give a neighborhood that close-knit feeling – and alert residents when something could be suspicious. Homeowners going out of town should talk to their neighbors and see whether someone can mow their lawn, shovel their walks, or pick up mail and newspapers. “Bring your neighbor back something nice from your trip to show them you appreciate the help,” suggests Ryan Heller, a Denver-based Associate at RE/MAX Urban Properties.
Make Some Noise
Yes, alarm systems and secure windows are tools that can help keep burglars away, but one key asset to deterring intruders is often overlooked: the garden and yard! Trimming hedges, laying gravel and displaying a sign with the home security company’s name are useful tactics for keeping unwanted outsiders from trying to get in. Aside from adding aesthetic value, gravel in particular, can protect homes against intruders because it makes entry less quiet. “In our area, we recommend holly or thorny bushes plus any type of low shrubbery that someone wouldn’t be able to hide behind,” says Mark Handlovitch, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Advanced Realtors in Pittsburgh. “We also recommend clients use motion detector lights around the home. These newer lights are very effective even for the homeowner when they return home late in the evening. No fumbling for keys or searching purses in the dark.”
Think Fire Prevention
Safety is more than keeping burglars from entering the home, it’s also about keeping yourself and loved ones safe inside! According to the American Red Cross, house fires cause over $7 billion in property damage each year. Being prepared and conducting regular safety checks can help keep homeowners from adding to that number. Test smoke alarms often, change filters regularly to avoid buildup of dust and lint, maintain cords and always keep fire extinguishers handy. “A good tip is to switch out smoke alarm batteries during daylight saving time and to check fire extinguishers often to make sure they have full charge,” says Heller. “On the exterior of the home, homeowners should be sure to keep a clean yard and remove dry leaves and fallen branches as well as keep both the gutters and roof clean to maintain a defensible space.”
“An agent might provide new fire extinguishers and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for clients. Listing agents may make it a part of their presentation about features of the home, and buyer’s agents could provide new ones if there is a question about age,” says Handlovitch. A home purchase is a major life decision. Homeowners can feel good about protecting this purchase – and themselves – by following these tips.