Home Insurance: Protect Your Home Against Theft

home insuranceWhen the apartment of AOL Real Estate contributor Eileen Gunn was burglarized several years back, she was grateful she had insurance to cover her losses. "Most of what was stolen I wouldn't [and] couldn't replace, like jewelry, she said. "So the money I got from insurance did replace the things I wanted: My remote controls and a good set of darts."

Although at the time of the theft Gunn had renter's insurance, since moving into a new home, she continues with homeowner's insurance to help protect her valuables.

Victims of burglary in America suffered an estimated $4.6 billion in lost property in 2009, according to "Crime in the United States," an annual publication from the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division. Overall, the average dollar-loss-per-burglary was $2,096.

Although the number of burglaries was down by 1.3 percent in 2009 from 2008, burglaries of residential properties still accounted for 72.6 percent of 2,199,125 estimated burglaries.

To lessen your chances of becoming a victim, there are several steps you can take to deter a would-be burglar, or even a squatter:



6 Ways to Secure Your Home From the Inside

1. Install deadbolts. Put good quality deadbolt locks on all exterior doors and any doors leading from attached garages. If you have sidelight windows adjacent to the doors, you might consider using a second deadbolt that requires a key to lock it from the inside. This helps prevent a burglar from breaking the glass and reaching a hand in to unlock the thumbscrew. However, double-keyed deadbolts are recommended for use only when you're not home, since you wouldn't want to fumble for keys to unlock the door in order to get out if there was a house fire.

2. Install peepholes. Insert security peepholes in all exterior doors. Before opening any door, even if you recognize the voice, double check to see who is on the other side.

3. Lock up. Although it might seem like common sense to lock doors when you leave home, a fair number of home burglaries occur when thieves gain entry through unlocked portals. When you leave your house, or retire for the evening, make sure you lock all your doors and windows.

4. Secure sliders. On sliding doors and windows, lay a security bar or sturdy piece of wood or heavy metal pipe in the track.

5. Keep valuables out of view. Move your computers, stereo systems and flat panel TVs out of view from windows and doors. Expensive equipment in full view makes your property an open invitation for criminals

6. Security alarm. Invest in a burglar alarm. The most effective ones notify an outside service, but any kind is a good deterrent.

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6 Ways Secure Your Home From the Outside

1. Light up. Make sure all exterior doors are well lit by mounting double, motion-activated floodlights at the corners of eaves. Don't forget to put them by the backdoor and garage too. For as little as $20, you can purchase a solar-powered, motion-sensor light that doesn't require an electrician to install. The sudden flash of light can make some burglars hightail it out of there.

2. Stay trimmed. If you have bushes and shrubs in front of windows and beside porches, keep them well-trimmed so that they don't create an opportunity for burglars to hide while they're trying to gain access to your home. This is especially important since most burglaries occur during daytime hours, when property owners are at work.

If you choose to use bushes to landscape close to doors and windows, keep hedges clipped down around waist level, to ensure maximum visibility, and select thorny varieties that will discourage burglars from disappearing behind them. Also be sure to trim any tree branches that could be used to reach and gain entrance to second-story windows or balconies.

3. Choose a see-through fence. When enclosing your property with a fence, use a picket or chainlink fence, rather than a solid fence, so that you make it more difficult for burglars to approach the house without being seen.

4. Don't hide keys. Yes, there are people who put keys under doormats, planters and above doorframes. Don't be one of those people who think you know the best secret place to hide a key outside of your home. Burglars will know where to look. Instead, leave a duplicate key with a neighbor, at your office or with a relative.

5. Keep up appearances. When traveling, make sure your house looks lived in. Give someone the task of shoveling your driveway while you are away, or mowing your lawn. Also, stop delivery with your newspaper service and have a neighbor collect your mail, or put it on hold with the post office. (Some people opt not to have their mail put on hold so that someone eyeing your property won't see the postal worker skip your house several days in a row.)

6. Don't tweet whereabouts. Do not post messages or updates on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or MySpace, implying or saying that you will be out of town. Also, don't include your address in your profile. A survey of 2,000 Facebook and Twitter users found that 33 percent post about their upcoming vacation plans and 17 percent have their address available for everyone to see, according to Legal & General Group PLC, a home insurance provider in the U.K.

Want more tips for how to keep home insurance premiums low? Here are some AOL Real Estate guides that might help:

More on AOL Real Estate:
Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
Find homes for sale in your area.
Find foreclosures in your area.
Get property tax help from our experts.

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