Ways to protect your home while you’re away

Are you leaving on a much-needed vacation, traveling to visit family, or on a business trip? You want to protect your home while you’re away.

Of course, you could install a home security system if you don’t already have one.

But even if you have a home security system, there are steps you can take to better protect your home while your away.

What would a thief do?

You’re so used to your home you may not be aware of it’s vulnerability to burglars. Take a walk around the outside of your house during the day – and at night too. Imagine your home through the eyes of a thief. What do you notice? Here are some things to look for:

  • Unlocked windows or doors (or broken locks)
  • Unlit and hidden entry points (near doors or windows)
  • Valuables in plain sight

Tips for protecting your home while you’re away

To help protect your home against theft, the best thing you can do is make sure your home looks occupied. This is essential, especially around the holidays and during vacation “season,” when burglars are on the lookout for easy targets. The easiest houses to steal from are unoccupied.

Create the lived-in look

Even when you’re not at home, you can do things to make it look like you’re home – or like you’ll be home soon. Here are some suggestions:

Hold your mail and newspapers. Nothing screams “I’m not home” more than piled up newspapers and an overflowing mailbox. (Hold your mail here.)

Don’t announce your absence on social media. As tempting as it will be to share those gorgeous sunsets on the beach, resist the urge until you get back home. Even if you have your accounts locked down and private, it’s best to assume it could become public information that could fall into the wrong hands.

Install sensor lights. If you don’t already have them, consider installing outdoor lights with sensors that will come on when it gets dark or when motion is detected.

Put valuables out of sight. When you peek in your windows, can you see money on the counter, jewelry on the dresser, or the new gaming computer in the office? Consider finding ways to conceal these items when you’re away. Stow small items in a safe and hide larger items behind doors or curtains.

Keep window coverings as they were when you were home. Though it’s hard to leave home with the blinds or curtains open, shutting them tight when they’re usually wide open is a telltale sign that no one is home. Be strategic with this, especially if you have lights on timers. Maybe you’ll shut some blinds halfway, or only close the curtains in the room with the light timer.

Don’t leave a house key under the doormat. Or the flowerpot, or in a box under the grill, or anywhere else you like to stow your spare key. Bring all those keys in when you’re away – you won’t fool a burglar who has the time to search for that key.

Put lights on timers. You can plug lights into timers and other electronics, like the tv or radio to create the look of being home. Many timers now have multiple settings so your electronics don’t come on at the same time each day (which would be an obvious sign you’re gone to anyone watching the house).

Lock all windows and doors. Some of us might get a little lax with locking windows and doors when we’re home. Maybe we open a particular window every day and don’t bother re-locking it. Or we use the door from the house to the garage all the time, so we never lock it. Double check all the windows and doors to make sure they are locked before you leave.

The lawn gets mowed or the snow gets removed. Ask a neighbor or friend to mow the lawn if it’s summer or remove any snow and ice if it’s winter. If you don’t have anyone that can do this for you, hire a landscaping company to take care of it while you’re away

Other things to consider:

  • Your garage door. Make sure you lock all garage doors, even the door from the garage to the house (if you have one). If you have an automatic garage door opener, it’s still possible for thieves to break in if they really want to. You may want to consider an additional lock for the door.
  • A smart door lock. Technology has made door locks more convenient and secure. Smart locks are often paired with your cell phone. They allow you to remotely lock and unlock the door, assign “keys” to specific visitors, and more.
  • A video doorbell. You know, like a peephole, but high tech! The nice thing about a video doorbell is, it works whether or not you’re home to see who’s at the door. When someone rings your doorbell, you are alerted via your smartphone and you can see who is there. Some video doorbells even let you speak to the person at the door.
  • Barking dog alarm. These alarms all have different features – but the idea is the same: to make it sound like you have a large dog at home protecting its turf.
  • Home security signage. Even if you don’t have a home security system, you can make it look like you do by placing home security signs in front of your home or on the windows.

Get a housesitter

You could take it a step further and have someone live in your home while you’re away. If you have a friend, family member, or neighbor who would like to stay at your house while you’re away, great!

Another option is to hire an official “housesitter”. Housesitting businesses now screen sitters and provide references too. If you’re going away for an extended period, a housesitter might be a good option.

At the very least, have someone to check on your house periodically. You could hire a neighborhood teenager. Or you could ask a friend or family member if they could stop by and check things out while you’re away.

Protect your home against fire or water damage

Prevention is the key when it comes to protecting your home from damage while you’re away. Though you can’t control things like the weather, there are some steps you can take before leaving to protect your home.

Things to do before you take off:

  • Unplug electronics or make sure they’re plugged into a surge protector (to help protect against electrical fires).
  • Keep pipes from freezing in the winter by keeping the heat running. (Insulation can help protect pipes too.)
  • Keep up on home maintenance and repairs. Clean gutters, make sure downspouts are correctly positioned, and make sure appliances are in good working order. (Appliances that fail while you’re away could pose water or fire hazards.)
  • Test your sump pump. (A battery or other non-electric backup is always a good idea.)
  • Consider shutting off the water. You can shut off all the water or just shut off the valves to various places, like the toilets or ice maker.
  • Turn your water heater to vacation mode (if you have this option).

Though it takes extra prep time, taking steps to protect your home while your away on vacation will let you rest and relax while you enjoy your time away.


Whether you’re selling or buying a home, the process can feel intimidating and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to. At Coluzzi Real Estate, we answer all your questions and simplify the process. We’re here for you every step of the way. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today!


About the Author:

Amanda has lived in the Des Moines area since 1999, where she and her husband have bought and sold a handful of homes over the years, including a recent flip. Amanda enjoys writing, obsesses about personal finance and is fond of looking at houses. She loves sharing useful tips and info to make life easier for anyone wanting to buy or sell a home. In her spare time, Amanda cherishes time with her family, volunteers with IHYC, gardens, hikes, and practices TaeKwonDo. You can read more of her writing at whywemoney.com