5 Things Burglars Don’t Want You to Know

Published: November 15, 2016

Updated: January 15, 2019  

by Alaina Tweddale

While my husband and I were out visiting family one weekend, thieves broke into our home, took the pillow cases off our bed, and filled them with our valuables. We didn’t know this, of course, until hours after they’d escaped, undetected, into the cool evening air.

Up until that point, I’d been naïve about home break-ins. I didn’t think one could happen to me—and for good reason. The number of U.S. burglaries has declined over the past 10 years. Yet, in 2017, there were still more than 1.4 million committed, as reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

Although a homeowners policy or renters policy can help defray the costs of stolen goods, for many of us, a break-in is about more than just lost stuff. For weeks after our own, I felt violated, afraid and a little angry.

What’s a homeowner to do? Turns out there are several simple steps you can take to help keep the bad guys at bay. Here’s what you should know.

When Do Most Burglars Strike?

Most burglaries are committed by careful thieves who plan crimes based on when they’re least likely to get caught. That means they’re sometimes walking the neighborhood, taking note of homes with dogs, with security systems, and with long stretches of time with no one home.

Burglars Strike During the Day

Burglars don’t want to run into people. Doing so makes their job that much more difficult, which is probably why more than half of home break-ins occur during the day, when most people are at work or at school.

Thieves are often “looking for signs that no one is there,” says Trooper Pascal DiJoseph from the Pennsylvania State Police. ‘They like the easy way. They don’t want to make noise. They don’t want to get caught.”

Of course, we can’t be home all the time. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t fool a would-be burglar into thinking that we are.

Warmer Weather Welcomes More Burglar Activity

As temperatures rise, so do burglary rates. That’s according to a 2014 research report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which found substantial summer spikes in crime activity over a 17-year period. The combination of lengthier days and pleasant weather means people will spend more time away from home, creating greater opportunity for the neighborhood prowler.

The best defense may be to make it appear as if someone is home, even if you aren’t. Read on to discover five easy-to-follow tips to fool would-be burglars below.

1. Locking Your Doors & Windows Can Stop One-Third of Break-Ins Many home burglaries are crimes of opportunity, according to Eric M. Gruss, a Monterey County, California-based police officer. “They’ll try the front door, the side door, the back,” says Gruss. Other common points of entry include a home’s attached garage or its first-floor windows.

“People often don’t double check to make sure their windows and doors are locked,” explains Gruss. That’s the kind of complacency thieves count on. In fact, about one in three burglars enter the home when it is unlocked.

Doors and Locks                                                                                          

Despite the high number of open-door-and-window break-ins, most burglaries do involve some sort of forcible entry. Many locks—particularly those placed on secondary doors like those on back, porch, and garage doors—aren’t strong enough to keep the bad guys out. For best protection, all exterior doors should be solid—that means no windows—and kick-proof.

Also, “there should be deadbolts on all your doors,” advises Gruss. The most effective deadbolt locks will be installed with a box strike plate—an upgrade from the standard strike plate that rests on your door jamb. The strick plate is the weakest point of the door, making it a common entry for a door-kicking burglar. For added durability, install the box strike plate using three inch screws, instead of the standard one inch.While you’re at it, protect your windows, too. Gruss suggests an auto-lock feature for those.

If you moved recently, make sure to change all the locks and update any coded entry points. A previous owner could have left an extra key or pass code with a pet sitter, adult child, or neighbor. In short, unless you change the locks, you don’t know who has access to your home.

And what about your hiding your spare key? “Never leave it on your property,” warns Gruss. “If you can think of a hiding spot, a bad guy can think of it too.” Instead, hand off a copy to a trusted neighbor.

Sliding Glass Doors                                                                                          

Large, sliding glass doors can be easy to shatter, often leaving them vulnerable to attack. They’re also “notorious for lock failure,” adds Gruss. “To be extra safe, get something like a broomstick [or a dowel] and keep it along the bottom of the door, so no one will be able to open it.”

The installation of a glass break detector can also trigger a home alarm if the sound of shattered glass is detected. Other safety options include the installation of shatterproof film or a heavy duty sliding door lock.

Windows                                                                                                                   

We all want to open some windows to let some fresh air inside, particularly when the weather turns warm. When it comes to safety, however, the window is easily shattered, making it the most fragile entry way into the home. They’re also often left unlocked or equipped with a latch, making it easier to force or pry open. That’s why the most effective ways to maintain window safety include:

•An installed secondary locking mechanism. A track lock can be installed on vinyl or aluminum windows to stop the frame from moving freely up or down. Wooden windows can be secured by pushing a bolt, nail, or dowel through a hole drilled through the bottom panel’s stile and then halfway through the upper panel’s stile.

•Close windows when you’re not home. It only takes a burglar a few minutes to break in a rob a home. Closing the windows, even for a quick trip to the store, may be the delay needed to send a prowler packing.

•Carefully select which windows to open, when you do open them. When sleeping, keep only the hard-to-reach windows—like those on the second floor, away from any flat roofing—open. It’s also best to open the windows that are visible from the street. A thief will have a harder time slipping into a window that’s easily visible to neighbors.

•Don’t open windows too wide. Even better, keep all windows open by a margin of less that four inches. Why? That’s the circumference of a child’s head, which means there’s little chance a burglar can fit his head through an opening of that size.

2. Thieves Really Do Case the Joint… but You Can Fool Them

Sometimes thieves do invest time and effort in finding the perfect victim. Don’t help them in their research.

What do you do with packaging from expensive purchases?

•Don’t leave the packaging boxes from expensive new TV or game consoles outside by the trash cans for would-be thieves to spy, warns Gruss. “That’s just advertising that you’re a good potential victim.”

•Do break down the boxes and place them inside your recycling bin, where they’ll be out of sight.

Do You Leave Doors Open When You’re Home?

•Don’t keep the doors to your home, garage, or shed open, even when you’re home. An open door gives thieves a sneak peek at what tools they may be able to use to jimmy a lock or to climb to a second story window. It also showcases your pricey stored goods like a high-end tool chest, a riding lawn mower, or circular saw. If you’ve converted your garage into a livable space, be extra wary. “Here in California, a lot of people turn their garages into man caves. Keep the garage door open, and everyone can see that you have a nice TV in there,” says Gruss.

•Do keep the door closed, and keep would-be thieves from knowing what expensive toys you have stashed away. Do You Keep Your Car Doors Locked When You’re Home?

•Don’t leave your car doors unlocked, especially if you park on the street, in the driveway, or in an unlocked garage. Any items left in the car are at risk, but there’s an even greater danger most people may not consider. “Thieves may steal the garage door opener in the middle of the night and then return to your house during the day,” explains Gruss.

•Do keep the car door locked and any remote garage door openers out of sight.

What Are You Posting on Social Media?

•Don’t publicly post photos to your social media sites. Once online, anyone can access your—or your child’s—photos, which could showcase your expensive electronics and help thieves map the layout of your home. This goes double for vacation photos, which can tip crooks off to the presence of an empty home.

•Do profiles should be set to private, warns Gruss. Carefully vet friends and contacts, making sure you’re connected only with people you actually know and trust in real life. Wait to post vacation photos until after you’ve returned home.

Are You Home?

•Don’t make it obvious that you’re not home. Would-be thieves are looking for tips to identify a homeowner’s schedule, particularly one who is not often home.

•Do throw thieves off the trail by leaving a few lights on or setting a timer to turn them on at dusk. Leave some window shades up and some shades down, so it looks like someone is home, filtering the natural light. If you’re on vacation or away for an extended time, think about hiring a house sitter or asking a neighbor to check in on the house one or two times a day. A little regular movement can be just enough of a deterrent to scare off a potential burglar.

3. Being a Good Neighbor Can Decrease Area Break-In Numbers

Getting to know your neighbors, and looking out for each other, is one of the most effective ways to deter would-be burglars in search of a neighborhood to prowl.

•Create a neighborhood watch. Criminals don’t want to be approached by nosy neighbors. An area with high foot traffic, where people know each other and watch out for unfamiliar activity, will be a lot less attractive to thieves.

•Watch your neighbor’s back. Create a network of neighbors who will watch each other’s homes while away. Bring in mail, water the lawn, bring garbage and recycling cans to and from the curb. Park in each other’s driveway so it appears as if someone is home. Any act that mimics everyday activity will give thieves an indication that its business as usual at home.

•Share key security information.Share emergency contacts, a spare key, and any security codes with a trusted neighbor or two. Agree to listen for each other’s home security sirens, particularly when you know a neighbor won’t be home.

4. They Already Know Where You Keep Your Valuables… So Do This Instead

Even if you don’t post your photos online, an experienced thief probably already knows where to go. “A lot of people keep their valuables in a jewelry box, and that’s an easy target,” says DiJoseph. “They grab it and off they go.”

He suggests keeping valuable items and family heirlooms in a household safe that is either too heavy to carry or professionally mounted to a floor or beam that can’t be removed from the home.

It’s also a good idea to keep an inventory of your most important possessions. Photograph your keepsakes. Document the models and serial numbers for big-ticket electronics and guns. Think about engraving an ID number and the name of your home state on valuable electronics. Sometimes stolen items are recovered at a later date. The more identifying information you have about an item, the more likely it is to be returned to its rightful owner.

“Unless you have that information on file, though, there’s not a lot we can do to return property to its rightful owner,” explains Gruss.

Does insurance cover your stolen valuables? Your homeowner’s policy covers up to certain limits; however, adding Valuable Items Blanket Coverage to your policy, you can rest assured this added layer of protection will provide a hassle-free and inexpensive way to protect your high-value items.

Check with your home insurance agent to make sure specific items are covered.

5. You Can Make Your Home a More Difficult Target

The harder it is for a thief to enter your home, the more likely they are to go somewhere else. Here are some effective deterrents:

Home Security

•Mount a visible camera. Many home security cameras can be set to send an alert to your smartphone if someone enters the frame. “A quick glance can tell you if it’s the gardener, the exterminator, or someone else,” says Gruss. Even a fake camera can work wonders. “Thieves are more likely to pick a place that looks like it has no security on the house,” he explains.

•Invest in a home security system. As with a camera, just the sight of an alarm system sticker can be enough to deter a would-be thief. “People sometimes don’t like the sticker, they don’t like the way it looks, but posting it really does make a difference,” affirms Gruss.

•Don’t just bluff that you have a secure home. Don’t just buy a home security sticker or decal to post in front of your house. If a burglar forces entry through your back door, and doesn’t trigger an alarm, they’ll know pretty quickly that the sticker is a sham—and that your home is unguarded.

•Set the siren for a short interval. Even with an alarm, once a burglar is in, time is of the essence. “Sometimes they’re out before the siren even goes off, sometimes within a minute or two,” says DiJoseph. “That sounds like a short amount of time, but try it. Set a watch and see if you can run through every room of your house in under a minute.” (Note: I tried it. He was right. I was able to make it through my home in under a minute.) DiJoseph suggests setting your system’s siren delay for just 10-15 seconds.

•Install motion detecting lights. Night time intruders can be deterred by a blinding spotlight, triggered by an intruder’s presence.

Other Deterrents

•Trim your hedges.“High shrubs provide cover for a prowler,” explains Gruss. Keep them cut back to below your window so a burglar can’t hide while trying to pick your lock or break your glass.

•Post a “Beware of Dog” sign, even if you don’t have a dog. Some burglars are particularly dissuaded by larger breeds. Better yet, adopt an actual dog. Just be aware of how certain breeds can affect homeowner’s insurance premiums.

•Keep a television or radio on , which can deter some burglars by leading them to assume someone is home. What To Do If You See Someone Suspicious It’s not always easy to keep your cool in the heat of the moment. It can make sense to establish an emergency plan—just in case you come across a would-be intruder at home.

•If you see a suspicious vehicle in the neighborhood, write down the license plate number or snap a photo. It may turn out an unknown visitor from down the street but it won’t hurt to have the info if it turns out to be someone up to no good.

•If a stranger knocks on your door, make sure they know you’re in the home. Be loud, even if you choose to not answer the door. More than anything, you want to make your presence known. Thieves most often prefer an empty home.

•If you choose to answer the door, do so while on the phone with a friend (or pretend you’re on the phone). This will key a burglar in to the fact that someone else will know if a break-in occurs.

•If you’re positive a break-in is in progress, call 911 and shout statements like, “I just called 911!” You want let the burglar know you’re aware of their presence and that help is on the way.

•If you come home to a burglarized home, call the police immediately. Don’t touch anything the criminal may have touched. Wait outside for the police to arrive. It’s possible a burglar may still be inside the home.

Even if you follow these tips, they aren’t guaranteed to keep your home safe from burglars. Still, the harder it is to get to your goods and the more likely they are to get caught, the less likely a thief will be to select your home. If only I had known this earlier.

How a Good Home Insurance Policy Will Protect You

For most people, the biggest purchase that they will ever make is when they buy their first home. While a home is a place for you to live, it is also a very valuable asset that will eventually make up a larger part of your net worth. Because of this, those that are in the Peoria, AZ area need to make sure that they properly protect their investment with a quality home insurance policy. A home insurance policy can provide you with many different types of protection.

Protects Your Home

One of the most important parts of any home insurance policy is that it will provide you with protection for your home. When you own a property, you will want to make sure that you are protected against fire, theft, vandalism, or damage due to bad weather. When you have a full home insurance policy in place, you will receive this type of coverage. This will provide you with the financial protection that you need to feel comfortable and live with peace of mind. This coverage will also extend to your personal belongings. More expensive items could require a separate policy rider.

Liability Protection

When you have a home insurance policy in place, you also will receive some liability protection. If you own a property, you are taking on risk if you have a guest of any kind come to your home. If someone happens to be injured at your property, you could be found liable. The liability protection part of your home insurance policy will provide you with support if you are sued for liability. 

If you own a home in the Peoria, AZ area, you should speak with the team at Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance. The professionals at Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance will be able to help you better determine your home insurance needs and can get you into a policy that gives you the right type of coverage. 

I Already Have Homeowners Insurance! Why Do I need Umbrella Insurance?

If you are a family with established assets you want to protect you could stand to lose a significant amount of money in the event of a lawsuit due to injury or liability. If you are sued, you could forfeit any assets you have built, including savings and investments. While the wealthy are at risk for liability, and libel claims, so are people who have no significant assets. While you might just be starting out in your career and have no tangible assets now, you have future assets that can be targeted, and a court can award benefits to a third party if you are held liable for injuries or damages. Having basic Peoria, AZ homeowners insurance is no guarantee that you and your future assets are safe in the event of an injury or claim. 

What Does Umbrella Insurance Do? 

Umbrella insurance provides added coverage above and beyond your homeowners insurance and protects your assets or future financial gains. It kicks in when a claim is more than what your homeowners, car insurance, or personal insurance policy limits are exhausted.  

What Does Umbrella Insurance Cover? 

Umbrella liability insurance provides a variety of protection from issues that arrive from personal and professional claims. For example, umbrella insurance from Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance protects you against claims of liability and slander whether related to home or business, in addition to: 

  • Excessive medical bills 
  • Lost wages due to negligence 
  • Rehabilitative therapy 
  • Litigation costs from injury or property damage 
  • Legal defense costs

I Have No Assets! Why Do I Need Umbrella Insurance?

You may have no assets now, but a court can obligate you to pay off damages awarded against your future earnings. For example, if you are a student studying for a higher degree, or are expected to be eventually promoted to a higher-paying position, when facing a lawsuit, your future projected earnings can be targeted. 

Why Extending Home Insurance From Standard Coverage is a Good Idea

Having standard home insurance coverage is a good thing because it covers many of the basic risks to a home; however, it usually does not cover everything that most homeowners need to protect.

It is a good idea to discuss the specifics of home insurance coverage with your agent at Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance serving Peoria, AZ and the surrounding area. Your agent can help you understand what things may need extra coverage.

Some of the items to consider include:

  • Pests: Damage from vermin and insects may not be covered by a home insurance policy. If termites destroy a home, coverage for the damage is not something usually found in a standard policy. The size of the pest may affect the coverage. For example, if a bull stampedes through a living room, the damage may be covered; however, a rat chewing through electrical wiring may not be covered.
  • Mold: The problem with mold is that it can grow in places that are not easily seen. A home insurance policy may not cover old problems such as a roof leak that allows water to enter the home, which causes mold contamination within the walls over time.
  • Floods: Because of the new weather patterns from climate change, floods and flash floods are showing up in places that are not expected to have them. About 25% of flood damage now occurs outside of the traditional floodplains on maps maintained by the U.S. government that are desperately in need of an update.
  • Earthquakes and Sinkholes: Earthquakes and sinkholes are unusual risks that need to have special coverage. If the ground shifts beneath a home, this can cause cracks in the foundation, floors, and walls, which need expensive repairs.
  • Municipal Sewer Systems: In severe rainstorms, a municipal sewer system may get overloaded and cause sewage to back up and then to enter homes causing severe damage.

Get a home insurance review by talking with your agent at Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance in Peoria, AZ to add extra coverage to your home insurance as needed.

What if My Home Insurance Policy Doesn’t Fully Cover Home Replacement?

Once you have purchased a home in Peoria, AZ, you want to do everything you can to protect the investment. The best way to do that is by getting a home insurance policy through Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance. However, when you are getting this policy, you want to make sure you get the right amount of coverage. One of the areas to pay attention to is home replacement value. 

How Much Coverage Do You Need?

When it comes to home replacement value, you want to make sure that you have enough to cover the full replacement of your home if ever needed. You will want to know what your home is worth and make sure your policy covers the entire amount.

What if You Don’t Have Enough?

Not having enough coverage to fully replace your home in case you need it could be detrimental. If something happens to your home and you have to completely rebuild, you do not want to end up paying thousands out of pocket to do so. That is exactly what can happen though if you do not have full coverage. You could end up paying for the rebuild or deciding that you need to think of another option simply because it would be too expensive to pay for it out of pocket. This is likely the biggest investment of your life and you want to make sure you protect it, even if that means making sure you have full replacement coverage for the valued amount of the property. 

You will want to take a look at your current policy, if applicable, to make sure you have enough coverage. if you do not or you need to get a quote for a new policy, be sure to contact Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance, serving Peoria, AZ, today for your free quote. 

3 Tips for Shopping for Homeowner’s Insurance in Peoria

Peoria, AZ is a great place to live. The weather is sunny all year round, the cost of living is low compared to cities like Seattle and New York, and there is always something to do. If you live in the Peoria, AZ area or are planning to move here and buy property, you will need to have home owner’s insurance.  We’ve put together a few tips to help you get started when buying home insurance in Phoenix.

1.  Compare Policies

Different insurance companies offer different policies with different rates. A reputable insurance agent can help you narrow down your choices and then choose the best one for your Phoenix property.

2.  Bundle Insurance Coverage

If you have auto insurance, boat insurance, or RV insurance with an insurance company, bundling your home owner’s insurance policy with existing policies is a great way to save money.

3. Choose a Friendly Insurance Agent

When it comes time to buy a home insurance policy for your home in Phoenix, you will want to work with and insurance agent who is friendly and responsive to your questions. When looking for an insurance agent you can always ask for references to help you make the best choice.

At Schaller & Thomas Family insurance our trusted, friendly and reputable insurance agents can help you find the best home owner’s insurance policy for your Peoria, AZ home. We will help you compare policies and look any discounts you may be eligible for, such as bundling insurance policies under the same insurance company. To reach an experienced insurance agent at Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance call us at 623-580-8688.

 

Spring Home Maintenance

Spring brings great weather and beautiful scenery, but it also presents some unique home maintenance issues that should not be overlooked. These tips from Phoenix, AZ, Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance can help you keep your home up to date, safe, and secure.

Spring Home Care Tips

  • Rake up the yard debris. Fall is not the only time of year for raking, clear out any debris to allow the new spring grass to grow.
  • Spread weed and feed on the yard. It only takes a season for the weeds to overpower the grass but applying weed and feed can keep the lawn green and home values stable.  
  • Check the gutters for debris before the April showers arrive. A clogged gutter can mean rain water getting into the roof if every things is not perfect, don’t take the risk.
  • Inspect the concrete for cracks and damage. Spring is a good time to clean and seal any exposed concrete around the home, to ensure stability and longevity.
  • Check the roofing materials. If shingles come up or metal is rusted you need to know immediately so you can repair the damage long before it becomes structural.
  • Change HVAC filters. Do this in the spring to maximize allergen protection.

Keeping your home in tip-top shape is not just about looking good it is about a healthy environment and saving money on your investment. It is important to stay on top of any issues before they become permanent damages. Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance can help you with anything that does go wrong in Phoenix, AZ and the surrounding areas. Some emergencies cannot be prevented but the peace of mind knowing you are fully insured is as much of a protection as keeping your home maintained each season.

 

Questions Every Homeowner Should Ask When Getting Insurance

Home insurance provides peace of mind that their investment is secure now and in the future. However, at Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance, we know that not all home insurance is created equally. To make sure you’re getting the best rates and best service, here are a few things you should ask when getting a new policy:

What are things not covered? This can vary from company to company, but in Arizona most standard home insurance policies don’t cover things like flood and water damage, earthquake damage, or termites, just to name a few examples. To make sure you are getting the best coverage for your needs, you may need to work with an agent to add supplemental protections to your plan.

When should I file a claim? It can be tempting to want to file a claim whenever the opportunity arises, but it’s important to remember that home insurance is meant to cover the situations that you can’t. In other words, while you can technically file a claim for anything covered by your policy, filing an excessive number of low-cost claims can lead to higher premiums.

If I need to make a claim, will I have a dedicated local agent to handle my case? If you live in Phoenix, Arizona, you don’t want an agent located in New York. When you need to file a claim, you’ll want to have someone knowledgeable that you can rely on, who can guide you through the process, and answer any questions you may have.

Contact Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance with any other questions you have, and let us help find the policy that’s right for you. Our offices serve Phoenix, AZ and the surrounding areas, call us to set up an appointment.

How Often Should You Tend to Your Landscaping?

When it comes to keeping your home looking its best, you need to take care of both the interior and exterior. And while sweeping the sidewalk and pressure washing the vinyl are great ways to keep the outside of your home looking great, you also need to make sure you tend to the landscaping on a regular basis. Regardless of whether or not you are wanting to sell your home, keeping the landscaping looking its best is an excellent way to improve its curb appeal. Here’s a quick look at three tips for tending to your landscape.

1) Tend to it at least once a week

Ideally, you will want to tend to your landscaping a bit each and every day; this helps to ensure you don’t have to put in a whole day’s work tending to it each week. But if you can’t tend to it a few minutes each day, you can set aside each week to devote toward trimming the bushes, mowing the grass, and pulling weeds. 

2) Use a tarp

One of the easiest ways to remove loose grass, mulch, and leaves is by piling it onto a tarp and then carrying it to wherever you want. You can even put it on a tarp and load it into the back of a truck to haul it off. 

3) Invest in high-quality landscaping equipment

It doesn’t matter how often you tend to your landscaping; you will want to use high-quality equipment and tools. Not only will these tools save you money in the long run because you won’t have to replace them as often, but they will also help you better achieve the landscaping appeal you are going for. 

To learn about properly insuring your home, contact Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance serving the Phoenix, AZ area. 

Ways to Have a More Successful Yard Sale

Yard sales can be very common in Phoenix, AZ but they are not always successful. If having a yard sale is something that you want to do, you will want to take the time to ensure that it is a successful one and you make the money you are looking for. Use these tips from Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance before you host your yard sale:

  • Invite neighbors to take part. A yard sale can be even more successful if you have multiple families selling items. The bigger the yard sale the more people that will come.
  • Plan your yard sale for the weekend. You will have a lot more traffic if you schedule it for Friday, Saturday, or Sunday so aim for a combination of those days. 
  • Advertise. You want to be sure to plan ahead and make some signs so people know that the yard sale is happening. If you have the signs out a few days before, more people will be exposed to the signs and can come when it is happening.
  • Clean the items you are selling. If you are selling items that are used, you want to make sure they are not dirty and gross. When they are clean, more people will be willing to purchase them from you. 

No matter what steps you take before your yard sale, you should also look into getting a great home insurance policy so you can protect your home and your finances. If you do not already have one, be sure to contact Schaller & Thomas Family Insurance serving Phoenix, AZ for a free quote and to explore your options. If you do have one, they can make sure you are not paying too much or have any gaps in coverage.