Nov 15, 2023
Home might be where the heart is, but it’s where your precious valuables are, too. And thieves know it all too well. That simple fact makes every home a potential target for a burglary.
According to the FBI’s latest reports on crime data, more than $463 billion worth of goods are stolen from residences each year, with more than 847,522 burglaries reported in 2022 alone. This amounts to roughly one burglary in America every 22.6 seconds.
While break-ins can happen in any neighborhood, there are several steps you can take to protect your family and belongings from the dangers of a home invasion. We spoke to real estate and security experts to get the lowdown on what thieves look for when deciding whether to hit your house.
Here are seven signs your home is an easy target and our best advice on how to change that.
1. Lack of alarm system
Installing an alarm system can be an essential first step to protecting your home. Yet, recent statistics reveal that a whopping 75% of American homes don’t have a security system—and that burglars are 300% more likely to target these properties.
“It’s not just about electronic alarms,” says Ryan Nelson, CEO of Rental Real Estate. “In my early days, one of my rental properties was almost robbed. I learned quickly that even a dog can deter potential intruders. Later on, I invested in a comprehensive alarm system for that property, and the difference was like night and day.”
2. Mail piling up
Another telltale sign of an easy target for burglars? Houses where no one appears to be home. An empty property becomes obvious when mail, packages, or local ads start piling up on the doorstep.
“It’s the little things—unpicked mail, an unkempt yard—that give it away,” says Nelson. “Having someone collect the mail or hiring a yard service during extended absences can solve this issue.”
3. Excessive tree or shrub cover
Most of us love having healthy gardens surrounding our homes, but it turns out there is such a thing as having too much.
“While lush landscaping looks nice, it also can hide burglars,” says Bailey Moran, of Texas’s Austin TX Realty. “Keep bushes trimmed and good sight lines to windows and doors. A client of mine learned this the hard way when overgrown bushes concealed an attempted break-in.”
4. Outdated doors or windows
When it comes to entry points into your home (e.g., windows and doors), you already know it’s essential to always keep them locked. But homeowners must also ensure these openings aren’t structurally vulnerable to break-ins.
“Weak doors and windows are an easy target for burglars,” says Mark Buskuhl, CEO of Ninebird Properties. “Consider investing in strong, sturdy doors with deadbolt locks and reinforced metal frames. You can also reinforce your windows with security film, or install window bars.”
5. No outdoor lights
The best cover for a burglary? The darkness surrounding your home. But you can avoid this by strategically placing automatic outdoor lights around your home and property.
“Burglars tend to avoid homes with well-lit exteriors, as it increases their risk of being seen,” says Buskuhl. “Make sure to keep your outdoor lights on at night, or install motion-sensor lights. You can also use smart light bulbs and set them on a timer, giving the illusion that someone is home.”
6. Lack of cameras
While an alarming number of home break-ins go unsolved (nearly 89%, according to the FBI), the crimes that are solved almost certainly were aided by security camera footage. But beyond that, well-placed cameras are also a significant deterrent when burglars are scouting out homes.
“Security cameras are a great way to deter burglars and provide evidence in case of a break-in,” says Buskuhl. “You can opt for traditional CCTV cameras or go for newer, more affordable options like smart doorbell cameras that send alerts to your phone when there is activity outside your home.”
7. Isolated properties
One of the most significant risks to your home’s safety is its location, especially as it relates to other neighbors and businesses.
Although you might not be able to do much about this after the fact, it’s a good thing to take into consideration when shopping for homes. If your home is at the end of a long road or without any nearby neighbors, you’ll want to take every preventive measure on this list—and then some.
“Isolated homes are prime targets for burglars, as there are fewer chances of getting caught,” says Buskuhl. “If you live in such a location, install security cameras and motion-sensor lights to increase your home’s security.”