Be Burglar Blockers - What To Do When You First Move Into A House

Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

One thing you should do when you first move into a house, whether it's brand new or older, is make it hard for burglars to feel good about it.  So, be burglar blockers - what to do when you first move in.

Burglars are opportunists.  Burglars are predators.  What do predators do?  They go after the weakest, slowest, sickest, least able to defend itself in any group.  Most of us live in groups - apartments, neighborhoods and  developments.

Like predators, burglars examine those groupings very carefully.  They are very smart, in a criminal way.  Once a target is identified, they watch and plan.  And take advantage.

On average, burglaries take between 6 and 10 minutes.  They are very good at understanding human tendencies.  They know right where to go and what exactly to look for when they enter your house.

This post will examine what to do to deter them from ENTERING your house altogether.  The next post will explain what to do INSIDE your house if you already live there.

Given the choice to enter two houses, the burglar will pick the easiest.  So, what can you do?

1.  IF THE HOUSE HAS AN ALARM SYSTEM, USE IT!  If it doesn't, consider installing one.  Put stickers on the windows and a sign in the front yard.  Just seeing that will deter a burglar.  They don't want to take the chance that you have a monitored system with a silent alarm that calls authorities.

A smart alarm-system installer will put the keypads in a spot where they cannot be seen from a window or the street.  When they are engaged, usually, a red light comes on.  If a burglar can look through the window and see the system is turned off, you defeat the purpose of having it!

On inspections, I often give people burglar advice.  Here is a client who listened to his home inspector!  This keypad is visible from a rear deck!  I suggested he cover the system window, and red light, so it cannot be seen from the door.  He listened!

2.  Add lighting!  Burglars hate light!  If you have enough light, consider changing them to motion sensor lights, particularly in the rear of the house, or on the rear deck.  Keep trees and bushes far away because in high winds you can get a lot of turning on and off of the lights!

3.  Get a dog.  A big, loud one is best.  But at least a loud one.  Even a small, yappie dog is a deterrent because burglars don't want noise.  They might have watched the house and know you aren't home.  But they can't count on a neighbor NOT hearing the dog and calling the police.

I have a friend who is a federal agent.  He says that stickers, like the one to the left, are very, very effective.

Forget your politics.  Consider putting one on the front door even if there are no weapons in the house!  No predator wants to deal with a circumstance in which he doesn't feel superior or stronger.  He wants risk free.

4.  Change the locks.  Better yet, install locks that cannot be bumped.  Do you know what bump keys are?  If you don't, read this!

This will sound like a small thing and it is not.  Look carefully at the photo on the right.  That is the strike plate on my rear door, which I installed when I put in the great Medeco locks.

There are four screws.  First, the strike plate is secured with 3" steel screws.  They sink deep and all the way into the double stud beside the door.  Busting through that door will make a LOT of noise!  Secondly, the interior space has its own steel surround.  It is 1" deep.  The striker of the lock goes way into the jam.  And it is further protected by steel, which is itself attached with those same 3" screws and ALSO screwed to the studs with 2" screws!

5.  Get to know your neighbors!  I have not one, but TWO trusted neighbors who have my house keys.  This is good for emergencies - ever lock yourself out?  But also to check the house if we aren't home.  In addition, you can hide a key in the yard.  There are various things you can buy to hide keys - the hollow rock or little magnet box.  Or simply put keys in a spot nobody is likely to check.  THE POLICE HIGHLY RECOMMEND AGAINST HAVING KEYS IN A COMBO BOX SOMEWHERE VISIBLE AND OUTSIDE THE HOUSE.  They are too easily compromised with bolt cutters and the like.

6.  Keep the front door and windows locked all the time.  If your house is being watched and it is evident you are in the back yard and not paying attention, remember, the burglar will be in your house for only a few minutes and is very familiar with human tendencies. 


My recommendation:  examine your house.  In most areas, the police will come over and actually give you security advice if you ask them.  Take advantage of that!  They know your area pretty well.  Inform yourself and make changes.  You will feel better if you do.


Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Re-Blogged 10 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Anne M. Costello 09/16/2011 01:42 AM
  2. Chris Smith 09/16/2011 03:42 AM
  3. Mary Macy 09/16/2011 03:49 AM
  4. Cheryl Ritchie 09/17/2011 02:29 AM
  5. Linda Jamail Marshall 09/17/2011 03:01 AM
  6. Michele Rose 09/17/2011 04:21 AM
  7. Gene Riemenschneider 09/17/2011 03:07 PM
  8. Seana Yates 09/18/2011 03:11 PM
  9. Gary Burleson 09/19/2011 02:48 AM
  10. Roy Kelley 09/21/2011 03:19 AM
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Michael Singh,Broker
Singh Real Estate - Corral de Tierra, CA

Couldn't agree more 

Sep 17, 2011 06:17 PM #51
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


There is no way I want to use a gun.  Even with training I would not feel comfortable.  But I can and will do the other things you suggest.

Sep 17, 2011 06:48 PM #52
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Markita.  Anything like this is relevant these days!  And I was happy to finally meet you the other day!

And thank you Debra.  We were kind of on the same wave length the other day.

Good Michael!  I hope you can use the info too.

Evelyn - if a predator even thinks you are armed, he will not bother you.  But our classes are 80% women.  That is a BIG deterrent.  Keep in mind - they are not going to treat you nice.  So you need to be less nice.

Sep 17, 2011 10:44 PM #53
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Real Estate

Good advice, there are many people that don't feel the need to change the locks when they buy a home. Wrong thinking.

Sep 18, 2011 04:01 AM #54
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

Jay, I came here from the other one you wrote on the subject. Great series with very important information.

Sep 18, 2011 04:11 AM #55
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Very wrong Lyn.  You don't know who has those keys - old boyfriends, uncle Fred, a maid service.  You don't know!

Sandy - thank you very much!  I hope you and your clients can use it!

Sep 18, 2011 06:02 AM #56
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Jay - There are a lot of recommendations here.  I have several, and I think there are more that I need to do in my own home.

Sep 18, 2011 06:58 AM #57
Erna Neal
The Viking Team, Realty - Winter Park, FL
A Knowledgable Central Florida Realtor

Jay, wonderful post. Thank you for the great tips. It is important to stay vigilant about keeping your home safe.

Sep 18, 2011 08:45 AM #58
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Christine - I hope there is something there everybody can use!  Keep safe!

Erna - I guess as people and families personal safety is paramount.  We need to keep it in mind always.

Sep 18, 2011 09:51 AM #59
Julie Babcock -Nook & Cranny Home Inspections
Nook & Cranny Home Inspections Tonawanda, NY - Tonawanda, NY

Devils advocate here ;).  With the police not recommending combo locks outside the home, what about the lockboxes agents use?  Not everyone uses electronic ones.  Of course the ones with a hanger can be cut off with a bolt cutter, but how does that then free the key? 

Sep 18, 2011 11:01 AM #60
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Hi Julie.  Realty boxes are temporary.  I am talking about people keeping "emergency" keys permanently on the hose bib or elsewhere.  Those boxes can be easily cut off with a bolt cutter.  I bet I could get one off with a Dremel tool!  As to getting into them, are you kidding?  One whack in the right spot with a screwdriver and they pop right open!

Keep nothing in plain sight!

It's the same with those locking, fire-proof boxes you can get at the hardware store for papers and such.  They are a cinch to open.  One whack.

I have never tried to get into a Supra key box.  But I imagine it would not be hard with my Fein tool or circular saw and a metal-cutting bit.  Literally just cut the bottom off.  But if you try it, put the box securely in a vice so you don't get any back jumping from the saw!   ;>)

Sep 18, 2011 11:26 AM #61
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

Great advisory Jay. The mounting screws that come with door hard ware are a joke if you want a secure door. The small investment in screws long enough to lock into the house framing is definately worth the cost.

Sep 18, 2011 01:51 PM #62
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

You've got to tie everything to the structure Robert!  If not, it isn't part of the structure!  Those little 1/2" screws they give with the kits are useless too.

Sep 18, 2011 01:58 PM #63
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Great advice, Jay.  You seriously have Medeco locks on your house?  Wow.  I've never seen those on a house... ever.

Sep 18, 2011 02:52 PM #64
Dawn A Fabiszak
Private Label Realty ( Denver metro area, Colorado - Aurora, CO
The Dawn of a New Real Estate Experience!

Jay ~ solid advice!  Lights are a great idea.  I saw a cute sign on a house last week...." I would love for you to tresspass, my dog can use the exercise!"

Sep 18, 2011 04:23 PM #65
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Um, Reubs, lock smiths around here are putting them in like "pancakes."  I recommend them on nearly every inspection.  My church uses them.  I have my house and church keys in my pocket and show clients how the cuts differ from "regular" keys!  The day after my lock smith put ours in we decided we needed one more key.  I went to his shop and even though he knew me, he still made me pull out my license to get my card to match things up before he would cut another key!

We have three locks and they are the smoothest I have ever used.  I shoot them with WD-40 once a year.

Dawn - those kinds of signs are more effective then people may realize!  And good lighting is essential.

Sep 18, 2011 10:57 PM #66
Jayson Holland - Denver, CO
Jay Holland

The relationship between humans and the domesticated dog began over 14,000 years ago. FOURTEEN THOUSAND YEARS of dogs protecting, guarding, helping, defending......(from NatGeo) That relationship has become so intimate that dogs are often viewed as creatures apart, writes biologist James Serpell. “The domestic dog exists precariously in the no-man’s-land between the human and nonhuman . . . neither person nor beast, showing traits of both.”

The value of a dog cannot ever be overstated.


Sep 21, 2011 03:30 AM #67
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Jayson.  I have had many delightful dogs my whole life.  I hope to be with them all in heaven, well, along with some other people too!

Sep 21, 2011 08:32 AM #68
Lynn B. Friedman
Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty Call/Text 404-939-2727 Buckhead - Midtown - Westside -- and more ... - Atlanta, GA
Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers

Dear Jay -
Yet another great post!

The worst is when BEFORE CLOSING you have shown the Buyer things to do immediately AND suggested that they buy the items ahead of time.  You may find out that they didn't take your advice when they get burglarized the first day!  UGH!!!
Have a happy day -

Sep 22, 2011 05:39 PM #69
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I have given a lot of advice Lynn, but to my knowledge nobody has been burglarized the first day!  That's awful!

Sep 22, 2011 10:09 PM #70
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