Keep safety in mind when buying home

October 7, 2018

Protection of self and property is a fundamental component of feeling safe, and this is especially true in your home. So, if you’re in the market to buy a home, be mindful of security during your search.

It’s likely that you will evaluate different neighborhoods as you look for you next home. Do your research to find areas that appeal to you.

In addition to relying on your Realtor’s expertise, go online and look around. The Houston Association of Realtors’ website, HAR.com, is an excellent resource.

You also can use the Internet to review neighborhood-specific crime statistics and search for sex offenders.

Other considerations are more in your direct control — things that are already present on the property or that you can change after you take possession of the house. Generally speaking, criminals will select the house that presents the least risk of being caught. Homes with easy access, substantial cover and good escape routes tend to be more common targets.

Evaluate points of entry to the home. Solid-core or metal doors are preferable, as are keyless deadbolt locks. Also check to see if there are windows near the doorknob; a thief could smash the window, reach in and unlock and open the door. Look at the condition of the door jamb … should it be replaced? Do all the locks on the windows work? Sliding glass doors and sliding windows should have functioning latch locks, but a through-the-frame pin is a decent hindrance to a potential thief, as is a charley-bar.

Unsecure garages are also a common access point. Does the entrance to the house from the garage have a door with a solid locking mechanism?

If the home does not have heat- or motion-activated lights outside, consider installing them. A potential thief may be dissuaded from entering your home simply based on the fact that the automatic lights around the property remove their cover as they approach.

You might consider a security system. If the home is not prewired or does not have an existing system, you could spend a substantial amount to get one installed, although most insurance companies offer an attractive discount for such a setup. If there is an existing system, determine if all windows and doors are monitored and see if the installed equipment includes a motion sensor and a battery backup. Some systems can even detect smoke, heat, fire and carbon monoxide. Find out whether the system you’re looking at has that capability.

Fences not only cut off easy escape routes, but also can provide a degree of privacy and restrict unwanted access. Additionally, if there’s a lot of pedestrian activity in the neighborhood, a property without a fence may get pass-through traffic. If you have children, a fence provides a safe area for them to play.

With an enclosed back yard, you may even consider getting a dog. While big dogs are usually more intimidating and more of a stereotypical watch dog, any barking dog can be effective at giving warning that something is out of the ordinary. Plus, you can hang a “Beware of Dog” sign, which may act as another deterrent.

Everyone has different definitions of and expectations about safety. After all, what’s “safe” to one person may be far too risky for someone else. One thing’s for sure, though — everyone wants their home, possessions and most of all, their lives, to be as secure as possible.

When searching for a home, consider personal and home security. You may not be able to find a home that offers every conceivable security feature, but you can make improvements. Anything that makes your house less of a target will reduce your risk and give you increased peace of mind.

Visit HAR.com to see property listings all across the state of Texas.

Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, with JPMorgan Chase, is 2018 chair of the Houston Association of Realtors/HAR.com.

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