A home burglary occurs about every 23 seconds in the U.S.
If that sounds like a lot, it is — but it pales in comparison to the burglary rates of years past. In fact, FBI data shows that burglaries have dropped by more than 45 percent since 2008, decreasing more than 11 percent in each of the last two years, according to preliminary 2019 bureau crime statistics.
But this decline didn’t happen by accident. One reason for the drop in property crimes is the increasing accessibility (and affordability) of home security devices. From self-installed video doorbells and phone-activated alarm systems to motion-detecting lights and even just better privacy fences, the number of home security options are now seemingly endless.
As these items can often improve both the value and appeal of residential property in today’s market, there are even more reasons for homeowners to explore available security options.
The value in home security
Obviously, the greatest benefit of installing a home security device is that it can better protect your home, belongings and loved ones. But atop this, security devices are property improvements that can enhance your home’s market appeal.
If you’re making significant changes–such as upgrading to a taller, more secure fence or installing a full-scale security monitoring system–you can also increase the perceived value of your home and/or make it easier to sell.
As an added benefit, improving your home’s security might also qualify you for certain home insurance discounts, so check with your insurer.
How to determine if your home is at risk
All homes are vulnerable to break-ins, but some pose more risk than others. For example, statistics show that homes in rural states see more crime than those in more metropolitan ones. Properties in New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have the highest rates of burglary in the country.
Additionally, burglaries are more common in the middle of the day and in the summer months. If your home is regularly left unattended during these time frames, it may be at higher risk. You might want to consider your neighborhood crime rates and think about the belongings in the home. If you live in a particularly high-crime area or have at home cash, valuable jewelry, expensive electronic items or other valuables, taking additional security measures is probably a good idea.
Fortunately, if you are going to take additional steps to protect your home, there are options aplenty.
Physical security measures
There are a number of easy, low-cost changes you can make to your doors and locks, and there are various ways to make entry points in general more secure:
- Installing solid wood or reinforced doors. Solid wood doors or doors reinforced with metal are your best choices for preventing a break-in. Make sure you add one at both the front and back entrance. Yet money is wasted on expensive doors if locks aren’t equally secure.
- Adding deadbolt locks. Unlike spring locks, deadbolt locks can’t be forced open. They’re typically affordable and fairly easy to install.
- Installing motion-detecting lights – These illuminate automatically when someone enters their detection range, and can scare off thieves in the dark of night. Make sure you install them so that they’re pointing at walkways, driveways, doors and any other entry points.
- Adding a storm door. This can add an extra barrier to entry.
- Adding a door-reinforcement plate. These help prevent burglars from kicking in your door. They’re easy to install (you only need a drill and some screws), and they’re inexpensive.
- Installing additional window devices. Adding pin, key or wedge locks to your windows can make it harder for burglars to enter through them. You can also add sensors that chime when windows open, or insert a bolt or rod that blocks some of the window track, thus limiting how far it can open
Technological security measures
There’s an increasing number of tech devices to control and monitor access to your property. Many of these allow for remote use via a mobile phone or tablet. Tech options you might want to consider include:
- Video doorbells. These help you monitor who approaches your property, as well as who rings the doorbell. Many allow users to speak through the device remotely and record doorstep activity for playback.
- Full-scale security systems. Some help safeguard all entry points, including windows, doors and garages. These are typically controlled by a keypad in your home, though many come with mobile apps. These often involve using a central monitoring company, which means a monthly bill–but may be worth the expense for those who need this additional peace of mind.
- Camera systems. Cameras positioned at your front stoop, back patio and driveway can help deter burglars. There are motion-detecting options, live/24-7 systems and even fake cameras for those who want to save money. Devices hooked to the internet such as Ring let you see what’s going on at your home from anywhere, and even answer the door remotely.
- Smart locks. High-tech locks can help you better protect your property by enabling remote locking and unlocking. Just make sure you choose those with deadbolts, so they can’t be picked or kicked in.
Outdoor security improvements
There are a number of exterior changes that can increase the security of your property, including:
- Installing a privacy fence or wall. If your yard lacks a fence, or you have a low fence or a transparent chain-link fence, upgrading to a 6- or 8-foot opaque fence can increase security considerably. Higher fences are tougher (and more obviously) to climb over, opacity makes it harder for burglars to case your home from the curb.
- Getting creative with landscaping. Intentional landscaping can help keep burglars out, too. Consider adding thick, hard-to-traverse shrubbery around windows, and using tall trees and foliage to block intruders.
- Putting up an alarm-monitoring sign as a deterrent. If you’re not able to afford a full alarm system or central monitoring, an inexpensive fake-monitoring sign may be a good option for your situation; these are widely available.
- Getting a dog. If you like dogs, this might be a good option for you, especially if you’re home a lot. Even the mere sound of a dog barking or growling can send burglars running.
Financing your home security updates
Protecting your home and improving its marketability will come at a price, but that doesn’t have to mean draining your bank account. There are many low-cost ways to increase your home’s security, and there are financing options that can help lighten the burden.
For example, you can use:
- Cash-out refinancing. If you have significant equity in the home, a cash-out refinance can help you tap that and use it toward your security efforts. Given today’s low mortgage rates, you may even cut your monthly payments with a lower interest rate.
- Home equity loans and lines of credit. Home equity loans and HELOCs can be an option too if you have equity in your property. Just remember that these are second mortgages and will require monthly repayment.
- Personal loans. A personal loan might be an option for financing your security upgrades, though it will come at a higher interest rate than the other options on this list. Just make sure you have good credit before applying, or your rate will be even higher.
- Credit cards. Credit cards can be a good option, especially if you use ones that offer cash-back rewards or discounts at home improvement stores, and those with no annual fees and low interest rates are preferable.
It’s important to choose upgrades carefully by weighing all the options, their expense and their relative value. Focus on ones that either improve your home’s marketability or increase its appraised value. This will ensure a return on your investment when it comes time to sell the house.