Your summer-holiday prep list may already be longer than you care to admit, but taking a few considered steps to protect your home before setting off can bring a lot of peace of mind. And that, at the end of the day, is what you’re going on holiday for in the first place! You don’t want to be obsessing about security when you should be on the road to fun and adventure.

So, to help you on your way, here are a few home-safety checks to carry out before you leave.

1) Don’t forget the garage door

Garage doors are a common weak point for thieves looking for easy access to your home without been spotted. Not only are they a weakness, they provide shelter once inside. To the casual passer-by, an open garage with a works van parked outside does not scream break-in.

Securing your home should therefore extend to securing your garage door, as well as front and back entrances. Having a security system in place stops pesky thieves in their tracks, as people are generally less willing to break in once they realise their every move is being caught on camera.

If you don’t fancy getting a home security system, or think it would be too expensive at this point in time, consider stand-alone door accessories like euro-locks and bars, hinges, handles and door stays to minimise the chance of a break-in.

2) Make your home appear occupied

An occupied home looks lived in: lights go on and off, cars come and go. When you’re away, everything stops all of a sudden. Over 80% of burglaries take place when homes are empty. So it’s essential to create the illusion of a residence that’s filled with life.

Think about getting a couple of timer-operated lamps. These are very affordable and make it look like someone’s in during the evening.

Nothing says “I’m an empty house, break in and help yourself” like a pile of unread letters on the doorstep, milk bottles lining up outside and a laptop collecting dust on the kitchen table. So consider getting a trusted neighbour to remove these for you in your absence. Also, if a friend or neighbour is willing to keep up appearances about your property — things like gardening, collecting post or even parking a car in your driveway — that’s a bonus.

3) Lock up, everything

It may seem obvious, but hey, it’s easy to forget. In a last-minute packing frenzy you might leave the upstairs window unlocked, granting easy access. Or, perhaps, you never bother to turn the deadbolt on the kitchen door. Well, now it’s time to clean up your act! If you lock up all access points as you’re leaving, then it makes life a lot harder for any prospective burglars out there.

4) Hide your valuables

Do clear all valuables from sight before leaving. Burglars often think long and hard about where to strike (they want to net the biggest haul, obviously), so don’t give them a good reason to pick your house by leaving something incredibly valuable in view of one of the windows.

If you have a safe in the home, now is a good time to use it. Otherwise, put obvious valuables in the nearest drawer/cupboard – and when you’re back from holiday, you can do a quick sweep round your house restoring them to their pre-holiday splendour and pride of place. Things to watch out for in particular are:

  • electronic devices, like tablets, laptops and games consoles
  • jewelry and obvious jewelry boxes
  • artwork, such as paintings and sculpture
  • handbags that you’re not taking with you

For more on protecting your gadgets, check out our recent post on gadget insurance.

5) Don’t publish holiday posts

Finally, don’t brag about your break in the sun to everyone you meet. This includes social media, blogs and online forums where anyone could be reading.

That’s not to say you should be suspicious of every Tom, Dick and Harry but even a chance remark could lead to information falling into the wrong hands (if you believe in the famous “6 degrees of separation”, then you’re also only 6 people away from all the nation’s burglars). Wait until you return to share your summer snaps with trusted friends and family – enjoy your fun in the sun first though, and don’t count your holiday chickens before they’re hatched.

6) Be sure that everything you want to protect is properly insured

OK, this one is perhaps a little obvious. But you’d be amazed how many people there are in the UK who don’t have any contents insurance whatsoever (it’s more than a quarter!).

Then, out of those who do have contents insurance, a great number are under-insured. Under-insurance happens when the value of your stuff exceeds the amount of cover you have. For example, if you have £20,000 of contents cover through your home insurance but the total value of your possessions is actually £40,000, then you are 50% under-insured. This is bad news in several ways, none so bedevilling as what is referred to by insurers as “averaging”.

The way averaging works is: if you make a claim and it’s found that you’re under-insured, you will only receive a percentage of the claim payment. So, if the total value of your things is actually worth double what you’ve told your insurer, you may only get half of any claim. So, if you lost a £1000 laptop in a burglary whilst you were away, you would only get £500 back from your insurer.

The worst part about under-insurance and averaging is that the overwhelming number of people who are under-insured don’t know it. And it’s easier to end up under-insured than you might think. We estimate that people’s possessions increase in value by 24% over a three year period (on average). This means that, unless you’ve updated the details of your home insurance policy in the meantime, you can expect to be 80% under-underinsured after 3 years. And many people let their existing policies role over for far longer than this without making any changes.

So our advice: if you don’t have contents insurance already, get yourself protected as soon as possible. This way you won’t just be protected during your holiday, you’ll be protected all the time you’re in the UK as well. And remember as well that the majority of UK burglaries actually take place while the occupants of the property are in.

If you’re new to to contents insurance, or you’ve already got a policy, be sure to check the terms and conditions. Many policies will have a single-item claim limit, which means that, while you may have a hefty amount of cover overall, you cannot claim above a certain threshold on any single item. Claim limits on typical contents policies are often around £1500. So if you lose a £5000 engagement ring in a burglary, you may only be able to claim 30% of it back. Even if you have the right level of cover in place. You guessed it: yes, home insurance is a minefield! So, to reiterate:

  1. make sure you’re covered to begin with
  2. ensure you have the right level of cover (you’re not under-insured)
  3. list your valuables separately on your home/contents policy

So there we have it. 6 ways to keep your home safe while you’re away (and also cover yourself in the event that something bad still happens). Tick these things off before you jet away, and then you can enjoy a worry-free break in whichever sunny part of the world you’ve chosen. Happy Holidays!

Get personalised home and contents insurance with buzzvault. Find us on the app store or visit gobuzzvault.com for more information.