Insurance Department Teams with Realtors on Tips to Protect Your Home While Vacationing

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Insurance Department today joined forces with the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors to re-launch a video and checklist offering homeowners tips on protecting their properties from break-ins while on vacation.

“The Memorial Day holiday signals the traditional start of summer, and with most schools about to begin summer break, Pennsylvanians will very soon be hitting the road for summer vacations,” Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said. “Before leaving for a trip, there are steps homeowners can take to lessen the chance of a break-in and perhaps save on their homeowners’ insurance as well.”

The Insurance Department today re-posted on its homepage and on social media a video and checklist first released last year with tips on preventing home break-ins while away on vacation. The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors is also today running a story on this video and checklist in its daily, statewide e-newsletter, Just Listed, distributed to all member realtors, encouraging them to share this information with their clients.

“As Realtors®, we are often faced with empty properties from homeowners who have already moved. The Insurance Department offers excellent tips on protecting your home when you’re not in it. I usually recommend to clients I’m working with that they make the home look as lived-in as possible, and that includes keeping up with cutting the grass, picking up mail and packages and leaving a light or two on,” said the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® President Bill McFalls, Jr.

Making your home a less enticing target, whether you are on vacation or the home has been sold but remains vacant until the new owner moves in, is one way to both discourage break-ins and potentially lower homeowners’ insurance. Ways of doing this include:

· Installing dead bolt locks on doors. These can slow a burglar’s ability to enter your home, and in some cases can lead to a discount on insurance. Homeowners can also consider dead bolts on windows.

· Invest in a burglar alarm system. Noise can often discourage a burglar, and systems that automatically notify police and other emergency services bring help quickly. Some alarm systems may result in an insurance discount.

Keeping your home looking “lived-in” is also a good idea. Among ways to do this are:

· Putting interior lights on a timer. Choosing a few rooms to remain lit gives the impression someone is home. Consider a timer or asking a neighbor to turn on interior and exterior lights at night.

· Stop mail delivery, or have a trusted neighbor collect your mail, newspapers, and any delivered packages so they don’t stack up outside, a clear signal no one is home.

· Ask a neighbor to cut the grass if you’ll be gone long enough that the growth will be noticeable.

· Leave a radio on and turn down your doorbell if possible. Some thieves ring the doorbell or knock to try and determine if anyone is home, and having a loud radio playing and the doorbell level muted plants doubt in an intruder’s mind as to whether no one is home or the resident just didn’t hear the doorbell or knock.

Protecting your home’s contents is also important. Give a spare key directly to a trusted neighbor or friend to have access to the home. Don’t fall into the cliché of putting the key “under the mat”, as thieves will check there. Don’t put valuable documents in a personal desk or office where burglars will know to look for them. Put important documents and expensive items such as jewelry in a lockbox or safe elsewhere in the house, or at another location such as a friend or relative’s home, or in a safety deposit box. Also turn off and stow your computer out of sight to discourage an intruder from trying to hack into your personal accounts.

Don’t announce your trip in advance except to a small group of trusted friends. Talking about your upcoming vacation in public settings where you don’t know who may be listening or posting pictures on social media while you are away is a sure way of letting potential burglars know your home is empty.

“Review your homeowners’ policy to make sure you are getting any discounts for security measures you may have taken, and to make sure you have the coverage you want for the personal items you take along,” Altman said. “Most homeowners’ and renters’ policies will cover personal items stolen or damaged on a trip, but if you’ll have expensive items such as jewelry, talk to your insurance professional and make sure you’re covered.”