Dear New Frugal You,
I'd like to get rich slowly in real estate the way my parents did -- buy and live in a house in a so-so to poor neighborhood in an otherwise good city -- at the edge of a thriving downtown area where the growth trends say it will for sure grow substantially in value in a few years. I've done my homework and found a place that the growth wave will wash over it and make me good money, eventually. My concern is now. Specifically, burglaries. There are a lot of them in the area. What can I do to maximize my odds of keeping from being a victim? -- Flip
Interesting strategy. You're right that when an area is gentrified many homeowners benefit from the property appreciation. So if you're able to pick the right area you could give your net worth a significant boost.
You're also right to pay attention to the crime statistics in your neighborhood.
According to the FBI property crimes amount to more than $150 billion in 2011 and approximately 32 percent were burglaries. So if you have a theft problem in your new neighborhood, you need to take steps to protect yourself and your belongings.
When asked about preventing home robberies, both the police and professional burglars will tell you to focus on two things:
- Make it hard for a thief to enter.
- Make it easy for them to get caught.
Let's begin by making it hard for them to get into your home.
Privacy is great, but remember that burglars like privacy, too. If your house can be easily seen from the street and by your nieghbors it's less likely that it will become a target. So avoid privacy fences or any bushes that block your home's visibility.
Don't make your home look attractive to thieves. Bikes or other easily stolen items shouldn't be left outside. Don't leave garage doors open.
Leaving packing material from an expensive home theater system for trash pickup may impress your neighbors. But it will also let potential burglars know what's available for the taking.
Don't display expensive items (silver, collectibles, etc.) where they can be seen through a window from outside your home. Avoid sending signals that might make your home a target.
Obviously you want to make sure that exterior doors and windows are secure. Deadbolts are a must. Check to see that any older locks still work. If you have any sliding glass doors make sure they're secure. Sliders are often an easy entry point.
It should go without saying, but lock your house! And, don't hide a 'spare' key anywhere near the door. Be especially concerned with any ground floor doors or windows that visible from the street. Burglars don't like to be seen by anyone walking by.
You'll need to decide whether the neighborhood is dangerous enough to require barred windows. If you do go that route, make sure that they're professionally installed and that you can escape if necessary.
You don't need to make your home impossible to burglarize. You just need to make it hard to break in. Most theives will choose a home that they think they can enter in a minute or less. You want thieves to see your home as a difficult target. There's a good chance that they'll move to a softer target.
Next, let's see if we can make it easy for them to get caught.
Alarm systems are a monthly expense, but they can be effective. The more advanced systems include cameras that help ID thieves.
Make it hard for the thief to do his job quickly. Most do not want to be in your home for more than 10 minutes. If you can make his job harder you'll reduce the amount he can steal and increase the odds of him being caught.
Don't leave valuables, such as jewelry, in your master bedroom. That's the first place a burglar will look. The closet in your master bedroom is no better. Most of us are a bit lazy and put valuables in a top dresser drawer. Your average burglar knows that.
Likewise, don't leave car keys and credit cards in the open, not by your front door or on the kitchen counter.
Take pictures of all of your valuables including electronics. If you do suffer a loss pictures will help identify items if they're found and will also make it easier to collect on insurance.
Etch your name or an ID number where appropriate. It might not help prevent theft, but will allow you to identify your goods if they're found. And, that's important in terms of catching the thief and also getting your stuff returned to you. Often without positive proof that those are your goods neither is possible.
Don't hesitate to call the police if you see anything suspicious. Around your house or a neighbor's. And, get to know your neighbors. Share anything strange. Often thieves will continue to work the same neighborhood. You might notice patterns that would help catch the bad guys.
Let's hope that your forecast for your new neighborhood is correct. And, that any potential burglars see your precautions and decide to move on to an easier target!
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