Realtor view: Keep safety in mind when buying a home

December 22, 2017

At the holidays and throughout the year, personal and home security is a concern. Protection of self and property is a fundamental component of feeling safe, and this is especially true in our homes. 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 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. Unsecured garages are also an access point. Does the entrance from the garage have a good door with a solid locking mechanism?

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

Consider a security system. If the home is not pre-wired or does not have an existing system, you could spend a substantial amount to get one installed, although most insurance companies offer a 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 escape routes, but also can provide a degree of privacy and restrict 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 play area.

With an enclosed backyard, you may even consider getting a dog. While big dogs are usually more intimidating and more of a stereotypical watchdog, 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.

When searching for a home, consider personal and home security. 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.

Cindy Hamann, with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties, is 2017 chair of the Houston Association of Realtors/HAR.com.