Cheryl Fleming - RE/MAX Executive Realty


Long before Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter changed the way we communicate and share information, there existed traditional social networks.

Although it's an old-fashioned concept, its value and importance will never go out of style.

For homeowners, growing families, and senior citizens, having a small group of people you can consistently turn to for support can make problems smaller and challenges a lot easier to glide through. Not only that, but having a solid connection with a few good friends, family members, and neighbors can help keep your spirits up, through both good times and bad.

When it comes to being a homeowner, raising a family, and growing older, here are some specific reasons why staying in touch with your social contacts can make life easier, less expensive, and safer:

  • Getting recommendations: Whether you need a new dentist, dog groomer, or plumber, your chances of finding someone who's dependable and reasonably priced are much greater when you ask a friend, relative, or trusted neighbor. When you're just left to you're own devices to sift through Internet listings, online reviews, and advertisements, it can be pretty time consuming and frustrating. All things being equal, you're more likely to have a successful experience with a service provider who's been recommended to you, as opposed to going through the vetting process completely on your own.
  • Taking care of your house while your away: When you're on vacation or away from home for a long weekend, it's nice to have someone you can rely on to water your plants, take care of your pets, and check to see if your house is secure. They can also make sure you don't have newspaper deliveries, packages, or mail piling up in front of your house.
  • Knowing a neighbor you can trust: Having someone nearby who can help you in an emergency, take care of your kids if you can't get home on time, or keep on eye on your house while you're away is a vital resource.
  • Senior citizens need a support network: As we age and become less able to get around like we used to, a helping hand can make a big difference in our lives. The psychological benefits of having a social life at an older age have also been well documented. Social contact enhances the quality of life for senior citizens and can even contribute to longevity.
If you've recently moved to a new community, it may be worth your while to join a couple organizations, take an adult education class, meet a few of your neighbors, and become active in the community. As songwriters, poets, philosophers, and spiritual leaders have reminded us for generations, everyone needs the help of other people in different stages of our lives. Seventeenth century English poet, John Donne, said it the mostly concisely when he wrote "No man is an island."

Did you every hear the old expression, "Trust in God, but lock your door"? Not only has that adage been passed on from one generation to the next, but it's a lyric in an old Kenny Rogers song, and you'll occasionally see it on bumper stickers. Although keeping your home safe from intruders is a serious topic, that old saying reminds us, in a humorous way, that we shouldn't take home security for granted. In addition to high tech approaches to home protection, there are also easy and inexpensive steps you can take to discourage burglars. Although many of these safety measures seem like common sense, you'd be surprised at how many homeowners forget to lock doors, leave lights on, and take other simple precautions when they're away. Here's a handful of smart steps you can take to substantially reduce the risk of having your home broken into.
  1. Make a habit of locking your doors and windows. While this piece of advice may sound like a "no-brainer," many reports of home break-ins mention an unlocked window or door as the point of entry for burglars. The first thing you can do to tighten up security and feel safer in your own home is to increase your awareness of potential threats, and emphasize to your family the importance of taking precautions. The ideal scenario involves reinforcing positive habits, without instilling a sense of fear. After all, your home should be a peaceful place where your family always feels safe and comfortable.
  2. Shine a light on the problem. You would think that everyone would leave lights on when they're not home at night, but -- for one reason or another -- many don't. Keeping your home well lit, both inside and out, is a good strategy for thwarting crime. To save money on energy bills and to avoid the appearance of always having your lights on, you can purchase inexpensive lighting timers. Leaving a radio or TV on when you're not home, or connecting it to a timer, is another way to create the illusion that someone is home.
  3. Barking dogs are a known burglar deterrent, as are "Beware of Dog" signs. The actual dogs are obviously more effective than the warning signs, but many people bring their pets to a boarding facility when they're away on vacation. One solution is to arrange for a house sitter or an on-site pet care service to stop by. If you have a trusted neighbor or family member who can feed and walk your dog while you're away (maybe, water your plants, too!), then your canine security guard can remain on duty in your absence. Many communities also have licensed and bonded pet care services that can stop by and take care of your dogs, every day, eliminating the need for your pets to be away from home.
  4. Landscaping features can be a risk factor. Be aware that high bushes and hedges can make it easier for burglars to hide while breaking into windows. Keep shrubs and branches trimmed back as much as possible to eliminate this chink in your security plan. If you're still concerned about the effect of bushes on home security, then make sure your window locks are sturdy and fully functional. Inexpensive battery-operated window and door alarms are also an option.
One method that can virtually eliminate the problem of forgetting to lock your doors and turning on lights is to have a high-tech security system installed. This technology enables you to activate locks, lights, and even thermostats from any location with your cell phone, laptop, or other mobile device. While these automated systems and monitored alarms incur a monthly service fee, the peace of mind and added control you get over your home environment is often more than worth the expense.

Many people think that if they live in a so-called "nice neighborhood" that they're immune to residential crime. While it's true that the probability of having their home or cars broken into may be lower than in urban or high-crime areas, there's always the outside chance that there's someone wandering through the neighborhood -- especially at night -- who doesn't have the best of intentions. While that does not mean you have to be in a state of "high alert" all the time, it does make sense to develop good habits with regard to home security. One thing to avoid is being lulled into a state of complacency by the the sight of manicured lawns, friendly neighbors, and the peaceful atmosphere of your neighborhood. Although those qualities are well worth appreciating and being grateful for, an ounce of prevention can help preserve the sanctity of your home and property. Typical Security Mistakes Homeowners Make Whether you're talking about highway safety, food safety, or home security, you and your family can lead a safer, more secure life by following a few basic guidelines. Unfortunately, all-too-many people tend to let their guard down and leave themselves vulnerable to threats, like home break-ins, burglary, and other residential crimes. Have you noticed any neighbors on your street who seem to "throw caution to the wind" when they're away? Maybe you, too, have gotten a little too complacent or forgetful about basic home security measures. Here are a few of the common mistakes many people make -- especially when they're on vacation -- which could be an invitation to trouble:
  1. Leaving a house key under the front door mat: Although it may seem like a convenient and somewhat discreet place to "hide" a key, it's one of the first places a resourceful burglar is going to look. Not only that, but every time a friend or member of the family accesses that key, they could easily be observed by someone passing by. The longer it's there, the more people are going to see it.
  2. Forgetting to suspend mail or newspaper delivery: When you go on vacation or visit relatives for more than a few days, your mind is already cluttered with travel plans and other arrangements. It's easy to forget about details like mail delivery and newspapers accumulating in the driveway. However, if either of those items start piling up in front of your house, it's equivalent to placing a flashing neon sign in your window, saying "Nobody's home!" Rather than contacting the post office and newspaper circulation department, an easier method is to have a trusted neighbor or friend gather your deliveries and store them in a safe place -- possibly inside your home. (If they're a really good friend, they can also water your plants, feed your tropical fish, take care of your pets, and turn on a couple lights at night -- but, maybe you don't want to test the limits of your friendship that much!)
  3. Leaving lampposts and outdoor floodlights on continuously: Again, it's like an advertisement that the house is unoccupied.
  4. Allowing the grass to get too long: It's amazing how a little sunshine and rain, while you're away, can cause an unexpected growth spurt in your lawn. Although it's not as obvious as the previous items, it can be a tip off that the family is on vacation, blissfully unaware of the security breaches that are occurring. The overgrown grass problem can be prevented by either hiring a regular lawn mowing service or recruiting an enterprising teenager in the neighborhood to keep your property looking well tended while you're away.
There are potentially dozens of home security measures you can take to ensure that your premises are completely burglarproof, but they can be expensive and complicated. However, if you just follow a few commonsense guidelines, both your possessions and your peace of mind should remain fully intact!



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