Cheryl Fleming, GRI, ABR's Blog
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!)
- Leaving lampposts and outdoor floodlights on continuously: Again, it's like an advertisement that the house is unoccupied.
- 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.