From the June 2017 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Help Clients Protect Their Homes During the Summer Travel Season

They can minimize the risk of robbery and other threats by taking action

There are practical steps HNW clients can take to protect their homes while they're away. There are practical steps HNW clients can take to protect their homes while they're away.

For many of your clients, summertime means getting away for a much-desired vacation. It may also mean traveling to a second home or leaving a winter home and returning to a primary residence. Whatever the scenario, summer can be like the movie “Home Alone” with a twist — instead of your clients, it's actually the house that will be left alone.

Financial advisors can serve clients well by identifying some of the risks to unoccupied homes and pointing out steps necessary to mitigate them.

Burglary, of course, is the biggest risk, and modern home security systems provide unparalleled safety and peace of mind. Still, no matter how sophisticated the security system, clients still have a critical role in making sure their home and its contents remain safe.

Here are some important summertime security do's and don'ts that may be worth reviewing with clients:

Don't broadcast your whereabouts. Remind clients not to reveal their plans or itineraries on social media and not to provide running online commentary of their travel activities. To be sure, your clients’ best friends are not the ones to worry about, but criminals lurk online and are all too eager to burgle a home when they know its residents are away.

In the same vein, remind clients to warn their children not to share vacation or travel plans with friends. One last old-fashioned bit of advice — don't leave voice messages on home or cell phones that say when you’ll be away.

Make a home look occupied. Since looks can be deceiving, clients should be reminded to make their home appear as if they are in it. Here's a checklist:

  • If a car or cars are normally left outside, have someone periodically drive them or park them a bit differently.

  • If there's a swimming pool, keep the water in it circulating.

  • Make sure that lawn mowing and watering continue as scheduled.

  • Put a hold on mail and newspaper deliveries.

  • Use timers on exterior lights to go on and off at the usual times.

Secure the home and its contents. Security systems can only do so much; clients should take a few extra safety precautions when they plan to be away:

  • Add security lights with motion sensors to scare off potential burglars.

  • Close all window latches and put a secondary blocking device such as a wooden dowel in place to ensure windows cannot be opened.

  • Let the security company know when the home will be vacant.

  • Disconnect the garage door opener and lock it manually to protect it from criminals who can crack the electronic code.

  • Move fine jewelry to a safe or bank safety deposit box.

  • Don't leave house keys in an obvious place inside or outside the home.

  • Lower the volume or shut off the ringer on telephones so they can't be heard outside.

  • Make sure fine art, expensive electronics and other valuables aren't visible through windows.

  • Put fresh batteries in smoke detectors so they remain operable and don't beep while homeowners are away.

  • Use a deadbolt to secure doors.

Minimize the potential for damage. When your clients are away, problems that ordinarily can be easily averted or remedied are liable to spiral into calamities. Some steps clients can take to avert potential disasters include:

  • Shutting off water lines.

  • Making sure a sump pump in the basement is working properly.

  • Making sure washing machines, dryers and dishwashers are turned off.

  • Unplugging small appliances and electronics to prevent damage from a power surge.

Since a watchful pair of eyes is often the best defense, remind clients to ask a trusted neighbor to look in on things while they are away, and to have the neighbor alert your clients — and the police — if there is anything suspicious. A house-sitting arrangement may be worth considering for a particularly long absence.

--- Read Tech Best Practices for International Travel on ThinkAdvisor.

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