Owning a home is fulfilling in so many ways, but so are the worries of homeownership.  Maintenance and upkeep, mortgage payments, homeowners insurance and often times the fear that someone might break into your home and take everything you’ve worked so hard for.

Coming home to find your house has been broken into is a nightmare no one wants to experience. The fear is in the back of our minds, but it’s still not something we like to think about.

What steps can we take as smart and conscientious homeowners to protect ourselves from burglaries taking place?  Here are some simple safety steps that you can take to lessen the chances that your home will be the target of a home invasion.

Is your house is empty during the day?

No one is suggesting that you quit your job and stay home to protect your home, but thieves prefer robbing a home during the day when no one is home.  An article from the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing at the University of Albany says that burglars are more likely to target homes that are “routinely vacant during the day.”  Here are a few things you can do.

Lock your windows and doors.

Locking your doors might seem like the most obvious thing to do to keep yourself safe, but thieves know first-hand that many people skip this simple precaution.

While a locked door doesn’t guarantee your safety, it will help deter any thieves that are looking for an easy target. Keeping your windows locked it also important, especially if your windows are easy to reach from the ground. It’s also recommended that you keep a deadbolt on your exterior doors since deadbolts make it slightly more difficult to break into your home.

Thieves can still kick a door in, but a thief looking for an easy target won’t want to attract attention by doing this. Installing a steel door is the ultimate way to keep your front entrance safe.

Do you let your mail pile up while you’re on vacation?

When preparing to go on vacation, some people forget to ask someone to take care of their mail while they’re gone. Seeing an overflowing mailbox and a pile of newspapers in front of a house is a signal to thieves that they’ve found an easy target; they’ve just figured out that the house is empty.

Luckily, there are easy remedies for this problem. You should definitely pause your mail while on vacation and have a friend pick up your newspapers. But be careful that you don’t overdo it when leaving on vacation.

Do you have an easily accessible backyard?

Thieves will choose the most convenient way to enter your home. Many like to enter through back windows because there is less of a chance that someone will see them breaking into your house. If you don’t have a fenced-in backyard, it will be easier for a thief to gain access to the back of your home. The more you can do to slow down a thief, the less chance they will succeed at getting into your home.

Do you have a window air conditioning unit?

Apartments and homes without central air usually have window air conditioning units. While they keep your house cool, these units also make it easier for thieves to break into your home.

Does your home have places to hide?

The way your house is landscaped or built can make your home attractive to thieves. They like places to hide. Bushes growing under windows and low-hanging trees are a thief’s best friend.  Pay particular attention if your landscaping is overgrown.

Is there a thief in your midst?

It may surprise you to know that most homes are not burglarized by strangers. A report from the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that 66 percent of burglaries are committed by someone who knows the victim.

Do you have a sketchy son-in-law? Jealous neighbor?  Drug addict daughter?  These are the people most likely to burglarize your house. Try to hide information about your whereabouts from them. Don’t post your upcoming trip to Belize on Facebook where they can see it.

In addition, if you live near a large population of young people, in a neighborhood with a higher-than-average drug problem, an area with already high urban crime or places that bring in a large number of strangers (e.g., shopping centers, sports arenas, transit stations, a major thoroughfare), you’re more vulnerable to burglary, because burglars may be more familiar with potential targets, and residents are accustomed to strangers.  These people might not be in your circle of acquaintance, but they are probably more familiar with your habits than would make you feel comfortable.

Your activity on social media

Just as we mentioned above, you might already know someone who is a thief.  Think twice before telling casual acquaintances (like the lady who does your nails or a close friend or relative of hers), people who provide a service (like a gardener or technician) or neighbors when you’ll be going on a trip or how connected you are to these people on social media.

Of the people quizzed in a recent Nationwide Insurance survey, 41 percent of homeowners aged 18 to 34 years post photos and updates on social media while they’re on vacation.  Giving this information to these people opens you up to a potential tragedy.