(NAPS) - Four to five minutes - that could be the difference between whether or not your return home from vacation is ruined by a burglar.
According to experts, that's the maximum time most thieves will spend trying to break into a house before giving up in search of easier prey. That holds true year-round, whether you're blissfully off on a winter ski getaway or spending the summer on the beach.
"People don't realize that going on vacation can be an invitation for would-be thieves," says Mike Convery, vice president and chief claim officer at MetLife Auto & Home. "Or that the average burglary will result in a loss of more than $2,000."
In fact, the Insurance Information Institute indicates nine out of 10 break-ins could have been prevented if homeowners had burglar-proofed their properties. The simple act of locking your doors before leaving home can go a long way toward deterring a burglar. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 50 percent of burglars use an unlocked door or window to gain access to a home.
How else can you avoid returning to a home that's been ransacked? Read on for some "Do's" and "Don'ts" from the experts:
* Don' t advertise you're away. Arrange to have the lawn mowed, put lights and electronics on variable timers, and-to really complete the illusion-ask a neighbor to park a car in your driveway.
* Do make would-be thieves feel both exposed and contained. Choose picket or chain-link fencing instead of solid fencing to create a physical barrier that's less easy to hide behind. Keep hedges clipped to around waist level.
* Do hesitate to rearrange things. Those expensive belongings, including TVs and stereo systems, might as well have a sign on them saying "Take Me" if they're left in plain view from windows and doors.
* Do get an assist from technology. A solar-powered, motion-sensor light-which doesn't require an electrician to install-illuminates your property so that lurking intruders are easier for neighbors and passing patrol cars to spot.
* Don't hide keys in "secret places" outside your home. Most burglars know where to look. Better to leave a duplicate with someone you trust.