Secure your home before leaving on a vacation

Four to five minutes — that could be the difference between whether your return home from vacation is ruined by a burglar.

Experts say 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.

How else can you avoid returning to a home that’s been ransacked? Consider these “Do’s” and “Don’ts” from 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.

• Don’t 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.

• Do invest in a burglar alarm. The most effective ones notify an outside service of trouble, but any kind is a good deterrent.

Just make sure there’s a friend or family member available to turn it off if it’s set off in your absence.