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How Do Burglars Choose A House to Break Into?

Have you ever wondered how burglars choose a house to break into? Are they chosen at random or does it involve deliberate thought? And what makes some houses a more lucrative target than others?

Every year, thousands of houses in the country are burgled leaving the homeowners in a state of despair and shock. Burglars take away their valuable belongings as well as their sense of security impacting their emotional and mental health along with leaving them under a heavy financial burden.

With time, burglars are becoming smarter and they choose their targets very wisely. There’s a reason they don’t burgle every other house on the block.

Professional burglars look for a certain set of conditions when choosing a house to break into. “Casing a house” is a common term used to describe the tactic they use to target a property. They take a close look at the house to gather any important information that might help them break in easily. This might take anywhere between a few days to a couple of weeks.

Knowing how a burglar’s mind works and what they look for can help you immensely in taking the right security measures. Let’s look at how they choose a house to break into and what you must do to take your house off their target list for good:


Burglars, like every other criminal, do not want to get caught. They do all that they can to ensure their plan is executed smoothly so they can run away with the loot unscathed.

Hardly any home intrusion is a spur of the moment. Maybe amateur burglars, who are still learning the tricks of the trade, might see an opportunity and make a hasty decision to break in and then get caught in the act.

Seasoned burglars will never make that mistake. They take their time, run a proper risk assessment, and see if the break-in is worth it or not.

While casing a house, the few main things that burglars look for are:

Valuables to steal

What if a burglar breaks into a house only to find that there are no valuables worth stealing? That would be a certain waste of time and effort, and a serious risk taken on their part for absolutely nothing in return.

Due to this reason, burglars usually target houses in wealthy neighbourhoods, with expensive cars parked outside, where they are sure to find more than enough to steal.

They also keep a lookout near the windows to see items of value to steal. The most commonly stolen items are cash, jewellery, watches, small electronics, guns, medicines, keys, designer clothes and accessories, and personal data.

Ease of access

Getting inside the property is the first step and burglars want to make it as easy as possible. One of the first things they look for is ease of access through the house’s doors and windows.

It might come as a shock but 21% of the burglars don’t even have to “break-in”. The doors are unlocked and they just walk in. 29% break-in through a window, out of which one-third use an unlocked one.

An unlocked door is like handing out invitations to potential intruders. Breaking in is the hard part and people leaving their doors and windows unlocked just makes their job much easier.

Certain times, even if the doors and windows are locked, they are done so using poor quality, easily breakable locks. Other times, the doors and windows themselves are made using a flimsy material and are very easy to break.

Unoccupied property

Burglars hate running into homeowners during a break-in since it slows them down and also increases their likelihood of getting caught.

Most burglaries happen during the day when people are away at their day jobs and their homes are practically empty. Burglars do their research well beforehand to identify any opportunities and break-in when there’s a high chance of no one being there.

They lurk around the neighbourhood to get a good idea about the homeowner’s daily routine, such as what time they leave the house and when they return. They might do this using several tactics such as stalking them in a car or pretending to walk or jog around the house.

Summer and holiday season are two of the best times for burglars to strike. They know that most people are away leaving their homes empty. Some signs that they look out for, to validate their assumption of the house being empty, is no car in the driveway, lights turned off all the time, piled up mail, dying plants, and an unkempt lawn.

Low security and visibility

Since most burglars closely monitor the area they choose to break into, they make sure there aren’t any deterrents that get in the way of their burglary.

Properties with security alarms, cameras, and security locks lose most of their charm to burglars since they know that such places would be difficult to break into and because the chances of getting caught would be way higher.

They also look for large fences and trees that they can hide behind, giving them the necessary cover to blend in and not get noticed.


Now that you know that burglars scope out your property and look for certain features before targeting your house, you need to identify the signs that indicate your house is being watched.

Some are very obvious while others might need you to be extra vigilant. If you notice any such unusual activity around your premises, inform the authorities right away.

Unknown cars parked on the street

If you’ve seen any stakeout movie, you must know that most burglars stalk their victims in a car from a safe distance. They will sit out for a couple of days until they get the information they’re looking for.

Take notice of any unknown cars parked near your home since that’s never a very good indication. Note down the vehicle’s number and inform the police right away.

Strange new faces in the neighbourhood

It’s okay to see a new face sometimes in the neighbourhood, especially if they’re accompanied by people living there. They just might be visitors, friends, or relatives.

The issue arises when you see them casually walking around alone and that too often. This is a popular tactic used by burglars to pick up on any observations that might benefit them.

They might even come close enough to peep through your windows, therefore, you must be extremely vigilant in calling out such creepy behaviour.

Knocking on doors to check if someone answers

What happens when you knock on someone’s door? If they’re home, they answer, and if they’re not, you don’t get an answer.

This is probably the easiest way for burglars to know if a house is empty or not. They’ll very innocently walk to the door and knock to see if someone answers it. If they don’t, they know it’s a good time to break-in, and if the homeowners do answer, they usually say stuff like “have you seen my dog?”, “is Richard home?” or pretend to offer services.

Some might even take it a step further by dressing up as a handyman to throw the homeowners off completely.

Strangers asking for help

It’s a good thing to always help people in need. If you see someone having trouble with their car or if they are hurt, you naturally approach them and ask if they need assistance.

Burglars take advantage of this trait found in most people and sometimes fake emergencies to get access to their homes. They’ll sound desperate and ask for help, and if you let them in your house, they’ll try to get an idea of the layout of the house and gather information such as the presence of security systems.

Strangers taking pictures of your house

Why do people take pictures? To preserve something in their memory and to look back on the times they wish to always remember. Burglars do the same when they take pictures of your house.

Burglars take pictures of your house to share with their partners/associates or to save your house for future crimes. If you notice someone doing that, especially taking pictures from different angles and also of the nearby areas, it’s a red flag and cause for concern.

Too many flyers at the door

Flyers can be a nuisance, especially if they’re left on your doorstep too often. They’re not thought of anything more than a nuisance, right? Sadly, burglars take the most trivial of things and turn them into unusual ways of gathering valuable information about you.

Flyers are used as markers to show which house is a likely target and are also used to determine which homeowners come back home the earliest depending on when the flyers are picked up.

If you feel there are more flyers than usual lying around your door, pick them up immediately and inform the local authorities to look into the matter.

Strange signs and symbols around the house

Burglars use certain signs and symbols that only they and their peers understand to mark houses as potential targets that include ‘good target’, previously burgled’, ‘too risky’, ‘wealthy’, and ‘alarmed house’.

Some believe the signs to be innocent with no connection to criminals or organized crime, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you see suspicious markings near your property, inform the police right away so that they can patrol the area for thefts.


There are certain best practices and security measures that you can adopt to protect your house from being targeted by burglars. They include:

Being aware and vigilant

Keeping an eye out on your surroundings for any unusual behaviour can benefit you immensely. We’re not saying you should look at everyone with suspicion, but be alert and prepared to deal with anything.

If you notice anything out of the ordinary, such as any of the signs of your house being watched, don’t hesitate to inform the police. Also, take your neighbours on board since it is not just a threat for you, but everyone living in the area.

You might feel the urge to confront the stalkers and maybe tackle them if you catch them trying to break-in, but you must resist it. It is always best to inform the police who are well trained to handle such situations since some of these criminals might also come armed.

Limit unauthorised access

Breaking in unnoticed is a burglar’s priority and by limiting ease of access into a property, you would automatically make them lose interest in going forward with the job.

A house’s doors and windows are the main access points, including the ones in the front, side, and back of the house. They must be reinforced using a sturdy material making it impossible to break them down without creating a ruckus.

Keeping them locked is an obvious security measure that must be taken, but one that sadly most people don’t understand. Using good quality anti-snap locks will ensure that the locks can’t be broken, compromising the integrity of your home security.

Invest in a safe

Investing in a safe will not just protect your valuables from theft but also disasters such as fires and floods.

There are a few common hiding spots for valuables such as closets, drawers, and under the mattress that every burglar knows about and which they usually raid as soon as they break-in.

Security safes provide an effective hiding spot for your valuables that even if the burglars find, they won’t be able to break into or move.

For added security, you must invest in a good safe that is concealed and can’t be physically moved. You can have it professionally fixed to the floor, a wall, or inside a cupboard or wardrobe.

Install a burglar alarm

The fact that most burglaries, precisely 63% of them, happen in homes without a security system proves how effective they are in deterring burglars.

Home security systems such as burglar alarms work using a series of sensors that go off as soon as they detect any unusual activity, notifying the person-in-charge to take necessary action.

When triggered, the alarm makes a noise usually accompanied by flashing lights which is enough to get people’s attention and scare away the intruders.

A monitored burglar alarm employs the use of specialized sensors/alarms that are connected to a central monitoring station which is operated by experts who check and verify every alarm trigger.

This checking and verification process ensures that no alarm goes unnoticed, even when the owners are away. The system is also equipped to detect and verify false alarms, which can be caused by faults such as improper arming and disarming of the system, weak batteries, and even wandering pets.

Install a CCTV camera

What would you do if someone told you that you were being recorded on camera? You’d suddenly become more conscious about your looks and behaviour. Burglars do the same except while some people might enjoy being on camera, they despise it.

CCTV cameras not just monitor and record their actions, but also provide valuable evidence in the event of a break-in which can be used to catch the perpetrators.

Placed in the right positions, CCTV cameras can provide a complete view of every corner of your house, even the blind spots that you might usually miss.

One thing to be noted here is that while you are free to do whatever you desire within the confines of your private property, which includes the front porch and garden, there are certain laws that you must abide by if you wish to install CCTV outside your home. Read all about them here.


Calder Security provides a complete solution for all your home security needs ranging from anti-snap locks to CCTV cameras.

We’ve been in the security industry for over 40 years and our experts can help you with a wide range of services including professional installation, maintenance, monitoring, and repair.

Our extensive experience enables us to provide you with the most ideal recommendations best suited to your property and individual needs.

Contact us here or call us on 0800 612 9799 to talk to our leading experts!


Photo by Andrew Buchanan on Unsplash