Protecting Your Vegas Vacation Home When You’re Away
Second homes in Las Vegas are a respite for retirees or seasonal residents. These residents, sometimes called “snowbirds,” take crime prevention very seriously and many believe securing their home can begin as early as during the home buying process.
Many seasonal residents choose neighborhoods that offer security by design. Jacque Petroulakis, a spokesman with PulteGroup Corporate Communications, says that a community gate is one of the 10 most popular “non-amenity” items at the company’s Del Webb 55+ communities. Its communities include Solera at Stallion Mountain, at East Flamingo Road & Cabana Drive in Las Vegas, and The Club at Madeira Canyon, at 2852 Saint Dizier Drive in Henderson.
In addition to gated communities, Petroulakis says the properties have robust volunteer community watchdog groups whose members follow routes to check homes on an ongoing basis.
Though scant data exists on the number of seasonal homes in Clark County, U.S. Census data posted by the Nevada State Demographer’s Office may give an idea of the total number of wintertime nests in Vegas. In 2010, there were 22,002 vacant homes for occasional, recreational, or seasonal use in Clark County. Additionally, 164,474 were listed as households with individuals 65 years and over.
Mary Preheim, an agent with Realty Executives, says “snowbirds tend to perch in nicer, newer areas that are lower in crime.” She also noted that 21 of the home purchases she facilitated in 2012 were by Canadians who had been visiting three to four times per year.
The Canadian Snowbird Association, a 70,000 member not-for-profit organization, offers tips on home security while you’re away.
- House-sitter. Ask a reliable person, such as a neighbor, to stop by and check the interior and exterior of your home once a week while you’re away. This person can serve as a secondary contact for your home security system, as well as collect junk mail and flyers from accumulating on your property. If you don’t have a reliable contact, consider hiring a house-sitting service.
- Landscaping. Arrange for regular landscaping and lawn care while you’re away.
- Locks. Install deadbolt locks on all exterior doors, and locking pins on all windows and sliding doors. Lock the garage door manually if you have an electronic opener.
- Mail Service. Make sure to have your mail forwarded.
Crime Rates and Deterrents
Preliminary 2012 figures from the FBI indicate that local law enforcement agencies received 17,185 reports of burglaries for 2012 in the metro area (three jurisdictions: Henderson, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, and North Las Vegas). The burglary rate is comparable to Phoenix’s, a retirement destination with a similarly sized population (1.4 million).
Crime patterns can change over the years. For decades Pat—who migrated back and forth between here and Illinois for five years before becoming a Vegas resident in 1974—has owned and lived in a house located near the Strip. She says that she feels safe there today, but back in the late 1980s a burglar did break into the back bedroom.
After that, Pat and her husband had bars installed on the back bedroom window and on the picture window in front—what the National Sheriff’s Association calls a “deterrent” or “delay” for a would-be burglar in its Home Security Handbook.
The Handbook offers additional deterrents, such as keeping landscaping trimmed around windows and doors, and making sure that all exterior entrances are well lit.
Although nearby Arizona pulls in as many as 300,000 snowbirds per year according to research at Arizona State University, Pat and others prefer Vegas, where some businesses never close.
Dave Tina, president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, agrees that the 24-hour Vegas lifestyle is an important draw. Other factors include tax issues, weather, and the perception that Vegas real estate is now a good investment.
“Other state governments are raising their tax rates,” says Tina, a realtor with 17 years’ experience in the Vegas market. “Nevada has no state income tax, so homeowners stay in Vegas for six months to the day, to avoid paying income tax in another state.”
Also, “You may not need to go out in the middle of the night—but knowing that you can, that’s really appealing,” says Tina. “And home prices are starting to rise.”