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      Home Maintenance

      5 Home Security Tips: Holiday Season Vacation Checklist

      As the weather turns colder, snowbirds are locking up their homes and heading off for a more pleasant clime. Others are flying across the country to visit loved ones for the holidays, or simply escape the stresses that culminate the day after Christmas.

      Whenever you choose to get away, your pre-trip preparations should include home-security measures, so you won't leave the family's most expensive possession -- your home -- vulnerable to burglars.

      A few simple steps can mitigate the risk of a break-in -- and a home insurance claim: Do everything possible to make yourself a lousy target for thieves. How? By following this list of five things to check before leaving home.

      Ask neighbors to be your eyes and ears

      Alerting neighbors to your vacation plans and asking them to watch your property is paramount. Essentially, that's the best advice for low-cost home protection.

      People who are retired or who do not work outside the home are often the best lookouts. They are familiar with what is normal for your street and can take note when a van appears in your driveway.

      Instruct neighbors to call police if they see any suspicious activity. It's also wise to give a trusted neighbor a spare key to your house. That's better than leaving a key under the mat. Don't attempt to hide your spare key, thinking no one else will find it - that's one of the key reasons why "effortless" break-ins happen.

      Secure all doors and windows

      Doors and windows provide the main entry points for thieves, so make sure they are secure.

      Using deadbolts and locks that are pick-resistant, drill-resistant and able to withstand substantial force, such as kicking. These kinds of locks should be installed on all doors that are outside entry points, including the door from the garage into your home.

      Exterior doors should be made of wood that is at least 1 ¾ inches thick, or should be clad in metal. Sliding glass doors require a dowel in the bottom track to keep the door from being pried open. Anti-lift devices can prevent anyone from lifting the glass up and out.

      Securing windows depends on the type of window installed. For example, double-hung sash windows, with upper and lower halves that move up and down in tracks, require a key-locking security sash lock. Casement windows that swing open can be secured by removing the crank handle from the window's opening mechanism. Glass doors and windows should be shatter-proof and break-resistant.

      Remember to check all locks before you leave. Always keep in mind that the best locks in the world can't protect you if you don't use them.

      Don't leave a burglar-friendly yard

      Most homeowners know that well-trimmed hedges and bushes deny burglars a key place to hide before breaking in. But it's also important for home security to prune low-hanging tree branches, which can give thieves access to the second floor.

      If you'll be gone for a long period, make sure someone mows the lawn regularly or shovels promptly after snowstorms. An untended yard is a sure giveaway that no one is home. Good exterior lighting also can keep thieves at bay. Some lights can be programmed to turn on at dusk and off at dawn, while others have motion sensors, so they'll turn on when someone walks by them.

      Lighting should be focused on the entry ways into your home. The general rule is that lights always make burglars nervous.

      Arm the alarm and alert the police

      A good home alarm can keep burglars out of your digs. Even security signs and stickers can be effective deterrents.

      But an actual alarm system might earn you a discount on your home insurance. As with locks, alarms are only good if you set it before you leave. So before you pack your bags, be certain your system is working.

      We suggest doing a monthly test, or even run it a few days leading up to your vacation. Make sure it is communicating with the monitoring service. Do not underestimate the value of a good alarm system.

      If you live in a small neighborhood that's easily patrollable, you might also want to alert the local police department about your vacation plans. Many law enforcement agencies have a "vacation check" program, especially in Massachusetts. Officers or volunteers will make random stops at your home and do a cursory check.

      Do sweat the little stuff

      Overlooking the little things can negate all of the home security steps already tackled. They are easily undermined if you leave your porch light on 24/7 and you don't have your mail and newspaper deliveries stopped while you are gone.

      A buildup of papers on the front stoop or a mailbox stuffed to the brim can be almost as bad as putting up a billboard telling thieves that no one is home. Plus, an overflowing mailbox attracts another type of criminal. It is also a gold mine for identity thieves.

      We also suggest that homeowners put a few interior lights on timers. They can give the appearance that someone is home - this is always a deterrent to break ins.

      Finally - for those who are home insurance (theft) policyholders - remember to keep valuables such as jewelry and important papers in a secure location. Don't leave them in plain sight, such as sitting on the desk in your home office, that on its own could be a cause for the insurers not to compensate you.

      Boston's Favorite Christmas Homes

      By now, as the holiday rush winds down and Christmas draws closer, you probably are in need of some de-stressing. What better way to get away from all of the season's stresses and still have some quality time with your family or friends than to take a look around the city for some wonderfully decorated holiday homes. Perhaps take some queues on how to dress up yours next year, when you make that move to purchase your own.

      For some reason, Christmas lights always brightens up one's day. They're at the very heart of the season, bringing brightness into the longest, coldest, darkest nights of the year. Some are inspired by the Christian faith, some are purely decorative. But whether you're moved by "Peace on Earth" or a holly jolly Christmas, below are nine must-see electric yuletide displays from Dorchester to Saugus' incredible Lynn Fells Parkway that will warm your cold New England heart and melt it away... and if you see a property you like along your drive, remember to keep us in mind - it might just be up for sale and the perfect gift for yourself next Christmas!

      16 & 22 Lynn Fells Parkway, Saugus

      The Amsden and the Guarino families, who share a driveway, are behind this show-stopping display--one of the many light extravaganzas along Lynn Fells Parkway in Saugus. This dual display includes a penguin popping out of an igloo, a manger scene, pink flamingos and a life-sized Santa riding in a sleigh pulled by a little red-nosed Rudolph.


      26 Norton Street, Readville

      The couple who owns this Ginger-bread like home have been decorating it for over 40 years. The lights, if you get out of your car, come along with festive music to cheer you along as you marvel at the over 2,000 lights that are decked out on its halls. Adams Street, Fields Corner Hoa Nguyen and his father, Trong Nguyen, light up Boston's Fields Corner neighborhood with an animated spectacle of electric snow, hovering angels, blinking Christmas trees and what seem to be LED fireworks.

      Otis Street, Somerville

      John Ragno, the owner, has been doing the decorating on his house for almost 30 years now. He decorates three houses he owns in the neighborhood as well, two side by side, and one across the street. The joke is that he started off with a manger outside, a small manger on the porch. And it grew to what it is now - a massive Christmas medley of decorations.

      Bainbridge Street, just west of Rockwell Street, Malden

      Over the past decade, Maryann Spinney and her daughter and son-in-law Evelyn and Mark Anzalone have lit up houses down the lane from each other on Malden's Bainbridge Street. Several neighbors have also gotten into the act, so that it's become a whole glowing holiday neighborhood.

      The Charles River Esplanade Hatch Shell & Longfellow Bridge

      You might be wondering who's boat that is along the Charles that has a Santa riding in it. Well, the answer is it's Community Boating Inc.'s holiday hello to everyone passing over the Charles bridge. It's a pretty nifty sight to see especially when you're crossing over to Cambridge.

      Top 10 Home Repairs To Make Before Winter

      With all the barbecues, baseball games and road trips that go on during the summer months, home maintenance projects may not seem very appealing. But, before Old Man Winter bears down on your area, there are a few projects you should consider completing.

      This is especially the case for those of us in the Northeast - where in the matter of just hours, our homes become our refuge from the freezing winds and heavy snow that batter the region unexpectedly. It's one of the 'perks' of being in Boston, you'll definitely have a feel of all the four seasons that make up the year - especially wintertime.

      So, before it ultimately gets too wintry out there for you, here is a list of things you might want to take care of before the mercury completely falls and freezes over.

      Check Heating System

      Before it's time to turn on the heat, you should have your home's heating system checked out and serviced, if necessary. Having your furnace examined and fixed, during the air-conditioning months may be easier than it would be in the winter, as the demand will likely be lower then. Putting it off until winter could mean a longer response time.

      Inspect Your Roof

      Summer storms may have affected your roof. And since winters can also be rough, it's important to have any small repairs completed to prevent larger, more expensive problems from developing. Snow, ice and heavy rain can turn a seemingly small issue into a major headache -- so why not get that roof fixed before the weather turns bad?

      Fill Gaps Around Windows and Doors

      Any gaps around windows and doors could allow heated air to escape, requiring homeowners to run their heating systems more to make their homes comfortable. By filling in gaps with silicone caulking or weather-stripping, you can save money on your monthly utility bills and cut down any drafts.

      Inspect the Chimney and Fireplace

      There's nothing cozier on a cold winter's night than cuddling by the fireplace. To help reduce the possibility of fire danger disrupting your peaceful evening by the fire, it's important to get your chimneys, vents and fireplace cleaned before you light a fire. Other items in your home that burn coal, oil, wood or gas should also be cleaned before it's time to use them.


      Make Quick Exterior Fixes

      The cooler weather and falling leaves of autumn can cause drafts and clogged gutters, so it's a good time to do some exterior maintenance. Check for cracks in your home where the warm air can leak out. Also, you should clean the gutters and rake the yard, as piles of leaves could later cause ice dams. It also may be a good idea to fill cracks in the driveway or walkways before the cold sets in.

      Switch Ceiling Fan Direction

      One thing many people don't know is the effect reversing your ceiling fan has on your home's ability to keep your house warm. Running a fan clockwise via a reverse switch will allow it to push down the warm air that rises toward the ceiling. Doing so could allow you to turn down the thermostat while staying toasty warm.

      Buy Supplies and Tools Early

      Purchasing winter supplies early can ensure stores don't run out, while it may also provide you with a deal on all the necessities. Fall is a good time to check out the stuff you already have and replace damaged snow shovels or other items. Don't forget to pick up ice melt and salt, as these tend to go quickly when storms approach.

      Construyendo la casa de sus sue├▒os.

      Una mudanza o un cambio de destino conlleva muchas más cosas que coger un avión, un tren o un coche y plantarse en la ciudad de la noche a la mañana para comenzar con su nueva vida.  Cuando por fin se declina por la casa o el apartamento de sus sueños a veces resulta un poco depresivo entrar a vivir y que  lo único que haya en su interior sea polvo acumulado y un olor a cerrado espantoso. En BIRE creemos que para construir una vida de ensueño primero tiene empezar por amoldar su espacio personal; de este modo, usted y su familia se sentirán más cómodos, satisfechos y felices.

      Una de las trabas más pesadas a la hora de desplazarse a un lugar nuevo puede ser la búsqueda de inmuebles, de hecho, dormir tirado en el suelo con un colchón inflable no es una sorpresa mientras que se desarrolla este proceso. Sin embargo, peripecias como las del colchón a la larga puede que les traiga problemas. Si algo bueno tiene la ciudad de Boston es que cuenta con cantidad de tiendas y lugares para conseguir sus inmuebles de una forma rápida, segura y, por supuesto, encontrando todo lo que busca, ya que es una metrópoli con una tasa de desplazamientos bastante alta.

      Aquí les dejamos una pequeña lista para que echen un vistazo de los principales lugares de venta de muebles.

      IKEA: 1 IKEA Way, Stoughton, MA 02072

      Está tienda cuenta con todo lo necesario para construir su casa a un coste bastante rentable, suele ser utilizada por estudiantes que vienen a estudiar a la capital de Massachusetts. El único desafío que presenta está compañía es que los muebles han de ser montados por usted mismo.

      BOSTONWOOD: 1117 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

      Está tienda se ubica en el vecindario de Allston/Brighton, se equipa con productos de madera de excelente calidad. Además, si le gusta pintar podrá hacerlo, pues muchos de los productos vienen con el propio color de la madera. Así que coja un pincel, deje su imaginación volar y personalice los muebles a su gusto y semejanza.

      LEKKER HOME: 1313 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118

      Situada en South End, este lugar cuenta con muebles y precios de todo tipo. Es un espacio ideal para aquellos que quieran dar un toque "chic" a su domicilio. También podrá encontrar más utensilios como ropa de cama, ropa de baño y cantidad de artículos de decoración.

      CREATE & BARREL: 777 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

      Ubicado en el centro de Boston este lugar también ofrece multitud de muebles para empezar a decorar su casa. Además, será atendido por grandes expertos que le ayudarán a elegir que es exactamente lo que desea.


      THE BOSTON BED COMPANY: 1113 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215

      Los muebles son algo fundamental pero una buena cama también lo es. A la larga esto le evitará problemas de espada, malestar y le permitirá estar descansado y al 100% para enfrentarse a la vida activa con la que cuenta una ciudad. Esta tienda está especializa en colchones que gozan de una calidad exquisita para satisfacerle con un buen descanso.

      MOHR & MCPHERSON: 460 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02118.

      Si le gusta una decoración de interiores impregnada de paz y buenas vibraciones entonces el diseño asiático es su estilo. En esta tienda encontrará todo lo que necesita para que los rincones de su casa luzcan como usted desee.

      Y por supuesto hemos de mencionar Craiglist.com. Se trata de una famosa página web de segunda mano donde podrá encontrar todo lo que está buscando a un precio muy económico. Incluso en muchas ocasiones se pueden encontrar productos totalmente gratis, ya que su dueño se tiene que desplazar y no sabe que hacer con ellos. Esta página es muy utilizada por aquellos estudiantes que vienen un corto período de tiempo y necesitan enseres que en un futuro no volverán a utilizar.

      Hablando de páginas web Amazon.com también ofrece productos interesantes y muy atractivos para darle forma a su hogar. Además, este sitio web ofrece la opción de comprar artículos nuevos y de segunda mano, eso ya depende de usted y de sus intereses.

      Y como no íbamos a mencionar los famosos rastrillos de la calle. Seguro que han visto cientos de veces en películas a aquellas familias que están a punto de mudarse de la ciudad, sacan todas sus pertenecías a la calle y, allí mismo, en la propia acera de su casa, las venden. No sea tímido y eche un vistazo si se topa con uno de estos rastrillos, pues puede encontrarse con una sorpresa y darle algo de vida a su apartamento.

      Lo que debe tener en cuenta es que lista de los sitios que le ofrecemos abarca tan solo una pequeña parte de la multitud de opciones y tiendas que Boston ofrece a sus residentes. Y como hemos mencionado antes, esta ciudad está continuamente recibiendo y despidiendo a sus ciudadanos. Por eso tiene más opciones además de elegir la primera tienda que tenga un sofá en su escaparate. Mire tiendas de segunda mano, páginas de internet que considere que pueden ofrecerle unos buenos chollos y hable con lugares especializadas para descubrir que es lo que realmente busca.


      *Si busca el apartamento de sus sueños llame al (617) 505-1781 o escribanos a: info@bostonire.com y concrete una cita con nosotros. ¡Le facilitaremos el comienzo de una nueva aventura!



      Sprucing Up For Springtime

      The snow outside might have made you overlook it, but yesterday was officially the start of springtime. But before you make your vacation plans and do-it-yourself projects, it might be a good idea to start small. And when we say small, we mean within walking distance small. Spring is the best time to prep yourself and your living space for the active season ahead. And whether you're in your first apartment or your dream home, or looking to sell your space, sprucing up your apartment doesn't have to be painful. If you cannot do the entire cleanup in one day, tackle one or two things at a time. You'll feel better about your place and ready for the new season. Here are a few suggestions that will vastly improve the comfort of your home in one afternoon's worth of work.

      Organize and clean the refrigerator

      Do you have three almost empty bottles of mustard and some long-expired eggs in your fridge? How about those Mexican leftovers from a month ago? Go through your fridge and toss what's no longer edible. Then, if you want to go the extra mile (or if the fridge literally stinks) actually clean it. And don't forget the freezer section while you're at it.

      Edit your clothes

      Even if it seems like you have the right amount of clothes, you may have much more than you think. In fact, it's not uncommon for someone to give away 20 pounds of clothing after going through their closets. Get out all of your clothes and consider how long it's been since you've worn each article. Often, items at the very bottom of your dresser or back of your closet haven't been used in several seasons. If you haven't missed these pieces yet, you likely never will. Give them away, or throw them out, as the case may be. By doing so, you'll finally have room for the clothes you actually wear.

      Get rid of 'the pile'

      Have a box or two that you never bothered unpacking after your last move, or a stack of "important papers" that is making a mess of your desk? How about a stash of old CDs or video games shoved under the bed? Go through them. Toss what you don't need, save and organize what you do, and be glad to be done with it. Who knows, you might find something you'd been vaguely searching for but had given up as lost. As for those old video games: You might be able to convert them into a little bit of cash online.

      Don't be a hoarder

      Now, go through all the products, perfumes, and miscellaneous items in your medicine cabinet and bathroom shelves. Throw out everything that you are not currently using -- even if it was expensive -- or that is clearly past its "use by" date. And while you are in the bathroom, look at the shower curtain liner. Is it greenish? Then it's time to get a new one.

      Shoveling Snow: Who's Responsible?

      Even though Spring's first day is tomorrow, it's evident that winter is not quite over. There a few more opportunities for snow to fall and ice to form over Boston. And while renters might assume that their landlord is responsible for shoveling snow and other winter weather maintenance, that's not necessarily true. As a renter, the responsibility for snow removal varies depending on your location and the agreement you've entered into with the landlord. To get down to the bottom of the issue, we recommend looking in three places: Your lease, state laws, and local ordinances.


      Like many questions involving landlord and renter rights and responsibilities, your lease is a good starting point to find out more information. Usually, if you live in an apartment complex with common areas and parking spots, your landlord will be responsible for keeping those areas clear; but it won't always be explicitly written in the lease. If you're renting a single-family home where you have sole control over the walkways and driveways, you may find that you're responsible for shoveling snow and clearing walkways of ice, in addition to cutting the grass and other seasonal maintenance.


      If your lease has no mentions of snow removal, your next step is to find out what your state law says. State laws vary, and responsibility for the task may differ depending on the apartment you're renting and the terms of your lease. This is important if your lease does not explicitly mention snow removal, but it's also important even if your lease does cover the topic. Some landlords, particularly smaller ones, use stock leases without being fully aware of the relevant state laws or statutes. If your landlord has an obligation based on state laws, the language in your lease may not change or override that.

      To prevent confusion, a blanket law over Massachusetts protects renters and landlords from going into legal battle over who shovels what. Particularly, Bostonian landlords are tasked by the city to sweep and shovel snow that's in the "immediate proximity" of their property. This doesn't necessarily mean that renters don't have a responsibility to keep those alleyways clear; rather they are protected from being liable if something untoward happens to individuals utilizing your leasable space. If you're the victim however, your landlord is answerable to you and is bound by your lease to address the situation.


      Finally, take a look at your local ordinances. Some cities and counties have additional laws, called ordinances, which place obligations on either tenants or landlords.They'll spell out not only your landlord's responsibilities with regard to snow removal, but may provide you with remedies, or a person to contact, if management isn't keeping up their end of the bargain.  While these ordinances won't conflict with state law, they may increase your responsibilities--or your landlord's. You can usually find a copy of local ordinances on your town's or county's website. We've included some here, such as:

      • For Boston, Worcester, and Lynn: sidewalks in front of businesses or residences must be shoveled and safe to walk on.
      • If you're a property owner in Worcester, you must remove snow and ice from sidewalks 10 hours after it stops snowing. The fine for failing to comply with this city ordinance is $75.00 per day.
      • Throwing snow into Boston city streets, whether public and especially private, is prohibited.
      • In Salem shoveling snow back into the street will cost you $75.00 the first time you do it, $150.00 the second time, and $200.00 for the third and each time after that. (And in Lynn you'll get fined $100.00).

      By checking your lease, state laws and local ordinances, you should be able to get concrete answers to your question who is responsible for shoveling snow during the winter season - which sadly for us, Bostonians, is still staying put.

      Protect Your Home From Snowstorms

      As we all know by now, a "potential historic winter storm" heading our way could make travel nearly impossible and dump up to 2 feet of snow to our region starting tomorrow morning until Saturday. This comes after having not see any significant snow fall in the past two years. The snowstorm is expected to start Friday morning, with the heaviest amounts dumped on the region that night and into Saturday as the storm moves through New England and upstate New York.

      A blizzard watch has been raised for the whole of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, reinstating that travel may become nearly impossible because of high winds and blowing snow. Yep, it's likely to be a wild ride -- and if you're in the storm's path, your home is in for it. So what can you do to protect your house from the wintry elements? Here are some things you can do to prepare for the onslaught of snow:

      FROZEN PIPES Don't leave your garden hoses connected. Drain and remove them, and cover exposed pipes with insulating foam covers.

      Drip your faucets. Allow hot and cold water to drip from your indoor faucets during extreme cold. The constant running of water will keep trapped water from being able to freeze.

      Use heat sources to thaw pipes. A blow dryer or space heater should be able to thaw pipes that have frozen. Keep the faucets open so water can begin to flow once thawed.

      STAYING WARM Draw curtains closed. Unless there is direct sunlight coming in, keeping curtains closed can help insulate your home and trap a little warmth inside.

      Cover or remove window air conditioners. City folk sometimes leave their window air conditioning units in all year, but you're letting heat escape your home by doing that. If you can't take them out, try to cover them with something that will seal the cracks around the window.

      Use draft snakes to cover cracks in windowsills and below doors.

      Seal any cracks on the outside of your house with caulk.

      PROTECT THE OUTSIDE Clean your gutters. Make sure there isn't excess debris in your gutters when a snowstorm hits. The extra weight could bring them down.

      Spray an ice repellant or salt your steps and walkways. (It could get you in trouble - or get sued - if you don't.)

      Insulate your plants. Add extra mulch around plants to keep them from drooping too much under snow, and cover them to keep them from being hurt by frost. Don't leave plants in containers outside.

      Drain birdbaths and fountains. Frozen water could cause damage to them.

      Don't touch the roof. If there are any roof projects you've been meaning to get to, it's not the time to do them during freezing weather.

      In the unfortunate event that you and your household does get more snow that you've anticipated, call Boston's Emergency Snowstorm hotline at 617-635-4500.

      Keeping Your Home Healthy This Winter

      Healthy, Home, Winter, Boston, Real Estate, Flu-freeThough Boston has already hopefully seen the spike of the flu outbreak, it is still a good idea to keep your home healthy this winter given that the season is still far from over; the air outside is dry and cold, perfect for spreading germs and virus.  And even if you constantly wash your hands and keep everything sanitized and safe, you can't prevent these microscopic critters from getting into your system - whether you're out in the streets, or even indoors at home. And since protection begins at home, here are some basic yet sure fire ways to keep you and your family healthy, and stave off a visit to the doctor:

      Healthy, Home, Winter, Boston, Real Estate, Flu-free


      Watch Out for Germy Hot Spots

      The sink, the telephone, computer mouse, children's toys, and doorknobs are popular landing sites for virus and bacteria. If someone is sick at home, disinfect daily, especially the remote control and the phone. To illustrate, what's usually the first thing you do after you call in sick? Pick up the remote control.  In fact, remote controls are the germiest thing in hotel and hospital rooms - so this is probably the case in your home, too. And since a virus like influenza spreads through touching something a sick person has also touched, or an object that's been sneezed on, cleaning off the places your hand usually goes is most important.

      Healthy, Home, Winter, Boston, Real Estate, Flu-freeCombining Diet and Disinfecting

      We all know that eating lots of fruits and vegetables are good for boosting your immune system, but one thing that not all of us know is that it's also good for household disinfecting, cheaply for that matter. Peeling open an orange? Save the rind and rub it against your palms after washing them with water (or anytime for that matter); this not only makes the most use of the fruit, but it also saves you from frequently buying disinfectant soaps.

      Healthy, Home, Winter, Boston, Real Estate, Flu-freeStop Pushing Germs Around

      Beware of dust rags, dishrags, mops and other cleaning tools. Unless sanitized between uses, they only spread around the germs you are trying to kill. It's a free ride for the virus. Some of the cleanest houses tested have the highest germ counts because the tools used for cleaning are "dirty" themselves. During this "sickly" season, it is best to depend on disposable products such as paper towels and the like, so as not to keep on spreading germs in the household.

      Take The Field With Tech

      Healthy, Home, Winter, Boston, Real Estate, Flu-freeIf you're used to hand washing dishes, don't - your dishwasher is sitting pretty there, not only for convenience, but also for a healthier you. By putting your plates, cooking utensils, and kitchen paraphernalia in the automated washer, you not only save time and effort, but you're also making sure that they're ultra-clean and bacteria-free. Remember: the less human contact these items get, the better. Kitchen items are the most prone sources of sickness since everyone shares them.

      Some medical practitioners believe that dehumidifiers minimize the spread of germs since they prevent them from breeding. However, keeping these dehumidifiers clean is also of utmost importance; failure to do so usually makes them into breeding grounds. Keeping a small dehumidifier per room is more ideal (and easier to maintain) than a centralized one.

      Protecting Your Home During The Holidays

      protect home holidays, boston homes, boston real estate, christmas 2012, new years 2012The holidays are a time for getting together with friends and family - a time when all is merry and cheer is high, of crackling wood under the fireplace, good home-cooked food, and hot cocoa. But unbeknownst to many, it is also sadly a time for burglaries. In fact, nearly 400,000 burglaries take place in the United States between November and January each year, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. December to January is also deemed an "extra vigilant" month by the National Crime Prevention Council, especially for families who have impending travel plans. And whether you're on a tight budget or would like to splurge on security, don't despair - we're giving you five practical tips on how you can keep your home safe during the holidays without breaking the bank.

      Automated Holiday Home Security

      We've all seen the "Home Alone" movies that make Christmas break-ins look like fun and games. But there's nothing amusing about putting your family in harm's way. That's why experts suggest that all families provide themselves with an automated security system. Managing your home's security is top priority, especially when you have everyone under one roof. Additionally, alarm systems are the biggest deterrent of burglaries, and wards off badly-intented people.

      Another great affordable alternative is to use a nifty device called Lockitron that enables you to lock and unlock your home's deadbolt locks with a touch of a button, no matter where you are - all from your favorite iPhone. Available for only $150, this item works with an app and interacts with a specialized deadbolt lock installed on your door jam. Even better, the device also comes with a bluetooth sensing device that reads your phone as if it's the key and unlocks the door whilst you're steps away.

      Keep Your Travel Plans Classified

      protect home holidays, boston homes, boston real estate, christmas 2012, new years 2012There's a reason why airports are a nightmare during the holidays - and it's not just the torrential winter weather. No, airports are a mess during the holidays because everyone is travelling. That is, everyone except burglars, who instead will be scheming ways to take advantage of your empty home. In fact, burglars prefer to break into homes that are unoccupied because if they're caught in the act, it's considered by law to be less of a crime than if they were to burglarize an occupied home.

      Because of this, you'd want your house to look as "normal as when you're at home" while you're away. Basically, the more "lived-in" your home can look, the better. One way to achieve this is to have automatic timer for your lights. Another is to leave your car parked out on the drive way. Lastly, turn to your good old neighborhood and ask them to look after your home. Lastly, work out your mail and newspaper delivery - you wouldn't want them to pile up and make it obvious to everyone that you're not there to pick it up.

      Don't Show Off Your Glittering Gifts

      protect home holidays, boston homes, boston real estate, christmas 2012, new years 2012

      Whether you're celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, it's almost a given that once December hits, presents will start rolling into your home. Unfortunately, your kids aren't the only ones excited about their holiday gifts. Burglars will be keeping tabs, too. For that reason, try as much as you can to not make large displays of holiday gifts visible through windows and doors of your home - it'll just invite more unwanted attention. After all, there's safety in humility.

      Secure Your Home's Entry Points

      Since we all know that burglars are lazy, they try as much as they can to steal our belongings. Burglars prefer to take the easy way out and go after homes that are an easy target. Less-than-sturdy windows and doors, for example, could attract burglars to your home during the holidays.

      On top of that, the biggest misconception people have is that a deadbolt lock will keep them safe. However, if you don't reinforce the area around the lock, it takes no strength to break into a home. A report on the burglary of single-family homes by the U.S. Homeowner's Association offers similar sentiments.

      Poor building materials can make houses more vulnerable to burglary, and older houses may have rusting, easily compromised locks or worn and decaying window and door frames, while newer houses may be built with cheap materials.

      So, what can you do to better burglar-proof your home this holiday season? Go to the home improvement store and look at the different items that are there, talk to the salespeople, and ask them how you can secure your home and strengthen the area around your dead bolt lock.

      Be Very Aware of Your Surroundings

      This tip sounds a little ominous, we know, but with safety and holiday cheer at stake - it's best to be overly cautious. It's actually a proven fact that most burglars live in the neighborhood where they commit the crime, so you want to be careful when bringing in gifts or items into your home. Before unloading your car, make sure that you weren't followed back home from the shopping mall, or that there's no one suspicious lurking on your street.

      Something else you might want to consider during the holidays: traveling in a pack.If there's any opportunity to have more people around you, then make sure you do. Burglars won't likely approach you if you're with three or four other people.

      October Home Checklist

      As made obvious by the browning leaves and slight bite in the wind, fall is officially upon us - in fact, October is its first full month. And with onset of the cold months and dwindling daylight, most of your winter-proofing should be done by the end of the month to avoid cramming for the frosty months ahead. Here are a couple of things you need do to you don't let the this last month of outdoor organizing pass you by.

      Repairing Roof Shingles On those slightly warm days, try as much as you can to climb up your roof to seal and reattach loose shingles. Doing this prevents them from clogging up from all the leaves that gathers throughout the foliage season.

      Reinforce Your Windows Replace those insect screens with storm windows. Remember to dry and clean your insect screens before storing them to prevent them from deteriorating badly until its next use and installation during spring or summer. If you have single-pane windows and no storm coverings, apply heat-shrink plastic to the outer part of your window to create insulation. This trick will help you minimize your heating cost.

      Fireplace Frenzy If you're one of the lucky ones who have a fireplace, make sure that it's kept well-maintained and cleaned for your first fire of the season. More often than not, the first sign that you have to clean your chimney is back-smoking, so preventive maintenance is always a good way to sidestep this symptom.

      Deadly Gas Detectors Saying you'll have your heat on this winter is like saying you eat peanut butter with jam - in other words, it's a sure thing. And seeing that your windows will be sealed and shut, it's always in your best interest to regulate what the air quality is like in your home. As a state law, Massachusetts homes should be equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure that residents are safe from inhaling unwanted gases 24/7. Do your part and make sure the batteries on your detectors are working; don't just discard and chuck them away.

      Bleed Your Radiators Most New England homes have radiators for heating. Make sure to bleed them before the winter months get in so you don't have to do it last minute. Bleeding radiators every once in a while help ensures that you get ample heat from the units, as air pockets prevent this from happening. To bleed air out, turn on the furnace and circulator and open the supply valve to the radiator. Find the bleeder valve (it's usually opposite the supply valve) and open it while holding a pan to it. Air should be released, followed by hot water (thus the pan). Close the valve as the water comes out.

      Store Outdoor Furniture Storing your outdoor furniture prolongs its life, even if it is designed for harsh weather conditions, especially in our region where temperatures fall well below zero. If  you have a patio that has an awning or a roof, covering your furniture with a plastic-like or waterproof material should be sufficient to weather the winter.

      Read more tips on how to winterize your home here, courtesy of MSN.