Lock it up

A break-in can be a homeowner's worst nightmare. If you're lucky enough to be gone when it happens, then the losses might only be financial. But if you're there, it can destroy your sense of safety in your own home. There are plenty of ways to make your home safer after a break-in, but if you get in front of the problem with some of these simple - and inexpensive - tips, you might never have to deal with the problem at all.

Keep a neat front yard

It may seem like common sense, but on a busy morning when you're rushing out the front door, you may be thinking more about your busy commute than whether or not you locked the door. This Old House says that 34 percent of all burglars , so make sure you turn the lock when you leave. Some craftier thieves might have some lock picking experience, so consider a sturdy, dead bolt lock that will deter more than a third of all would-be criminals out there.

Get the sign, not the system

You might think of a manicured lawn and some nice shrubs as just another way to bump up curb appeal, but an unkempt garden could possibly give thieves a better chance to make their way into your home. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTD, is the practice of adding impassable bushes or trimming scalable branches away from second-story windows in order to . Most thieves will choose the path of least resistance to break into a home, and that path does not include crawling through a thorny rosebush.

Prepare your home for a vacation

While you can't go wrong with signing up for the full security service of home-alarm systems, Steve Houseworth, of the nonprofit homeowner counseling service Theft Talk, told US News and World Report that just might be enough to keep the more cowardly thieves at bay. Unless they have the stomach to break in and find out, Houseworth thinks that most burglars would rather just pass.

"Just think from a burglar's point of view: 'Am I going to break into the building or the home that has a security system?'" Houseworth says. "'Or am I going to go next door to the one that doesn't?'"

Thieves almost always prefer to steal into a place when they think no one's home. When you're gone for the day, leaving a light on can do the trick, but what happens when you leave for a week or longer? A full mailbox and a stack of uncollected newspaper on the front stoop are clear signs that no one's home to stop a theft, so coordinate with your neighbors to pick up your mail, if possible. Rather than leaving a light on all hours of the day, place a lamp by a window and set it to a timer - this will seem more natural to anybody observing your house than that one light in the kitchen that always seems to be on. If you'll be out of town for an extended period of time, consider hiring a landscaping service to mow your lawn or a snow removal service to clear your driveway, How Stuff Works recommends.

Obviously, there's no way to protect your home from every thief out there, but these simple tricks will deter the vast majority. After all, the common home burglar is just looking for a quick buck and won't risk getting caught if he thinks the chance is too high. A smart homeowner that employs these tips will avoid financial loss and property damage, helping the result of their home inspections as well.