Don't Get Locked Out! 3 Methods to Plan Ahead

by Team HomeServe
Hidden house key under a gray stone

You finally made it home after a long day at work … but your keys are still stuck at the office. Suddenly, you realize you have no way to get inside your house unless you can manually open the garage door or somehow contort yourself through an unlocked window.

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Planning ahead can help you avoid this frustrating situation. Here are three methods to try: You can hide a key outside, use a smart lock or install a lockbox to keep your home accessible and secure.

Hide Your Keys

How Do You Hide a Spare Key?

When you hide a key outside, your goal should be to make it as difficult as possible for a burglar to find. You can find different gadgets online that have a spot for a key, such as a hide-a-key rock or a fake sprinkler head. However, if they don’t look realistic (we’ve all seen a plastic rock amongst real ones), they can be quite obvious.

Other options for hiding your key outdoors include:

  • Magnetic hide-a-key holder hidden inside a metal dryer vent pipe, under your car or on another hidden metal surface
  • Inside a birdhouse with the hole covered with a screen to keep birds out
  • Under your doghouse; intruders aren't likely to go near a dog
  • If you have lots of trees, nailed to a tree in your yard on the side away from the house
  • With a neighbor you trust

Is It Safe to Hide a Key Outside?

Hiding a key outside can be risky, especially if you choose an obvious spot like under the doormat. Serial intruders know many of the usual hiding spots, so they have an easy way into your home if they can find it. You always run the risk of the key being found, but being as creative and sneaky as possible can help keep the key hidden. Other options — such as lockboxes and electronic locks — are typically safer than hiding a key in an unsecured location.

Use a Lockbox

Are Key Lockboxes Safe?

Using a key lockbox can be a safer way to hide a key outside. Lockboxes are designed for security, but they can be broken into in some cases. Lockboxes typically come in push-button, wheel and combination lock styles. The combination-style lock is typically the most difficult to pick. Read reviews on the lockbox you're considering to determine how secure it is.

Where Can I Hide a Lockbox?

Leaving a key lockbox where anyone can see it can encourage potential intruders to break into it. They know if they can get inside the lockbox that they have an easy way into your home. If you put the lockbox on or next to your door, it's obvious that the key to that door is inside.

Placing the lockbox in a hidden area makes it less obvious to someone scoping out the neighborhood. You might secure it to the wall behind a bush, for example. Avoid placing it at eye level, which makes it easier to spot with a quick scan. Consider hiding it somewhere on the front or side of your house where your neighbors will notice if someone finds it and tries to break into it. Putting it in your backyard can offer cover while to the person trying to crack it open.

Make it a multistep process. You might hide a key to the garage door inside the lockbox. Then, you can hide the house key somewhere in the garage. Most burglars will assume the key is for a main door to the home. Even if they get into the garage, they would still have to find the house key.

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Install a Keyless Lock

Keyless door locks don't use a physical key, which eliminates the need to hide a key outside. These usually come in the form of deadbolt locks that open with a code or via your smartphone.

A keypad door lock requires you to enter a code to unlock the door. As long as you remember the code, you won't get locked out. Smart locks connect to an app on your phone, which lets you lock and unlock the door. Many models even let you set a schedule to lock or unlock the door at a set time. You might set it to unlock at the time your kids get home from school or to lock at a certain time of night to ensure it doesn't stay unlocked while you sleep.

You can also check on the app to make sure the door is locked, and you can often see the history of the door locking and unlocking to track what's happening at your house. Smart locks are also convenient because you can unlock your home remotely if you need to let someone inside your house.

Develop Good Habits

If locking yourself out of the house is a regular occurrence, make some changes to your routine. Here are some tips to help:

  • Add a key tracker so you can locate your keys easily before you leave.
  • Get in the habit of checking for keys before you leave and keeping them in your hand until you walk out of the house.
  • Lock your doors from the outside with your key before leaving if you have a traditional deadbolt lock.
  • Check for your keys before you go to a new location throughout your day. You might leave the house with your keys, but if you leave them somewhere else, you'll still be locked out.