How Do Burglars Choose Houses? (Decoding Burglar Behavior)

Getting to know how criminals target houses will improve your defense against them. If you can eliminate all the enticing factors that burglars identify, you might be able to avoid being burgled all together.

How do burglars choose houses? Burglars choose houses based on risk versus reward. Home security systems, cameras, and dogs deter many burglars as the risk of getting caught goes up. Another big deciding factor is the amount of opportunity there is. An open window or garage door provides a huge opportunity with a low-risk factor.

How Do Burglars Choose Houses

Understanding Risk vs Reward

Burglars have a few main risks when robbing a house, getting caught by the authorities, being injured, or killed.

Things like home alarm systems, cameras, guard dogs, high walls, electric fencing, security grills, motion sensor lights, etc all increase the risk of being caught, injured, or killed.

On the other hand, a lack of security measures will entice a burglar as the risk is lower.

The reward factor is easy to quantify as it’s directly linked to the value of the items that can be stolen.

If a thief can clearly see a dirt bike in your yard then he knows the reward factor is high if he gets in and out of your yard without being caught.

Leaving your laptop on your desk next to a window is also showing thieves what rewards there are if they can rob you successfully.

If you leave your garage open wide all day for everyone to see inside, thieves could be adding up the value/reward of your possessions.

There are so many different aspects to your home that burglars might find enticing, so we’ve put a list together of most popular.


What Kind Of Houses Entice Burglars?

Easy Access To Yard/House

The more difficult it is to get into someone’s property, the more risk involved. Difficulty getting in usually means difficulty getting out. Burglars want to get in and out extremely fast, usually within a few minutes flat.

Leaving your yard gate unlocked or open creates easy access for anyone to get in, the risk factor is low and nothing needs to be broken.

The risk factor is so low because they can just say they were coming to knock on your door and give any excuse as to why. There isn’t any excuse if they break your lock to get in.

Criminals also look for windows that have been left open to climb through. If there’s a window aircon, they will break them out to get into the house. Sometimes they’ll even steal the aircon itself.

Easy access can be gained through garage doors if they aren’t closed and locked properly.

Make your house less appealing to burglars:

  • Lock your property entrance. (Gate)
  • Close all windows and doors when leaving the house.
  • Get an aircon cage to secure your window aircon if you have one.


An expensive car

In general, you should always park your car in your garage if you have one. If you don’t have one and don’t have the means to build one, at least invest in a car cover so that people don’t know the value of your car.

An expensive car in the driveway can be interpreted as expensive things in the house as well. This increases the potential reward factor in the criminal’s mind and makes them more likely to choose your house.


Valuables in site

Leaving your jet-ski or motorcycle in plain site will cause a burglar to pick your house. Laptops next to windows and anything small and valuable in the garden will encourage them as well.


Easily recognizable routines

Criminals look for patterns in your daily routine like when you come and go and also at what time you go to bed at night.


Mail stacking up

When mail is seen stacking up in your mailbox, burglars may suspect the house isn’t occupied and take the opportunity to look around inside.

Make sure to remove any flyers and other papers from your mailbox and gate every day.

Check out the Top 10 Mailbox Alert Systems of 2023


A convenient location

Your house might be targeted if it’s in a secluded area without many witnesses around. If your house is located far away from other houses in the area, it’s more susceptible to home invasions.

Corner houses can be more at risk with only one neighbor directly next to you. Houses on the outskirts of neighborhoods are targeted because the criminals can escape the area quickly.


A blocked view of the house

If trees and bushes surround your property so that people can’t see inside, you run the risk of having robbers choose your house for the privacy it offers.


What Kind Of Houses Deter Burglars?

Besides making sure you don’t have a house with the enticing factors above, you should create some deterrents as well. Here are the biggest deterrents for burglars in general as they increase the risk factor of getting caught.


Cameras deter thieves as they don’t want to be seen breaking the law on video.

Besides the video evidence, a camera often means live monitoring as well. The robber knows that if the camera is being monitored, the police or private security could arrive at any moment.


Security grills on the windows

This is a serious deterrent as many burglars gain access to the house through a window. Installing security grills outside your window will work well and if you fit them on the inside of the windows they’ll work even better.


Private security

Private security companies that provide armed response services are very efficient in apprehending thieves. If you pay for private security, display their signs on your house.


Home alarm systems

Many burglars avoid houses with alarm systems. Besides silent alarms that send out messages for assistance, there are loud sirens that can go off and ruin the whole operation. It’s just easier to target the next house without an alarm system.


A light on the inside at night

Criminals say that they check for dark houses to know if the occupants went to bed yet. If it’s dark, they go in and loot the house quietly.

Houses that are lit up in front at night are more likely to be passed by looters as they don’t know if there are people awake inside.


Motion lights outside

Motion lights scare off intruders as they don’t want to be the center of attention in the dark of the night. Just make sure to place the light high enough out of reach in order to prevent any tampering.

Here are some motion light examples on Amazon.


Day/Night Lights Outside

In addition to having a couple of motion lights in selected areas outside, you should also have some lights that automatically switch on during nightfall and switch back off again at dawn.

Burglars love to take advantage of the dark to come and go undetected so you’ll need to install day/night lights like these on Amazon to keep your property well lit 24/7 without actually flipping the switch every time.

These LED type lights won’t add too much to your electric bill.



Some crooks say that they aren’t deterred by dogs, but most are. Even if they don’t think that the dogs will bite them, they’re normally noisy enough to alert the occupants of the home they’re robbing or even the neighbors.


Conclusion: How Do Burglars Choose Their Targets?

There’s an infinite amount of decision-making factors that burglars process when choosing a house. The best way in which you can keep your house safe is by making sure you don’t advertise any opportunities or rewards that will entice thieves.

Practice good safety habits as outlined in this article to keep temptations out of sight. Wash your dirtbike off in the back yard instead of the front and always keep your front gate locked.

Implement some or all of the methods listed above to deter burglars.

If you follow all of the advice given here, you should have a house that doesn’t show any opportunity or reward to break into while also having a huge risk factor due to all the security upgrades attached.

This will make your house completely undesirable to thieves as they always want to way up the risk versus reward.

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Photo of author


Edward Clark
Edward Clark, with 15 years of hands-on experience, is a distinguished expert in smart locks and home security systems. He holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering with a focus on Cybersecurity and is a member of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). His credentials include certifications from ASIS International, IAPP, CompTIA, NTS, and CEDIA. With expertise spanning risk management, electronic security, and data privacy, he's been featured in The Guardian, Forbes, Wired, and more. Edward's mission: guiding individuals toward secure homes using the latest technologies.

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