Posted 06/23/2018

by Erik J. Martin

Erik J. Martin has written on real estate, business, tech and other topics for Reader's Digest, AARP The Magazine, The Chicago Tribune and his blog, Martinspiration.

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Erik J. Martin

The Mortgage Reports Contributor

Home security: choose carefully

When you finance a home, you have to purchase homeowners insurance. But that only goes so far in protecting your home and your finances from harm. Home security systems can stop theft or damage before they occur.

  1. They deter criminals
  2. Your homeowner’s insurance premiums go down
  3. Smart features can save you on utilities, monitor your kids and pets, and keep you from getting locked out

Home security systems have come a long way. Here’s how to choose from the best providers.

Verify your new rate (Jul 19th, 2018)

Why you need a home security system

It’s only natural to want to feel safe and secure within the home you’re buying. The truth is that a home is subject to many risks. These can include fire, burglary and home invasion.

Consider that a burglary happens once every 13 seconds. In fact, 2.5 million burglaries occur each year, with two-thirds of those being home break-ins. A person is at home during a burglary nearly 28 percent of the time; one out of four of those at home are harmed. A home security system can monitor your home against these threats.

Related: Home security tips and tricks (keeping the bad guys out)

But there are a lot of home security providers and options to pick from. With so many choices, it’s easy to get confused. Lacking knowledge, you could end up spending more money than you need to. Worse, you may find your home under-protected.

Do your homework. Compare companies, hardware and features. And ask questions. These steps will help you make a more informed decision.

Types of home security systems

There are two main home security choices:

  1. A monitored central alarm system. This system can be self-monitored or professionally monitored by a third party, for which you pay a subscription fee. It can be installed by you or the monitoring company. If the alarm is triggered, you and/or law enforcement are contacted.
  2. A local alarm system that you install and monitor yourself. If the alarm is triggered, a siren will sound; but you are responsible for responding or calling the police.

Related: Home technology (Protect yourself  when you buy or sell a smart home)

A security system often includes at least a control panel and door and window sensors; it may also involve motion sensors, security cameras and smoke detectors. Extras include key fobs, panic buttons, glass break detectors and doorbell cameras. Many systems can be remotely controlled using a smartphone and app, too.

“At minimum, your system should have the basics,” suggests security analyst with Hotspot Shield Robert Siciliano, and author of “The Safety Minute: Living on High Alert. “That includes one keypad and door and window sensors for at least the basement and first floor.”

Wired or wireless

A security system is usually either wired or wireless. A wired system requires expert installation. It also involves wiring the sensors to the control panel. And it may require a landline connection. But if a burglar cuts your phone line, the alarm won’t trigger.

A wireless system uses battery-powered equipment. It communicates using internet, cellular or radio technology. Some wireless alarms are part of a smart home automation system; these can also control functions like the lights and door locks. But internet-connected systems won’t work if there’s an internet or power outage. Cellular-connected systems won’t work if a cellular network is down.

Professional monitoring

Erin Raub, alarm and security systems editor for ConsumerAffairs, says most homeowners prefer a pro system.

“Twenty-four-seven monitoring of your home can give you peace of mind. Owners who want to protect their real estate, belongings and family will often want a robust system. That means one with all the bells and whistles,” she says.

Another reason to go with the pros? Doing it yourself can be daunting.

“That’s partly because there are so many different parts. When one fails, the system won’t work,” says Siciliano.

Plus, “many home insurers offer discounts for having a monitored system,” Raub adds.

That can equate to a 10 to 20 percent off your premiums, in many cases.

Costs

Per Raub, professionally installed systems can cost up to $500 for the labor. Hardware can tally $100 to $500 and up. “But they may charge less if you sign a monitoring contract. These are often for two- to three-year terms,” says Raub. “Others offer no-contract systems. That’s if you buy the equipment or agree to pay a slightly higher monthly fee.”

Related: More bang, less buck (home security improvements pay off in home equity)

Monitoring subscription fees can range from $20 to $60 a month. “The average is about $32 monthly,” Raub adds.

Also, Raub notes that your town may require you to pay a yearly alarm fee. This fee, often $50 or less, covers the cost of police/fire visits to your home.

Helpful strategies

To help you narrow down the right system and service, try these tips:

  • Read customer reviews online. “Read both the good and bad comments,” says Whitney Joy Smith, president of The Smith Investigation Agency. “People can tell you how their system works. The often write about the customer service they experienced and the installation process.”
  • Ask important questions. Smith suggests asking, “Is the system user-friendly? Will police be contacted and how quickly? Will this cover all the entry points in my home? What happens if a device breaks? And what’s your cancellation policy?”
  • Read the terms carefully. “Many permit you to cancel within the first two to four weeks,” says Raub. “Some offer contract portability. This means you can transfer your equipment to a new home at no charge.”
  • Shop around. The following offer home security systems and/or monitoring services:
    • ADT
    • Brinks Home Security
    • CPI Security Systems
    • Frontpoint
    • Guardian Protection Services
    • LifeShield Security
    • Link Interactive
    • LiveWatch
    • Nest Secure
    • Protect America
    • Protection 1
    • SafeStreetsUSA
    • SimpliSafe
    • Vector Security
    • Vivint

Home security systems can increase your home’s value and desirability when you sell, providing peace of mind now and possibly delivering added value in the future.

Verify your new rate (Jul 19th, 2018)

Erik J. Martin

The Mortgage Reports Contributor

Erik J. Martin has written on real estate, business, tech and other topics for Reader's Digest, AARP The Magazine, The Chicago Tribune and his blog, Martinspiration.

The information contained on The Mortgage Reports website is for informational purposes only and is not an advertisement for products offered by Full Beaker. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the policy or position of Full Beaker, its officers, parent, or affiliates.

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