Winsett: Home security firms lower burglary chance

Winsett: Home security firms lower burglary chance

July 15th, 2011 By Jim Winsett in Business Diary

Q: I am considering a home security system. Do you have advice for making a wise buying decision?

A: Great question, the summer months are the perfect time for a vacation getaway.

Unfortunately, they are also the perfect time for a home theft. According to the FBI, July and August have the highest rates of burglaries. The Better Business Bureau advises homeowners to do their research when picking a home security system.

According to an Academic Study of Home and Business Security by Temple University, the Electronic Security Association and its website, www.Alarm.org, homes without security systems are three times more likely to be broken into than houses with security systems. (Statistic ranges from 2.2 times to 3.1 times, depending on the value of the home.) Losses due to burglary average $400 less in residences with security systems than homes without alarm systems.

Although no system makes your home completely burglar-proof, a home security system can reduce your chances of being burglarized and give you some peace of mind. In 2010, BBB received nearly 25,000 inquiries from customers asking about burglar alarm systems.

It is important to investigate the purchase of a home security system with the same care you would any major purchase. There are too many door-to-door salespeople selling home security systems out there that do not always have the consumer's best interest at heart.

Do your research. BBB advises consumers to do the following when looking to invest in a home security system:

1. Choose a professional installer. The best home security system will accommodate your lifestyle and specific valuables you want protected. Carefully consider your security requirements and budget. You may also get recommendation from the insurance company that covers your home. Deal only with reputable companies and check out the company with BBB first.

2. Contact at least three companies before selecting an installer. Find out if they are properly licensed in your state and if they screen employees before hiring.

Make sure to check with the ESA website, www.Alarm.org, for a list of member companies throughout the United States which have agreed to abide by the National Code of Ethics. Check the company business review report at the BBB, www.Chattanooga.bbb.org . Consumers may obtain free multiple pricing bids at the BBB web site by selecting the "e-quote" icon feature.

3. Ask about all charges up front. Prices for home security systems will vary, based on the level of protection and type of technology used, so be sure to compare apples-to-apples bids on similar systems. Do not forget to factor in the initial installation charge, as well as monthly monitoring charges. Also, talk to your insurance agent; some systems may qualify you for a discount on homeowner's premiums.

4. Know the ins and outs of your contract. If your alarm system will be monitored, either by your installing company or by a third-party monitoring center, find out the length of the contract. Typically, monitoring contracts are between two to five years in length.

What is your recourse if you are not satisfied with the services provided? Can you cancel the contract? What are your rights if your monitoring company is purchased or acquired by another alarm company? What if you are required to relocate; what are your options? These are the types of questions you need to consider before you obligate yourself to a long-term contract.

5. Insist that the installer "walk" you through your system. That way you you can fully understand how it works. This will prevent the most common problem: false alarms.

False alarms are an indicator of the quality of the alarm installation and user education. Ask for a complete inspection of your property and an itemized written estimate. Review the sales contract closely to ensure you understand exactly what equipment and protection you will be provided. Make sure verbal agreements are included in the written contract.

For more home tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org/us/bbb-news.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@timesfree press.com