Everyone is going home and they want to get all the last minute things done….like hiring or changing their home watch company. In the last two days I gained two new clients and they both had similar sad stories. I have to tell you, I am amazed that people that have had a bad experience with their home watch company have the faith and trust to try again. That is really awesome if you think about it. One of my new clients told me that when they arrived for their visit, they were literally locked out of their home because the hurricane shutter over their front door had never been taken off….from last year! They couldn’t open the garage door because the hurricane brackets were still on. This was not a good start to their vacation after a long flight. When they finally got inside, it was to find a leak under a bathroom sink. There were other smaller things, too…but those two things were major. Later, they checked with the security guard at the gatehouse who had the ability through his computer system to see how many times the home watch person had been to their home. Would you believe 6 times in over a year!!!! Needless to say, this client paid for a lot more visits. My other new client had a similar story in that they were very sure their home watch person had not even visited their home at all. Besides all the other things you can say about these home watch people….what about the fact that taking money for something you aren’t doing is stealing?

And yet my new clients were willing to try again. They realize how important it is to have someone check on their homes while they are gone…yet they are really at the mercy of anyone that says they are a great home watch company and promises them the moon.

So how do you find a good, honest, home watch company? Like finding the perfect doctor, there is no foolproof way, but there are things to look for and things you can do after you hire them.

1. If they claim to be a corporation or an LLC, go to www.sunbiz.org and look up the company. See if they are who they say they are.
2. Ask for a copy of their Certificate of Liability and see how much they are insured for, if they are insured at all (and they should be)! It should be at least one million dollars.
3. Ask if they are bonded and request a copy of their bond.
4. Make sure there is a contract, not just a handshake.
5. Make sure their prices are in writing.

While these things won’t guarantee a good company, you will know they are a legitimate company that has insurance if something goes wrong, and you know up front how much you will be charged for the services you sign up for.

Some other things to look for:
1. Is it possible to get references? This can be a little harder than you think, but hopefully they will have 2 or 3 clients that will talk to you. The reason it is not easy is because most clients require complete confidentiality. (Even the ones that don’t shouldn’t have their name repeated without their permission.)
2. While not having an actual office shouldn’t be held against them (home watch is very conducive to the home office…it allows us to work til the wee hours….LOL!), they should have a phone line dedicated to their business.
3. Many of our clients feel a website is a sure sign of legitimacy, and one client told me she insists people she deals with have one. While a website is terrific and we’ve gotten a lot of clients in this manner….there are websites and there are websites. Look for one that educates you! They are teaching you something because they know something!

After you hire a home watch company:
1. If your home has an alarm, give your home watch person their own code. You can check with your alarm company to see when and how often the code is used. You can even check online with some companies.
2. If you are in a community with a guarded gate, check with them on a regular basis to see if your home watch company has been there.
3. Ask neighbors if they have seen them at your home.
4. Get a report every time they’ve been there. Either verbal or by email. It’s worth your peace of mind to know that everything is ok and that they’ve been there.
5. Do they answer the phone when you call? If you have to leave a message do they call back in a timely manner? Do they answer your emails? Both of my newest clients told he that they called and called and emailed repeatedly and never heard back from their home watch people. That’s a dead giveaway that something is not right. Communication is very important and to some clients it is everything.
6. Make sure they say what they do and do what they say!
And if you have to let your home watch company go? Please have your locks re-keyed even if they give you back your key. You don’t know how many copies they may have had made. I have another client that learned this too late.

Well, this has gotten very long, and if you are still reading…good for you! It is just that this is a very important subject and I seem to have a lot to say….lol! There are probably more things I’ll think of after I sign off…if so and they are important…I’ll update this.

I hope this has helped you in the search for an honest, reliable, legitimate home watch company.