10 Tips for Buying a Home Security System

We don’t want to alarm you (couldn’t help ourselves), but, according to the FBI, more than 2 million homes are burglarized in the United States every year. This means that someone is breaking into a home somewhere across the country about every 13 seconds. To avoid being the victim of a burglary, getting a home security system is your best option.

Many consumers, though, don’t know exactly what to look for in a home security system. Are there specific features I need to add? What questions should I ask potential vendors? Where and how should it be installed? With these questions in mind, here is a list of 10 things you should know before you buy a home security system. You’ll learn not only the basics, but also what to look for in a system to protect your valuables and your family.

Also, keep in mind that a home security system will also provide premium savings to your homeowners insurance policy. If you would like to find out more, please contact our office.


 

1. Home security systems are affordable.  Even if you are on a limited budget, you can have a home security system. You might want to consider a traditional burglar alarm system; this will give you sensors on your doors and windows, and alert you to any intruders. While not as advanced as a home security system, it will provide adequate protection for your valuables and your family.

If your budget allows, you can opt for a system that is larger, is more advanced and has extra features. This can include fire alarms, carbon monoxide alerts and intruder alerts, and can provide you with immediate access to emergency personnel. A more advanced system can also include the use of asset protection devices.

2. The installation process varies. The installation process of your home security system depends on what type you purchase. A traditional wired system will need to be installed by a professional, and often requires some drilling (and holes in your walls) to connect the sensors to the main alarm system.

On the other hand, a wireless system is much easier to install, as no drilling is required. In most cases, wireless systems are powered by battery, although some are powered by solar panels.

Installation will also depend on the company you purchase it through; special equipment may be needed to connect you directly to the security company or emergency personnel. Ask what is required for the installation so that you are prepared for the process (and the potential mess).

3. Security systems operate even during power outages.  Many homeowners are concerned about how the home security system is powered. Suppose you are on vacation and get word that there was a storm in your neighborhood that knocked out the electricity. Is your home security system still on? Is your home protected? Should you return home?

Don’t be alarmed: No matter what type of system you have, it will continue to operate even when there is no power at your home. A traditional system that is powered by electricity is typically low voltage, which means it doesn’t actually take a lot of power to run the system. And these types of systems contain a large battery that will back up the system when the main power is out.

Another option is a solar-powered security system. You can set this up to be only one component, such as an outdoor security camera, or your entire system can be run on solar power. A solar-powered system is more costly, but if you are looking for a “green” solution that will provide security even when there is no electricity, this is the best option.

4. Burglar alarms are not home security systems. There are major differences between a burglar alarm and a home security system; the latter provides additional benefits to help protect you and your family, and it may be the better investment. Before signing up with a company, it is important that you know what you are getting, what is protected and how the system works.
A burglar alarm is the traditional type of alarm system that has sensors on doors and windows. It will alert you or law enforcement (depending on your settings) that an intruder has entered into your home. This is extremely beneficial — but a home security system can also warn you about environmental dangers, such as fire, carbon monoxide and even flooding.

5. Size does matter. Although some security companies may tell you there is only one kind of security system for everyone, this is not true. In fact, several types and sizes are available, each of which can be customized to fit your needs. Sure, doing so will cost more; but it also will provide you with a higher level of security, as it will be designed specifically to fit your home and your way of life.

A small system might be fine for an apartment or small home. If you have a larger home, you’ll need a system that can handle a larger amount of information and monitoring. A large home requires a system that covers all the doors and windows, as well as the grounds.

6. Many systems offer personal security. Suppose you slipped while walking down the stairs and couldn’t get to a phone. How long would it take before someone came looking for you? Many home security systems are equipped with technology that can be beneficial in a medical emergency.

In most instances, you can get a pendant or bracelet that allows you to push a button to immediately be put in contact with emergency personnel. When you purchase this type of service, help will be available to you 24 hours a day. This option is great for the elderly, as well as those who live alone or don’t have neighbors close by.

7. Choose your provider carefully. Now that you have determined the importance of a home security system, and know what services are available, you will need to choose a service provider. First, consider how long the company has been in business. We recommend you choose a company that has at least 10 years of service, but that has updated, modern equipment. This track record will give you not only customer feedback, but also peace of mind.

Second, consider the distance between you and the monitoring location. We recommend that you be no more than 250 miles away. The farther away you are from a monitoring location, the longer it can take for the alarm to relay, which could delay the amount of time it takes for someone to get to your home.

8. Additional services may not be worth it. As you begin calling home security companies, you will be offered additional devices and services that can be added to increase your security. However, not all of the devices are worth the price you will have to pay.

For instance, if you have no valuable paintings or jewelry, or other items that you want specifically protected, then you would not want to pay for asset protection devices. On the other hand, if you do have high-priced items in your home, then asset protection devices are definitely worth investing in.

Other high-tech devices you might find worth the cost are personal alarm systems, which provide you with immediate access to emergency personnel, as well as security cameras that can be linked to your smartphone. This allows you to monitor your home even while you are away; it is the way of the future.

9. Asset protection devices protect valuables. You can install devices that will alert you if your valuables have been tampered with. Asset protection devices let you know when, for example, a jewelry box has been opened, a painting has been moved or a safe has been tampered with, even if there is no physical evidence.

Asset protection devices are not only beneficial when it comes to theft, but also they give you peace of mind. For example, if a repair person or house cleaner comes into your home while you are away, you will know whether they disturbed your valuable items. When thinking about asset protection devices, consider how many you will need.

10. There are other less-obvious benefits. Aside from the security of knowing that your personal possessions are protected, there are other benefits to having a home security system that just might help you make the decision to purchase one.

For instance, many homeowners insurance policies offer a reduction on premiums for those who have a home security system installed. In addition, more advanced home security systems can provide you with an alert if one of your appliances is not working properly and could cause damage to your home. Furthermore, home security systems give guests, babysitters and nannies peace of mind, knowing that they are safe and secure in your home.

Insuring Teen Drivers

Did you know that vehicular fatalities are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. And though fatality rates for teens have steadily dropped since 1975, teens remain 3 times more likely to crash per mile driven than adults.

Thankfully, you can play a big part in keeping your teen safe. To help you navigate through this important milestone in your child’s life, here are 9 tips covering everything from safety to saving money on car insurance for teenage drivers.

If you have any questions on insuring your own teen driver, please feel free to give our office a call.


 

1. Invest in a safe-driving courseThe more practice young drivers have behind the wheel, the better. Since inexperience results in many teen motor vehicle accidents, approved safe-driving courses can help teens gain experience and helpful skills. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles to get an approved list.

Safe-driving courses can be taken online or in person and usually last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. Most courses are affordable, but it never hurts to shop around. And while you’re looking for ways to save, don’t forget to ask your insurer about a car insurance discount for taking an approved safe-driving course.

2. Get the safest car for your teen driver.  When it comes to choosing the right car for your teen, safety and reliability are key. Choose the safest car you can afford. Whether you buy a brand-new car or a used model, look for advanced safety features like front and side air bags, antilock brakes, head restraints, and electronic stability control. If a crash occurs, these safety features can be lifesavers.

Before you settle on a vehicle, make sure you check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Picks for the crash test rating of the car you have in mind.

3. Implement your own graduated licensing program.  Even if your state has an excellent graduated drivers licensing program, consider implementing your own set of rules until you’re comfortable with your offspring’s driving skills.

  • Restrict nighttime driving: The IIHS reports that most fatal crashes for young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight, so it’s a good idea to take away the keys after 9 p.m.
  • Limit the number of passengers: It may be fun for your teen driver to play chauffeur to his or her friends, but studies have shown that the presence of passengers actually increases accident risk. Teen drivers are more likely to be distracted when they have friends in the car, and the presence of peers also leads to riskier driving practices.
  • Supervise driving: Even though your child may be a bona fide licensed driver, he or she still lacks the necessary experience to handle difficult driving situations.

4. Have a heart to heart.  Driving is a privilege — make sure that your young driver knows it. Before you hand over the keys, clearly spell out your expectations for good driving behavior.

A parent-teen contract detailing your policies regarding passengers, alcohol use, texting while driving, speeding, etc. — and the consequences should your child fail to live up to his or her responsibility — will make sure that you and your teen are on the same page.

5. Practice what you preach.  Set a good example for your young driver. Drive safely, buckle up, and avoid distractions (like texting, talking on the phone, or eating) behind the wheel.

6. Discuss driving costs. If your child has to pay for some car-related expenses (gas, a portion of the monthly insurance premiums, oil changes, etc.), chances are he or she will take driving more seriously and be safer on the road. So make sure your child knows who will pay for what and, when possible, have your teen help out with the cost of car ownership — even if it’s just buying gas every once in a while.

7. Set a zero-tolerance drinking policy.  The statistics for underage drinking are sobering. According to the Center for Disease Control, youth aged 12 to 20 consume 11% of all alcohol in the U.S. So though you might like to avoid the subject, turning a blind eye to teen alcohol use won’t make the problem disappear.

8. Keep a squeaky-clean driving record.  Since every vehicular infraction tarnishes your record and raises your insurance premiums, practice safe driving to keep your record clean. If you’ve added your child to your policy, make sure he or she also follows safe-driving practices. Since speeding is the most common driving violation in the teenage population, make sure your child follows speed limits at all times. (Investing in a vehicle tracking device could be a good option if you’d like to monitor your child’s speed.)

9. Encourage good grades. Aside from helping your young family member advance through life, good grades can also help you and your young driver save on car insurance. If your child is a full-time high school or college student and maintains a high GPA, he or she could be eligible for a Good Student discount.

7 Excluded Homeowners Claims

Our hope is that you never have to experience any disaster to your home that requires submitting an insurance claim to our office.

What worries us even more, though, is submitting an insurance claim assuming there is coverage only to find out the claim is actually excluded on your policy.

With that in mind we have put together a list of the top 7 most-frequently-excluded claims on homeowners insurance policies. While we are always working to provide you with the insurance coverage you need, subtle changes we are unaware of (like a trampoline purchase for instance) may have a dramatic effect on the coverage your insurance company is willing to offer.

We hope that by sharing this list we can help uncover some potential gaps in your policy and provide you with some insight on how to properly cover them.

If you have any questions at all specific to your policy, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.


Mold and Water Dam

A spike in mold-related claims at the turn of the century led most insurers to strike the coverage entirely from their homeowners policies.

Since 2000, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of mold-related claims submitted to insurance companies. The peak came around 2002 when Ed McMahon filed a $20 million lawsuit against his insurance company for mold-related damages. After that, many insurance companies stopped providing coverage completely or limited their coverage to a very small amount.

Sewer Backup

The only thing worse than having a bathroom or basement overflowing with sewage is the fact that you may have pay the entire bill yourself.

Sewage backups are a standard exclusion on many homeowners insurance policies. Without purchasing the additional rider (which is usually less than $100), there is a very good chance you will have to pay for the cleanup yourself.

We will often see the homeowners try to get their cities to pay for the damages, but without being able to prove negligence it is a very difficult thing to do.

Natural Disasters

Depending on where you live, your insurance policy may exclude coverage for certain natural disasters, including wildfires, earthquakes, and flood.

If you live in an area likely to be involved in a natural disaster, then your insurance company may be reluctant to provide coverage for the incident. For example, almost every homeowners insurance policy excludes any coverage for earthquakes, floods or landslides. That coverage must be purchased through a specialty insurance company.

Also, if your home is located in a very remote area far away from any fire station or you live in coastal area, then your insurance policy may not provide damage from fire or wind.

Neglect

Home damage that happens over a long period of time like a slow water leak or a termite infestation may leave you with the bill.

Homeowners insurance policies are written to cover “sudden and unexpected losses” that happen to your home. Insurance companies expect you to care for your home and deal with any maintenance issues that come up. This means problems like a slow water leaks or infestations are usually excluded on your insurance policy because they develop over a long period of time and should have been detected by the homeowner.

Bruce Johnson, author of “50 Simple Ways to Save Your House ,” recommends conducting regular home inspections to detect any potential problems. Tour the exterior of your home to look for cracks, decay or water damage. Check the condition of the roof and inspect the basement or crawl space for other hidden problems, including rodent droppings, termites or leaks.

Trampolines

Some hazards like a swimming pool or swing set may cause an increase in your premiums while other hazards like trampolines may outright excluded on your policy.

According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, there are approximately 98,000 trampoline-related injuries every year with fractures and dislocations accounting for 48% of those injuries.

With that in mind many insurance companies are now excluding any injury related to trampolines. In fact, some insurance companies will actually cancel your insurance policy if they find out your have purchased one.

So if you have purchased a trampoline be sure to speak with our office to find out how it will affect your liability coverage and insurance policy.

Dogs

Dog bites now account for over one-third of all homeowners insurance claims with average damages totaling over $10,000.

With total damages now exceeding $310 million a year, it is easy to see why insurance companies are very leery to insurance residences with dogs. Whether or not your insurance company will surcharge for owning a dog or provide coverage at all depends upon the breed of dog you own.

Troublesome breeds like pit bulls, German shepards, Rottweilers, and huskies may make finding an insurance policy that will provide liability coverage very difficult. Providing proof of dog training and a proper fenced-in enclosure with help prove to insurance companies you are taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and others, and they may be willing to discount your premiums for doing so.

Intentional Damage

If your rebellious teenager or estranged spouse intentionally damages your home, there is a good chance you will be paying for the damages yourself.

Intentional damages caused by an insured person – you, your spouse, dependants or any relatives living in the home – aren’t typically covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Estranged spouses are a very gray area for insurance companies: while they may not live at the residence, they may still be listed on the deed or have an insurable interest in the home, which will give insurance companies a right to deny any claim from their destruction.

* Disclaimer
The above information is to be used as guidance only, and should not be considered as definite in any particular case. Every policy is different and you need to read through your policy and consult with your agent to best determine how your coverage will respond. Within this article we simply cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.