Some might say that a home security system is a luxury that most homeowners can’t afford when faced with the many other pressing costs of maintaining a household. On the other hand, others argue that the peace of mind and crime deterrence that comes with a home security system is invaluable. It’s up to you to decide whether you really need a home security system, and it’s a good idea to weigh the options before a major output of funds.
What is my risk?
First do some research regarding how likely you are to actually become a victim of burglary, vandalism, or violent crime. The FBI and local law enforcement agencies keep records of crime numbers committed per household per year in major metropolitan areas. It’s a good idea to peruse these statistics to determine your actual risk.
Obviously, there is personal trauma involved with any kind of home invasion beyond monetary loss, but when considering an investment in a home security system, part of the equation should include the cost of replacing valuables that are stolen. Take an inventory of the items in your home that would be likely to be taken during a burglary: cash, television equipment, jewelry, firearms, computer equipment and antiques. If the replacement cost of these items is more than the average value of items taken in burglaries in your area, it could be worth the investment in a security system.
Of course, many times your belongings have sentimental value that far exceed the actual cost of the items, and for that alone, you may want to consider a system that will give you increased reassurance that you will not be a victim of a crime.
What will it cost?
As with any major purchase, it is smart to do some research before committing to one security provider over another, and that includes making certain that you understand the actual costs involved in purchasing a system.
Factors to consider include upfront charges, activation fees, installation fees, and monthly monitoring costs.
Upfront costs vary from service to service, but average around $500 for a complete system.
Activation fees are not the same as installation, and can seem like one of those “hidden charges” that pop up when money is changing hands. Although it’s obviously a one-time hit, it can be a surprise to find an additional $50-200 charge for activation. Make sure to read the contract before you sign and have to pay the fee so you know exactly what to expect.
Installation is usually charged at an hourly rate, although some companies may charge a flat fee as part of your package. Expect to pay around $150 for a professional installation. If you are handy, you may be able to DIY the entire operation, bypassing the fee entirely.
Monitored systems employ a signal that is sent to an outside entity when an alarm is tripped, notifying the homeowner and authorities from a remote location. Unmonitored systems save the average $30-50 monthly fee, but rely upon the alarm itself scaring away intruders in the moment, or neighbors alerting the police if you are not close enough to act. Be sure to know what you are getting with the monitoring charges; adding on fees for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for example, can incrementally cause “fee creep.”
What else should I know?
The entry-level price that companies lead with in advertisements may not offer the best, most technologically advanced products, so be aware that a deal that seems too good to be true probably is. You will probably end up paying marginally more than the lowest advertised price of any given company’s system.
Pricing for a system also varies in terms of those who sign a monthly contract for monitoring versus those who don’t purchase the whole package up front. It may be advantageous for some to spread out the cost of the system over several months or years as opposed to a large, up-front lump sum.
Many homeowner insurance policies offer significant discounts for houses armed with security systems, and these discounts increase with additional features like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, energy-saving systems, and monitors for things like gun safes. Check with your insurance company to see what kind of policies surround this type of system installation.
What is the actual value of a home security system?
We have been focused primarily on the actual out-of-pocket cost of a home security system thus far, but obviously, there are a myriad of factors contributing the true value of this kind of purchase.
Make sure that you are dealing with a reputable company; there are many websites and services today where client-facing services are reviewed and rated so you can compare your experience with that of others seeking similar products.
Be sure that the system you have installed is of high quality. In fact, it may be worth the extra cost to invest in a more expensive package in order to ascertain the quality and effectiveness of the system. Having equipment that is difficult to use or maintain, or that frequently fails will do nothing for your pocketbook or your peace of mind.
When dealing with customer service representatives, make sure that they professional, responsive, and effective in dealing with you and your concerns.
Does the company offer adaptable, new technology that will fit with the growing trends in “smart homes” and won’t require you to purchase an entirely new system in a few years?
Statistically, a burglary takes place about every 18 seconds in the United States; that’s nearly 5,000 every day. There is no denying that homes with a security system in place are less likely to be affected by criminal activity, and if the break-in occurs, less damage is likely to be done when the burglars realize that the home is alarmed. Considering that a small percentage of these criminals are ever apprehended and the property recovered, having an edge on avoiding the break-in altogether is well worth the cost to many consumers.
The good news is, there are reputable companies offering home security systems to combat this type of loss, and could even add to your home’s overall value. And again, there is tremendous worth in having a little more peace of mind when it comes to the safety and security of your home and belongings, not to mention your loved ones.