A reader: I just bought a new house and it does not have an alarm system. There are so many types of security out there, where do I start?
Action Line: Congratulations on your new home! Having a security system that is monitored is the single most important thing you can do to secure your home from burglars and even fire. Having a security system will trigger an alarm when someone breaks in and immediately alert the authorities. Not only will this protect your home when you’re away, but it will protect you if someone breaks in knowing you’re inside.
When selecting a company, the first thing to do is to forget the advertising claims. They are designed to entice you into a quick decision. Instead start by making a list of what your needs actually are concerning security and then research what each company offers to meet those needs.
Choose a professional installer. Ask for a recommendation from the insurance company that covers your home. Deal only with reputable firms and check out the company with the BBB before deciding.
Contact at least three companies before selecting an installer. Make sure they are properly licensed by the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
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.
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 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? These are the types of questions you need to consider before you obligate yourself to a long-term contract.
Insist that the installer "walk" you through your system until you 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.
For more security tips, or explore more spring home improvement tips, you can go to bbb.org/ccie/
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.