Vacant Home And No Home Watch - Crazy

There should be more people looking for professional Home Watch for their new seasonal homes or for vacations. There is clearly a lot of people who do not want the minimal cost for Home Watch. They fail to fully grasp that in very little time a vacant home can have thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in damage because they did not leave the house safe for departure.

Professional Home Watchers know how to put a home into “home watch” mode. Many hobby home watchers and home owners do not know what to do. Just because you never had a problem in the past leaving your house vacant does not mean something will not happen.

The second failure people make is not understanding the insurance industry especially post Irma. Insurance companies will pay claims only if someone was watching the vacant house, and doing so every two weeks or less. Claims are getting denied because the owner had no proof someone was watching their house. Look at your policy now to see how often your home needs to be checked.

It is not really an “IF”, it is a matter of “WHEN” a problem will occur. What I like to say is a Vacant Home is a Vulnerable Home. Let me be the Difference Between Damage And Disaster. I cannot prevent problems but I can identify issues early and help prevent a costly disaster. Why would you not protect one of your most expensive assets?

A few vacant home issues I have found, any one of these could have turned into a disaster:

  • Air Conditioner not running because the coil had a manufacturing defect.

  • Air Conditioner not running because the drain line was plugged.

  • Air Conditioner not running because the drain line was not installed properly to drain.

  • Pool auto fill stuck ON flooding lawn.

  • Humidity level too high - defective thermostat.

  • Roof leak.

  • Toilet line leaking.

I provide exceptional service and verifiable visits for vacant home owners. Let me watch your vacant home while you are away.

Neighbor Watching Your House

Although it is easy to just ask your neighbor to be your home watch person, just to check on it, and of course there is no tangible cost for this, there is lots of risks and problems with this seasonal solution.

First since the neighbor is not paid, they do not feel any ultimate responsibility here, if they want to go on vacation, or have an out of town emergency, they are gone providing you with no backup home watch. It is not because they don’t care, it’s just that their agenda is more important than yours.

Second, they are not trained to look for issues early, they don’t have home watch tools to check on AC systems and look for early water or humidity problems. If you have two air conditioning units, do they know both are working?

Third, they are not insured, so if they damage anything you pay the bill. Insurance companies are becoming more picky about claims on vacant homes. They may not pay your claim if you do not have a real home watch person.

Fourth, What happens if a hurricane comes? Are they going to stay and be ready to check on your home post storm? Not likely, a professional home watch person will stay through the storm up to a low cat 5. There are safety limits.

The cost of a home watch person is low compared to the damage and aggravation a vacant home disaster can cause. If you value your seasonal home, find a good home watch professional.

Summertime Air Condition Issues

It's hot now in the end of July in SWFL, so air conditioners do two things, they cool your house and they break.  

This week I had two clients with air conditioners that were shut down due to a plugged drain line.  One a new house and one a older condo.  What makes this significant is with a biweekly service you can be hot and humid for 14 days until I return.  This is long enough for mold to get started.  I now recommend weekly home watch visits.

I opened the clients door and found the conditions in the photo to the right.  It was very hot and stuffy, I knew something was wrong immediately.  The thermostat was set to 74, the system was ON and calling for cooling.  The drain line sensor had been tripped by too much water in the line.  I drained the line into a bucket and the air came on and was cooling so I knew the drain line was the root cause.

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A service guy came out "cleared" the line and left.  On the surface the problem was solved, but the root cause was not yet fixed.  Being a Home Watch professional I checked on it the next day just to be sure and now it was 85 degrees in the house!

House was under warranty but plugged drain lines are not covered.  Make sure you have a air conditioning maintenance service agreement in place even if the house is under warranty.

The photo above to the left is how I found the line when it was not draining.  I moved to the angle in the photo to the right, and it was then draining.  Permanent fix was for the piping to be changed to get more drop before getting to the wall.  This was a build issue that took a while to surface with a marginal drainage system.  

A weekly Home Watch visit will catch these issues sooner, so which is best?  I would choose the weekly visit to help me prevent minor damage going to disaster.  An empty home is a vulnerable home!

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Best Home Watch Practices

I have a best practice that not all my clients understand.  When they leave their home for an extended period of time one of my best practices is to have a home visit to their home in under 24 hours.  The reason for this?  Even with the best of intentions people leave their homes and forget to do something.  I have found unlocked windows, an unlocked door, air conditioning systems not functioning, pool automatic overflow systems broken (pool overflowing), ice makers full, water left ON,  just to name a few.

These items put a vacant home at risk.  If I waited 2 weeks to visit their homes after they leave, just think of the expense of the pool water in constant fill mode.  That would be a big water bill.  Not to mention the security risks of unlocked homes.

Some clients think this practice just drives up the number of visits, however this one visit saved a client lots of money, so I make the visits shortly after the homeowner leaves for good reason and there is value in these perceived extra visits.

I also perform what I call the Murphy's Law visit, I make a home watch visit just before a client returns.  Why?  For my part I want to make sure all my hard work while they were gone for six months or more does not get wasted on an issue that can happen just prior to their return.  The other reason is to protect the home owner from any issues that they may have to face if I did not make a visit just before them returning.  This practice keeps everyone happy.  Both visits provide value.

 Pool filled to top overflowing to grass behind house via the overflow pipe.

Pool filled to top overflowing to grass behind house via the overflow pipe.

 Pool flooding grass with city water with auto fill stuck ON.

Pool flooding grass with city water with auto fill stuck ON.

Insurance Coverage, Keys, And Hobby Guys

 

  • Seasonal Residents should check with their Insurance agent to see what the requirements are for Home Watch. Claims may be denied unless there is proof that regular visits have been made.
  • Who has your keys? It is so important to research and check the credentials of the Home Watch company that you hire.
  • Home Watch is a real business, not a hobby.

Facebook: @bobjackGCAHW

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Price Is Only An Issue When Value Is In Question

“Hello, how much do you charge for home watch visits?” says the voice on the phone.

It is that time of the year. Our Seasonal Residents realize that they will be heading back to their northern homes soon. Some are looking for a new home watch provider because they had a bad experience. Some never had home watch before and are calling because their insurance agent explained that it is required. Others heard the stories of water damage and mold disasters from their friends and neighbors and they want to be sure their home is looked after during the summer months.

Is it really all about price?

I was visiting with a Seasonal Resident the other day who shared that they golfed in the afternoon at a cost of $190 each plus the cost of lunch and drinks at the bar. In the evening, they joined friends for dinner and spent $325 per couple. Yes, over $700 in one day for golf and dining.

Another couple I met is taking their 2 kids to Key West for the day. The round trip boat tickets for a family of four are around $600. Add lunch and a few purchases and they are easily over $1000 for their Fun Day!

Service technicians like plumbers, electricians and AC techs often charge close to $100 to show up and then the clock starts ticking and you are billed by the quarter hour.

I know that many of us spend over $200 every time we go to the hair salon.

Try to spend less than $50 for a movie and snacks.

I would like to talk about how much women spend on shoes, but then the secret would be out!!

My point is that price should be the last thing you ask when interviewing a home watch provider.

Learn about the person, the company, their training and credentials. Ask them about what they do when making a visit and what they look for. What is their most important tool? How will they communicate with you? How are the visits documented? Who will watch over your home if the home watch provider has an emergency, illness or takes a vacation? Get to know them. Hire the home watch professional who makes you feel the most comfortable. This is the person who will be there for you to handle a small situation or large emergency.

Price is only an issue when value is in question.

Ask the important questions first. Get the price last.

Should you hire a house sitter or a Home Watch professional?

I often talk to homeowners who aren’t sure what the difference is between a house sitter and Home Watch.  When you are going to leave your home for an extended period of time, you should definitely know your options so that you can make the best decision for your situation.  The option of having nobody check on it is not an option.

 

House Sitters

A house sitter is typically someone who will live in your home during the time that you are away.

The main benefit of a house sitter is if you want to leave your pets at home.  A house sitter will be able to take care of them so you don’t have to board them.  They will also be there more or less at all times which will keep your house looking lived in and hopefully deter any opportunistic criminals.

The downside is that you don’t know what kind of wear and tear you might have to your home. They will use your facilities during their stay so in addition to the costs of their services there will also be an increased cost of your electricity and water bill too. Some house sitters operate informally meaning that they do not have insurance against damages, which means that you become responsible for any issues that arise.

 

Home Watch

Home Watch is a service, which includes a regularly scheduled visit to your property while you are away and a report on the status to you for each visit.

A Home Watch professional is someone who is insured, bonded and runs a professional business.  They are trained to locate and report on issues they observe at the property to the owner while your home is vacant such as rodent infestation, leaking pipes, air conditioner issues or damages from severe weather.  You will receive a report after the home visit to let you know that everything checks out at your home or bring to your attention to a minor issue that could grow to costly damages.

In case an issue arises, the Home Watch professional will immediately contact you. You will be able to instruct them on how to deal with the issue. They will be able to manage the issue on your behalf using the contractors that you specify, or use someone from their trusted network.

Home Watch has been known by many names: house watch, house check, home concierge, caretaker, absentee home service, property watch, property management and so on. Regardless of the name, a Home Watch service performs scheduled visits to “vacant” properties while the owner is away.

Since your home is vacant other than the home checks there will be no additional wear and tear and no additional costs to you.  

Whether you decide on a Home Watch professional or a house sitter, be sure to check their credentials, reviews and make sure that they have the proper insurance in place.

March Madness

It's March madness now, the time when all seasonal home owners are here, the roads are jammed, restaurants full, beaches crowed.  But soon it will be April and people will be heading North or back to the home country.  Therefore now it is also time to review who is going to watch your home when you are away.  Is this going to be a friend or neighbor, a hobby home watcher who just does this on the side?  Or are you going to get a trained professional home watcher that can be trusted to do the job?  

Does your present home watch person claim to be licensed?  If so, run!  There is no license requirements in home watch. If they claim to be licensed then what other things are they telling you that aren't true?  Ask to see their insurance, are they bonded?  Have they passed a background check?  Are they a member of a Home Watch group to share knowledge and get assistance when needed, like after Irma?  Without training, credentials, and backup you may not be getting what you are paying for.

Do you or your Home Watch provider know the #1 reason of water flooding in Florida homes?  Do you or your home watch provider know the best locations to look for early signs of mold?  How should the air conditioner be set while you are away to prevent mold?  What is the best air filter to use on the AC unit?  What filter MERV rating is the best?  Should your water be off or on?  how should your water heater be left for your time away?  These are all items and more that a trained Home Watch Professional like myself knows.

It's not a matter of if some thing happens when you are away, it's a matter of when.  Let me be the difference between damage and disaster.  Let me show you how I'm better and different than the untrained watchers.