Vacant homes can be a security risk for both agents and customers. However, there are options to keep you both safe. More real estate agents are turning to portable home alarm systems to help minimize these risks. While considering alarms, it is important to do what you can to keep the home from being a target. Security is best done in layers.
Secure in layers
Consider the first layer of home security while staging a vacant home; it is important to maintain a “lived-in” look from the street. This can be done by putting lamps on timers or using basic home automation lamp modules that turn on and off at different times. Put porch lights on a dawn-to-dusk sensor, to illuminate the front of the home at night. A porch light left on all day is a dead giveaway for a vacant home.
Keep the yard landscaping clean and trimmed and gates locked. Enlist the neighbor’s help if appropriate. Asking them to help keep an eye on the house, parking in the driveway periodically and contacting you if there are any concerns. Building relationships with neighbors may benefit you in the future, and it gives the neighbors a sense of community in their neighborhood.
The second layer should include alarm signs and window stickers. These tell a potential prowler that they will not have much time to hang around if they decide to break in. They often act as a deterrent all together. Place stickers on front and side windows and on back doors or windows. Yard signs should be in clear view of the street and in a back yard with alley access.
The third layer is to use an alarm system. Decide whether you want to self-monitor or have the system monitored professionally. If you want affordable professional monitoring, there are companies that offer these.
The biggest drawback to going with a “standard” alarm company is that these systems often require a monitoring contract with penalties for breaking it. One company does offer month-to-month monitoring without a contract, making a Realtor’s life easier, its SimpliSafe.
Option 1: SimpliSafe
SimpliSafe is a wireless system that requires only electricity. The system utilizes GSM or cellular communications to the central monitoring center, battery operated sensors, and rechargeable back up batteries in the Base station means if the power goes out, the system will still work for up to two days.
Install and expand SimpliSafe easily for larger homes. It is great for Realtors since monitoring services are optional and it does not require a contract if you choose monthly monitoring.
The original basic system supports up to 26 devices and includes a wireless keypad and base station. Devices sold separately include door, window, motion sensor, yard signs and other devices.
SimpliSafe2 is the newest version that supports a larger number of sensors. With expanded functionality, SimpliSafe2 includes monitoring for fire and carbon monoxide, additional keypad support and remote alarm control for turning alarms on or off via your smartphone or computer. This is especially nice if you want to grant a colleague access to show one of your properties without giving out the alarm code.
Protection options include a panic button that alerts the monitoring center immediately of an emergency and dispatches police. A duress code, which you program, can be used if someone follows you in and insists you deactivate the alarm. This “secret” code tells the monitoring center that you are in need of immediate help.
The company works with Realtors and states that agents can have as many accounts as needed. Activating and cancelling an account over the phone takes just a few minutes. It is protected by a 3-year product warranty and backed by a 60-day, no questions asked money back guarantee.
Option 2: Self-monitored systems
If you want to go the way of a self-monitored alarm system, there are many options. These systems usually consist of door and window sensors, motion detectors, keypads and an audible sounder.
The only difference between these and the monitored systems is they work without communicating to a central monitoring center.
The advantages of going with a self-monitored system are the elimination of false alarms to the police department. Central monitored systems do sound off if they are sensitive to heavy wind or large trucks driving by, sending the police if they cannot verify the disturbance with you. This can result in false alarm charges through your city; in addition, monitored alarms often require an annual alarm permit through the city, depending on your location.
Swann Home Wireless System
The Swann Home Wireless System includes all you need to alarm two doors or windows, and has two motion detectors, a keypad controller, siren, two keychain remote controls and eight window decals.
The keypad control panel requires an electrical outlet but the rest of the devices are battery operated. The system’s audible sounder is a loud 110dB that will sound for up to 20 minutes. Installation is easy and requires connecting the Anti-Intrusion sounder to the keypad with the supplied cable as well as positioning each sensor.
Swann has a large selection of add-on devices including extra door/window sensors, motion sensors and yard signs. The company also has a large selection of stand-alone alarm devices like ceiling mounted motion detectors, door and window alarms, and password protected door and motion detectors all with loud 110dB alarms built right in. Swann products are available through home improvement stores.
Iris Safe & Secure
The Iris Safe and Secure Kit, sold by Lowe’s, lets you secure two doors or windows, create an interior trap with a motion detector and includes a keypad and communications hub. The system offers remote access control via free smartphone applications.
In order to take advantage of the system’s remote access features, you do need to have a broadband connection in the home. Iris’ basic service is free and provides alerts when alarms or triggers happen. Devices can be turned on or off remotely and doors can be locked or unlocked remotely when using compatible door locks.
Iris offers you two free months of Premium services upon activation. Premium services let you select up to six people to send customized alerts to, schedule devices such as add-on lighting control modules and set home modes for quick default settings such as “night” and “away.”
If you have locks set up on the system, you can set temporary pass codes for other agents or customers and receive notification when authorized users enter the home. Iris is available through Lowe’s Home Improvement stores and online.
No matter what security system you decide to use, be sure to take personal security measures when it comes to vacant homes. Keeping you and your customers safe is of paramount importance and your creativity could even help you gain new customers.
This article was written by Jeremy Kushner, a home security enthusiast who blogs on topics related to crime, security and home improvement. You can find more of his posts at homealarmsystems.com.