Bonita Springs – The sewer overflows. The upstairs unit has a tub leak. A rat snake is wrapped around the toilet. A frog is in the shower. The air conditioner stops. The washing machine hoses spring a leak. The sprinkler system timer slips and starts watering all day, every day. A series of robberies through sliding glass doors plague the gated community. A hurricane is imminent. Aunt Sally and Uncle Bob drop in since the condo is available.
These and other nightmares are real stories from Bonita Springs,experienced by absentee owners.
A friend with a key may be overwhelmed. The insurance might not recognize the friend as a caretaker and refuse the claim. Worse — the friend may be sued by the dwelling owner for their lack of care and cause the end of a friendship.
“Over 1,200 people indicate they are available to provide ‘home check’ services in the Southwest Florida area,” advises Adam Dalton of A & E Home Management. “Taking a shot in the dark is risky.”
According to Dalton, several key things need to be in place to guarantee quality service. Are they licensed, incorporated and insured? How long have they been in business? Are they local? Do they have local references?
Are background checks required of all owners and employees? How detailed is their checklist and what frequency their
checks? Who does the checks? How do they safeguard the keys and entry points? How do they communicate with owners and how often? How quickly do they respond to owner needs? Are their fees competitive?
A & E Home Management combines the latest technology with personal home checks for close monitoring of air temperature and hum idity, a major summer issue. What other specialized services are included by your watch service?
M e l o d y Brown at Away from the Bay has lived in this area for 30 years. She lived in Bonita Bay in 2000 when she decided to start a home watch business.
“I listened to my seasonal neighbors who returned for the winter and upon arrival found many things wrong with their
homes including fluid leaking from their cars and AC problems,” Brown said.
She limits her services to five gated communities and is first call with client alarm services. When alarms are not monitored by a watch service, false calls are billed to the owner. It may just be a cat or a summer storm that sets off the alarm.
“A seasonal resident simply cannot lock up, leave town and hope for the best!” Brown says. “Weekly home watch checks are imperative and residents should be interviewing and hiring a professional company right now.”
Home watch services run the gamut. Compare the watch checklists and services among several potential companies. They may include the basic check list for the safety and security of the property or a shopping list of additional concierge services such as those found at Maintain Domain. Check out the websites for their detailed lists. Some home watch companies include cleaning and preparation for arrival from laundering bedding to insuring the refrigerator and cupboards are well stocked.
There’s nothing quite like returning home to prepared appetizers, chilled wine and fresh flowers.
These latter services are generally for the high end client and are priced accordingly. It’s wise to consider how many clients the watch service monitors to be certain they are not spread too thin.
“You don’t want to turn over the key to a $1 million plus home to just anybody,” says Rick Gallo of Close Watch Services.
He has provided year round concierge services for 17 years, relying totally on word of mouth referrals.
“You want a neighbor, real estate agent, insurance company or someone you trust to make the referral,”
Gallo says. “We do a lot of weekly cleaning during season and watch services increase as the season changes. We do it all, from grocery shopping to airport pickups.”
He looked at his new business card; he’s used so few to advertise that his old ones still had the 941 area code.
Insurance premiums pay for catastrophes, often with a substantial deductible. Claims for absentee owners may require proof that homes were monitored in order to pay the claim. Home watch services insure “peace of mind” at a monthly cost that is often less than the gym membership that insures a healthy body. Selecting that service, to which the key to a major asset is entrusted, requires thorough consideration of the services needed and the quality and integrity of the company.
As they say in the Tropics, “Don’t Worry; Be Happy” with the right home watch choice.