This was a direct quote from a local business owner that was in the process of purchasing an established area home watch company several years ago. The deal was done and this absurd comment was blurted out during a transitional ride around. Evidently there was a degree of truth to the statement as the company was fed upon by competitors for a couple of years before a shell of its former self was sold for parts to yet another aspiring multi tasker.
So, how do you know your house is being checked? Sadly enough, this has become a valid question especially with the sharp uptick in overnight home watch and property management providers in recent years. As policy, I always comp customers when occupancy coincides with a scheduled check provided I’m given notice thus sparing me the trip. With that being said, I always lend a couple of “free passes” up front as some folks simply want to see whether or not someone shows up even though I’ll occasionally get the feigned “…so sorry I forgot to call.” After 18 years in business, I heard just about everything once so I can definitely appreciate it.
The first thing to do is decide whether you want to confirm checks or go fishing to find out.
If you want to confirm the house is being checked, you’re actually forcing a check which is fine but better to see whether or not the service is being provided at all rather than being done so begrudgingly.
Let’s go fishing first. Depending on your proximity to your second home, there are a myriad of steps you can take at literally many levels. Leave a second floor window open an inch or two. If you’ve specified that a certain door is to remain closed or a light is to stay on, open it and shut it off. Mail yourself a rock. Have a small parcel delivered and wait and see how long it takes to receive a call or if it’s still on the step when spring rolls around. Before you leave for the season or an extended period of time, tape a piece of graph paper to the oil tank right under the level indicator with a note to track the levels with each visit.
Anyone passing the fishing exam probably doesn’t need to be incentivized to perform going forward but there are simple requests that will ensure someone, at a minimum, is going inside. There is a new doorbell app on the market that will send your phone a still or video of the bell presser. Have your provider water a few plants or start the car in the garage. Dead plants and dead batteries equal dead beat. If your home is armed assign a unique entry code to the company charged with checking your house. Monitor something; anything. The oil level gimmick still works here. The lesson above is to determine whether or not anyone is going in the basement let alone checking fuel levels. Once in a blue moon someone will convince themselves that automatic delivery means autopilot. In either case, a couple of well placed web cams should give you all you need to know.
I have a handful of customers, some of which have been with me from the beginning, that are accustom to a quick text or a confirmation pic. There’s nothing back handed or suspect simply an extra layer in the peace of mind business and if anyone takes that personally, you may want to shop around.
Several companies will leave a log sheet on the kitchen counter. This may be a simple date/time affair while some may throw in a quick note regarding the weather. While I get the intention, more often than not there is always at least one party beyond the owner and manager with a key and for my part, I’d rather take the time to send a real time text pic of your kitchen rather than document and display a pattern of visits or worse yet end up doing the Elmer Fudd routine should the sheet mysteriously go missing.
The watch and management business is no doubt built squarely on trust which is why word-of-mouth will always trump virtually any alternate marketing angle. Talk with your neighbors, ask for references and do your leg work.