Year-round Marco residents usually start noticing the signs of the arrival of “snowbirds” as early as mid-October. Post Irma seasonal residents arrived earlier than normal to check on the condition of their properties. When they left in the spring, some of them handed over the keys to their homes to a friendly neighbor to keep an eye on their winter home; others employed the services of professional home watchers.
What makes a good home watch service? According to the National Home Watch Association (NHWA), “Employing good professionals can make the difference between owning a seasonal dream home or facing a costly nightmare.” The home watch business in Florida is an unregulated industry. Anyone can start a home watch business by simply accepting a set of keys from a friend or neighbor.
According to Donna Wadsworth of The Beach Home Watch and Concierge Services, “Home watching, if not performed with expertise, can be costly, not only to the homeowner, but the home watcher, as well.” Donna Wadsworth and Susan Russo started their home watch company because as realtors they saw many vacant properties and realized how easily things can go wrong. They joined the National Home Watch Association to ensure they meet the highest standards in the industry.
What happens during a routine home watch visit? Most home watch professionals know that water should be turned off when the home is vacant. On each visit, they will turn the water on (slowly) and cycle it by running it in the sinks, tubs and showers, and operate appliances. They use their flashlight, hygrometer, infrared temperature sensor and moisture meter to do a comprehensive check, looking for irregularities, insect infestations and early signs of water damage.
Professional home watch services have started using a software for reporting visits and observations to their clients, and they have to be at the property to activate the software. Donna Wadsworth also added that, “It is a cautionary fact that some insurance companies can deny a claim if there is not proof that a vacant home is being watched regularly.”
Diane Pisani, founder of Your Home Watch Professional believes home watch service is a vital service for all seasonal residents. Pre-Irma, these services prepared their clients’ homes before the storm, and they visited their clients’ homes the moment it was safe to go out. There had not been a major storm in 12 years, and tropical storm Irma “tested the mettle” of home watch services in Southwest Florida.
Diane Pisani urges homeowners to thoroughly vet home watch services by asking the following questions: Are they trained, tested, insured and bonded and background checked? Is it a business or a hobby? Diane has been providing home watch services since 2004. For more information visit www.yourhwp.com.