Each year we meet hundreds of new residents in Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island, who come up to us at various local events and ask, what exactly is Home Watch.
Before moving down to sunny Southwest Florida, we too did not know what Home Watch was.
While Home Watch is not new per say, there are some companies that have been around now for almost 20 years! Yet, it is still incredibly informal and unrecognized.
For example, when you search Home Watch companies on Google or Yelp, there is not even a category or subcategory for it! House Sitting, nope not that, house help maybe, still no, perhaps home inspection? Property management? There is just no formal recognition for Home Watch, anywhere.
However, that belies the burgeoning organic growth of a nascent industry that has been exploding throughout the sunbelt areas of this country, and now seeping into anywhere you find seasonal or vacation homes that are unoccupied for long periods of time.
The simplest way to explain Home Watch is that it is the organic response to address the complications of secondary homeownership for the every-day person.
As more and more retire, many are seeking to live and maintain more than one household, whether to escape the weather, visit far-flung families, or simply for a change of pace.
In fact, just in Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island alone, almost 66% of the population is seasonal, gone for an average of 6 months at a time!
Beautiful beaches, amazing weather in the winter, the chance to be out on the water, it is easy to see why so many people do.
But, this is true of many places throughout the country, whether you love the mountains or lakes, skiing on snow or on water, we all have a different dream of our ideal lifestyle. Now more and more of us have the financial means to make it a reality.
However, when staring up at the heavens we must always remember we still have two feet planted on the ground. A lot can go wrong in a home when you are away for long periods of time, water damage, property damage, pests, storms, HVAC issues, the list goes on.
Water and HVAC issues account for over half of all incidents in Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island. Not surprising due to the climate but concerning for other reasons.
HVAC system issues can lead to other issues if not caught and resolved quickly, such as mold! Water issues typically refer to leaks and stains, which can damage your home of not taken care of!
Different climates pose different risks. Here in Naples, Bonita Springs, and Marco Island for instance, with average humidity over 70% throughout the year, mold growth starting at 55%, HVAC issues can become dangerous quick.
Further, homeowner’s insurance increasingly will deny your claim if more than a month transpires before an issue is reported.
In fact, simply reporting the issue is not enough for most insurance companies, homeowners must also show active steps have been taken to remediate any issue and prevent it from worsening.
So great is the risk, that condominiums are even writing into their bylaws requirements by homeowners to have someone actively checking their home if gone for more than 10 days at a time.
This is because the risk posed is not just to your unit, but the surrounding units as well.
Therefore, it is so important to have someone care for your home when you are away.
Home Watch the visual inspection of a home or property, looking for obvious issues. Each visit includes a basic check of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems, as well as the overall condition of the home and property.
Every visit by a Home Watch Professional will result in a detailed interior and exterior check of the property depending on the house type. Below are some common elements that comprise a Home Watch Visit.
As we discussed a lot could happen when you are away! Therefore, when asked this question we always ask our clients what their risk tolerance is.
Out of almost 700 visits Halo carried out during the Summer of 2020, Halo uncovered and helped to resolve 65 separate issues, which is a 9% incident rate overall!
Single Family Homes have the highest incident rate of all house types due to being affected by more types of issues, for example, pool or property damage issues.
Use the above facts so you can make the best decision possible. Most Home Watch Companies offer weekly or bi-weekly visit options.
Be wary of any Home Watch Company that says they will check only once a month.
A lot can go wrong, insurance claims denied, small issues become big ones, a professional Home Watch company will never agree to once a month visits.
The answer is no, Home Watch as mentioned, is incredibly informal and still has no regulation governing the industry. Therefore, it is imperative to do your due diligence when picking a Home Watch Company to care for your home when you are gone.
When the industry first started, most did not have a website, insurance, or even a business license! Now any reputable Home Watch Company should have a formal website, reviews, and a working business phone number.
Below are some important item to request when evaluating your potential Home Watch Company:
Home Watch Visit prices are primarily based on three criteria.
There are other factors to consider such as the number of air conditioners, circuit breakers, refrigerating units, size of the lanai and pool area; however, for most homeowners the price will be based on those three simple criterias listed above.
Also, most Home Watch Companies while performing a Home Watch visit will provide additional services at the client’s request, but a nominal charge may be added. Some examples of additional services are:
Weed Removal / Maintenance
Condensate Line Cleaning
Access and Alarm Battery Changing
High Ceiling Lightbulb Changing
Each company is unique. Most offer a variety of services. However, the main services offered are:
Depending on the location of the home there are climate specific services offered as well.
For example, some Home Watch Services in Naples, Bonita Springs, or Marco Island Florida offer Storm Season Services due to hurricane season. While other Home Watch Companies up north offer snow removal services and ice salting.
If they don’t provide it, most Home Watch Companies can certainly arrange for any service that you might need, using their knowledge of local contractors.
In fact, any reputable Home Watch Company should have a vendor list for their clients.
Buying a second home in Naples, Bonita Springs, or Marco Island, FL or anywhere in the country is just the beginning of the journey not the end of it.
A lot can go wrong, and the challenges homeowners face become exacerbated when you are thousands of miles away.
Home Watch is the organic response to address the complications of secondary homeownership for the every-day person.
Whether you are gone for months at a time or weeks, it is important to have someone caring for your home while you are away.
Remember, Home Watch is not regulated, so make sure to do your homework when selecting a Home Watch Service. A legitimate Home Watch company should be licensed, insured, and bonded.
Request their Home Watch Report checklist to see everything the Home Watch professional will perform each visit. Get weekly or bi-weekly visits to protect your home.
Also, do not hesitate to ask for additional services during the Home Watch visit. Many Home Watch companies are happy to change the A/C filter, batteries in the smoke alarms or keyless entry, spray weeds, etc. It may come with an additional fee, but is well worth it.
Finally, many Home Watch Companies offer other services beyond Home Watch and if you need a service they do not offer, they should have a readily available vendor list (A/C, plumbers, electricians, pest control, etc.) to find you a company who does.
The purpose of Home Watch Services is to make owning your second home as hassle free as possible!
The HomeWatch industry might not be that much regulated as much as it should be. I have personally encountered the horrors of being away from home and meanwhile getting my HVAC severely damaged. It was a sandstorm and it completely filled my HVAC system with sand resulting in the jamming of the fan and the machinery inside.
I would personally suggest to all who are reading my comment to hire a good homewatch company when you are away.