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GUEST COMMENTARY

Home Watch Professionals can save you big bucks

Social distancing is nothing new to the Home Watch Professional. We have been doing it all along, even before it was a catchphrase.

We are in the business of visiting the unoccupied homes of our seasonal residents. The Home Watch reporter can have very busy days and little interaction with other human beings. It has long been a best practice to take appropriate steps to respect the client’s property and follow proper protocol when it comes to protective guidelines.

Home Watch is also considered an essential business. Yep, another COVID-19 catchphrase. But why would it be essential? Because things can, will, and do happen. Our job is to find a damaging situation in the early stages before it becomes a disaster.

Did you know that a leak in an ice maker supply line can pump up to a gallon of water per minute? Easily, more than 1,000 gallons in 24 hours. Imagine if that leak is undetected for days, weeks, even months.

Mold damage is a biggie too. Many a seasonal homeowner departs in the spring and returns in the fall. A good percentage of our hard-working air conditioners will malfunction or break. When that happens, the humidity will rise to dangerous levels. Mold can start to grow within a few days, and after an extended amount of time, disaster is pretty much guaranteed.

The cost of repairs can be in the tens of thousands of dollars; sometimes much more, not to mention being unable to use the home for a season or two. Home Watch at $40 to $50 per visit is a bargain by any comparison.

Here is something that you may not know. If damage occurs in a seasonal home and there is no proof of the visits, the insurance claim may be denied. It is imperative that the homeowner checks with their insurance carrier for the frequency of visits, of an unoccupied or vacant home, as mandated by the policy.

Now that you understand that Home Watch is a must-have service, how do you hire the right person? Begin by recognizing that Home Watch is a real profession. Living in a home is not a qualification to watch over someone else’s home. Home Watch is currently unregulated as there is no official license requirement. Beware of those who claim to have a license.

Many homeowners hand over their keys to a neighbor-doing-a-favor or a hobby-home-watcher. These are often well-meaning individuals whose good intentions can have catastrophic results. They don’t know what to look for, how to monitor humidity, are uninsured and so much more.

I have been an expert witness in a lawsuit against a Home-Watch company. They did not have a clue how to control the humidity in the home. There was over $100,000 in damage. Had these business owners attended the Home Watch Training Program, they would have learned on the first day how to regulate the humidity level.

My own journey into the world of Home Watch began in 2004 when I accepted a position at a local company. From there, I went to a real estate business and established its Home Watch and concierge division. In 2006, with a business partner, I started a Home Watch company. That is when I learned that anyone could slap a magnet on their vehicle, claim they had a business, and take keys to the seasonal homes. Some good people are doing good work, but it is also a profession that attracts scoundrels.

Homeowners would call with a variety of stories. “You won’t believe this, but I came to my condo to find that the Home Watcher filled in the sign-up sheet six weeks in advance.” “Would you believe that my neighbor called because there was a lot of unusual activity at my home and she knew I was up north? It turns out that the home watcher let his mistress and family stay at my home during the summer months.” “I gave my keys to the recommended neighbor. I left in May and returned in October.

My home was destroyed by mold, and the insurance claim was denied.”

I learned to say, “Yes, I believe it.

No, I’ve never seen it all.”

It was obvious that the time was right to move this hobby to a profession and, eventually, an industry.

In 2009, Your Home Watch Professionals was founded, and it is the first company devoted to training those ready to start or grow their own business. The International Home Watch Alliance is the professional organization dedicated to the education of our homeowners, advocacy efforts and the certification of Home Watch Reporters.

The eBook, “The Ultimate Home Watch Interview Guide,” can be downloaded from the website of either organization. Both have a member directory of trained and credentialed Home Watch Professionals.

The seasonal homeowner can finally make an informed decision. ¦

— Diane Pisani is an educator and an advocate for the profession of Home Watch. She is the founder f of Your Home Watch Professionals ( www.YourHWP.com) and co-founder of the International Home Watch Alliance ( www.IHWAlliance.org) [email protected]