Are Home Security Systems Worth It? 23 Alarming Facts
Want a home security system, but not sure if they are worth the cost? Read on for the pros and cons and things to know before you sign up.
Protect Your Home from Burglars
With the high rate of home burglary in America, many are looking towards home security systems to keep their property and families safe. For others, the often high cost will cause them to think twice about installing a system. Chances are, if you're reading this article, you're wondering if a home security system is worth the investment.
The first thing to think about is what your security goals are. If you just want to deter burglars, maybe some cheaper measures will be good enough.
Or maybe you want your home to be more protected. A home security system doesn't only monitor the home for burglary activity; many also offer fire, flood, and carbon monoxide monitoring. However, like with most insurance purchases, you may be paying monthly for something that will never even come into play.
So are home security systems worth the heavy investment? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. But CreditDonkey can help you weigh the pros and cons and allow you to gain some insight into the effectiveness of home security systems and just want their impact may be.
DO HOME SECURITY SYSTEMS WORK?
If you're concerned about protecting your home against intruders or you want added protection against fire and flooding, a security system can help give you peace of mind. But, it doesn't come cheap, so you need to carefully weigh whether it's worth the investment of your time and money.
MEASURING THEIR EFFECTIVENESS
- Security systems may cause burglars to think twice
Installing a home alarm may be an effective deterrent against burglary. Researchers at UNC Charlotte surveyed a group of burglars and found that 60% of would-be thieves would choose another target if a security system was present.
Related: Why Burglars Single You Out
- They've been linked to lower overall crime rates
The positive impact of home security systems isn't limited to just one residence. In a Rutgers University study, burglary rates declined across specific neighborhoods as a whole when homeowners installed alarm systems.
Related: Burglary Statistics
- They can protect you against fire
In addition to monitoring your home for security threats, today's alarm systems are also equipped to detect smoke. When you consider that the death rate from fire in homes that don't have an alarm is twice as high compared to those that do, that's an excellent reason to keep getting a security system in mind.
- Or help you avoid water damage
While the prospect of a fire is certainly frightening, water can wreak just as much havoc on your home. Flooding caused more than $2.8 billion in property damage in 2014, but installing a security system that's equipped with water sensors can help to minimize your potential losses.
- They can make a difference in life and death situations
Nearly 140 million people go to the emergency room each year, many of them with life-threatening issues. Choosing a home security system that offers life monitoring helps ensure that responders are notified quickly if you're experiencing a medical problem emergency.
- They may help to deter repeat burglaries
If you've been the victim of a burglary in the past, you're statistically 5 1/2 times more likely to be targeted by burglars again. Equipping your home with security cameras or an alarm system can send the signal to criminals that you're on your guard.
Related: Best Home Security Systems
- But they're not 100% foolproof
Security systems are like anything else - they're prone to occasional hiccups. In fact, it's estimated that the false alert rate for home alarm systems may be as high as 95%.Tip: Some police departments may charge you a fee if you have too many false alarms. Here's how to prevent false alarms
- They may even be susceptible to hackers
The majority of home security systems on the market today run on wireless communications, which means you don't need a landline to make it work. While this is more convenient for you, there is a downside. A Hewlett Packard study found that 70% of monitoring systems have weak points in their security and software that could allow a hacker to gain access to your home.
SHOULD I GET A HOME SECURITY SYSTEM?
You can invest hundreds of dollars into a home security system and still get robbed. Some brave thieves can still break in and make away with valuables before enforcement shows up. And a cheap ski mask will defeat the purpose of those surveillance cameras. This fact can have potential buyers like yourself skeptical over whether such a system is worth the money.
You may find your risk is less once you install a system or you may save a lot of money with your insurance company by making the investment. Or maybe you just have more peace of mind and can sleep easier. The effectiveness of a home-security system - and whether it's worth it to you - depends on your priorities and what you hope to get out of it.
FINANCIAL PROS AND CONS
- Most systems require a sizable minimum investment
When you're getting a home security system, there are usually two primary costs you'll pay upfront: an installation fee and equipment fees. While you may be able to get the installation fee discounted or waived, the equipment can cost anywhere from $600 to $1,200.
Did you know: Protect America has no installation fees and no equipment fees? For homeowners not looking to spend a fortune, Protect America is a budget-friendly system worth considering.
- Monthly monitoring isn't free
Aside from the upfront cost of getting set up with a security system, you also have to pay a fee each month for the monitoring service. Prices range pretty widely from one company to the next; the typical fee is usually around $30.
- You could get stuck with a long-term contract
Security companies want to make sure you're going to keep paying the monitoring fee each month, and one of the ways they do that is by requiring you to lock in your service for a set period of time. Frontpoint, for example, requires a 3-year contract after the initial 30-day trial expires, and there's a hefty fee if you cancel your service early.
- Your credit may take a hit
Most home security systems require you to submit to a credit check when you're setting up a new account. Any time you apply for new credit, the inquiry could show up on your credit report and ding your score a little.
- A security system can minimize burglary's financial impact
While some burglars will press their luck and enter a home where a security system is present, it doesn't guarantee that they're going to make off with a big haul. According to a Temple University study, burglary losses were a lot less when an alarm was present ($3,266 versus $5,343) because it prevents the robbers from being able to leisurely pick through your stuff. An alarm makes it so that they only have a limited time before enforcement shows up.
- The same is true for fires
Having a home-security system can come in handy in more ways than one if you experience a fire. In 2013, fire damage to homes topped $11 billion, but having fire monitoring as part of your alarm package may shrink potential losses.
- Your insurance premiums may go down
Homeowner's insurance can be pricey, but installing a security system can save you a little money. According to the Insurance Information Institute, your insurance company may offer discounts ranging from 5% to 20% when you have a home alarm.
- And your home's value may go up
If you're planning to sell your home down the line or you're just looking to build up a little more equity, a home security system can do the trick. Taking extra precautions to make sure your home is secure is an easy way to boost the property's value.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Security system scams abound
While most home security systems are reputable, the Federal Trade Commission routinely warns consumers about scams. If someone shows up on your doorstep trying to push a pricey security system on you, that's a sign that they're out to drain your wallet without delivering the goods. Instead, do your own research and decide on which company best fits your needs.
- You may have to install it on your own
Some security systems require professional installation but others, such as SimpliSafe, are DIY. This eliminates the often costly installation fee, but that's something to keep in mind if you're not comfortable taking on the task yourself.
- You may not be able to take it with you if you move
Some security systems, including LifeShield and ADT, offer portable monitoring equipment, which is great if a move is in your future. If you go with a system that needs to be hard-wired, however, you'll have to leave it behind.
- Warranty coverage isn't guaranteed
When you're shelling out big bucks for security equipment, you don't want to have to worry about spending additional money to replace it if it gets damaged. Some companies like Protect America offer lifetime equipment warranties, while others like Frontpoint only cover you for the first three years.
- A security system can make automating your home easier
The latest generation of security systems feature something known as Z-Wave technology, which allows you to control your lights, door locks, electronics, and devices remotely. That's a plus for tech-savvy homeowners who like being able to set it and forget it.
Did you know some alarm systems like FrontPoint support geofencing? You can set up advanced rules so that if you (and your smartphone) goes 2 miles away from your home, a friendly reminder will be sent to your phone to arm your security system.
- Wireless reception may be an issue
Home-security system providers are increasingly moving towards wireless monitoring, which can be a problem if you live in an area with poor cellular reception. If that's the case, you'd have to go with a landline or broadband system instead.
- Don't overlook other security measures
If you're unsure about the time and money commitment of getting a security system, there are other ways to keep your home safe without spending a fortune. Simple tactics such as trimming back hedges and trees, installing motion sensor lights, or getting a dog (or even just pretending you have a dog) are all effective in helping reduce your odds of being burglarized.
WHY HOME SECURITY IS IMPORTANT
The security alarm business is a $22 billion industry, and a big chunk of that involves home security systems.
It is hard to assign numbers to the value of a home security system. Having one may deter burglars from trying to make an attempt on your home. And even if you are unlucky enough to be burglarized while having an alarm system, the statistics show that the loss of property value will be a lot less than if you don't have one. On the other hand, the initial set-up investment and monthly monitoring fees can add up to quite a lot over time.
Whether the potential returns you receive is worth it or not depends on how likely your home could be a target along with how much money you plan to invest over time in a security system. Some people consider peace of mind priceless, while others will feel robbed if they get stuck with a multiyear contract and mistakes happen with their system, like a false alarm that results in a costly visit by the police.
As the research shows, home security systems can be an effective tool for preventing property crime, but they're not a one-size-fits-all solution. Before you install an alarm system, be sure to run the numbers to determine how the cost fits into your budget and whether less expensive measures can protect your home just as effectively.
Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a home security comparison and financial education website. Write to Rebecca Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped consumers make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.