The idea of contracts doesn't sound like the source of stability it used to be, especially when today's consumers value having a multitude of options and the freedom to choose.
We feel like we're tied down by 3-year contracts, and when we take a hard look at the security industry, it's not hard to see why. Many of our competitors abuse this business model to do things like abruptly raise rates on their customers or provide sub-par service.
So why do security companies use contracts at all?
It helps keep our insurance costs down and we pass those cost savings along to you.
By knocking off a few hundred dollars off the total cost of a system, we can protect the lives of more people and directly improve their quality of life, while also saving them money in the long run. Without contracts, the vast majority of people wouldn't be able to afford professional-grade security systems.
Are "free" alarm systems really free?
A free alarm system is free in the same way a new phone from Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile is “$0”. Anytime someone says they're giving you thousands of dollars of equipment for free, it means they just crank up your monthly cost to $60 or $70 a month instead and slap on additional fees elsewhere.
We need to pay our employees, purchase alarm equipment, and cover the cost of installation and monitoring.
Our customers have their own needs as well; many prefer to pay for large purchases over smaller monthly payments rather than all at once.
That’s why an agreement is designed to ensure that both parties do their part to help each other. Agreements with clearly-stated terms encourage long-term, mutually beneficial relationships between customer and business.
Trust is critical in this industry, so we aim to be transparent about the way we operate and help our customers make informed choices.
Read your home security contracts carefully
Some companies make contracts frustrating for their customers by not fully explaining the contents of the document. Their priority is moving the maximum number of products out the door in the shortest amount of time.
To further complicate matters, customers don’t always read these contracts as closely as they should.
We know, contracts are boring and tedious to get through.
But a couple pages of legal-ese still better than getting hit with unpleasant surprises in the future.
Some people sign the contract not knowing that cost of their system will be split over the course of three years, which means that if they want to cancel early, they’ve got to pay off the remaining balance.
Huge misunderstandings and headaches down the line for everyone.
That’s why we strongly encourage you to read your contracts to make sure you know what to expect.
Especially the fine print.
We go into each contract in good faith, and we expect our customers to uphold their end of the deal. Every contract is slightly different, however; whenever you sign with an alarm company, take note of their specific requirements before you pull out your pen.
3-Year Contract Vs. Month-to-Month
While the contract is an industry standard, some alarm companies also provide the option to pay for your equipment upfront and not be “locked in” to a binding agreement.
These month-to-month plans benefit those who might be moving around more frequently and like having the added flexibility of being able to cancel or restart their monitoring at will.
The customer pays for the equipment and installation upfront, and then they only pay the cost of monitoring every month.
Be careful when searching for month-to-month options, however, as the quality of equipment and monitoring can vary widely across the industry.
Research the company carefully, read the reviews, and don’t jump into a purchase unless you’re completely confident in what they aim to sell.
Once again, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of going through your security contract with a fine-tooth comb and not skimming over the fine print.
What should I look for in the fine print?
One thing you really want to check:
Be sure that if you were to relocate, you will be able to transfer your alarm system to your new home without having to renew your contract or pay moving fees.
Moving to a new home is expensive and stressful enough as it is without an alarm company slapping an extra bill on top of everything.
Ask your salesperson or security consultant about this and be on the lookout for the relevant clause in the contract.
Note: if you’ve got a hard-wired system, there will absolutely be an expense involved with moving that system to a new property.
To avoid this, consider a self-install wireless system. These typically don’t come with moving fees, but confirm this with your alarm company to be on the safe side.
What happens when I move my system to a new home?
If you do foresee yourself moving to a new house or apartment in the coming years, a DIY wireless security system will make your life way easier down the line.
All you have to do is take your alarm system off the wall and ceiling, wrap everything in bubble wrap, pack 'em in a box, and bring those to your new home.
No added bills, a LOT less wasted time.
Compare that to a hardwired system where some guy has got to come in with a drill to rip out all those wires, then you’ve got to pay to fix all the mess created by the drilling, and then you’ve got to pay for installation in your new place.
All those hours of technicians working in your home will rack up a huge bill.
As a result of the significant expenses involved, alarm companies that do professional installations of such systems will likely bill you the cost of a new system or get you to sign a contract when you move.
Regardless of what kind of system you ultimately go with, we hope that you do careful research on every alarm company and their contracts to make sure you’re getting what’s written on the tin.
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Download the Ultimate Guide to Home Security and learn:
Top 5 misconceptions about home security
How to assess vulnerabilities in your home
Why home security is about more than preventing burglaries
Cutting-edge security equipment: how home security has changed