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Before You Buy a Home Security System

With the high crime rate, more and more homeowners are seeking a refuge in their homes and arming themselves with home security systems. While no home security system is 100% burglarproof, they can give reduce your chances of being burglarized and give you some peace of mind.

But not all systems are alike, and not all will protect you the same way. Here are some tips for maximizing your home's security:

First: Look for security systems that include perimeter sensors on outside doors and windows, motion detectors in key inside areas (unless you have animals), and a control unit that will interpret and respond to signals from the sensors. The system should also include an alarm, siren or other alert mechanism and a connection to a central monitoring center. These are basic options.

Some systems have luxury features that include fire and medical alerts. You can even find some that will alert you to moisture/leaks or other household system failures, such as climate control. Investigate your options carefully before you buy. The more features, the higher the price.

Security systems can be both wired and wireless.

Wireless systems use battery powered radio transmitters to connect the various components. These types of systems can be purchased at your local hardware store and installed by you. They are low-cost, simple to operate and able to move from home to home-a great advantage if you move a lot. However, they also have limited capability and are not connected to the police or any monitoring center. This lowers the security actually offered by these systems.

Wired systems, on the other hand, do have a monitoring function. They offer a variety of features. And, of course, are more expensive, more difficult to install (requiring professional installation in most cases) and not portable from home to home.

The best choice is the one that matches your home, lifestyle and neighborhood. Look at your personal budget. Call your local police department or look up your community's crime rate on this web site. You may be in low-crime area that doesn't need as much security protection. Many police departments have a community affairs division that will offer advice for lowering your crime risk.

Buying Hints:

1. Talk to at least three companies before buying.

2. Always investigate the purchase of a home security system the same as you would any major purchase. Since this purchase involves the safety and security of your family and home, take extra care.

3. Make sure the company is licensed and that they screen employees before hiring.

4. Ask for references and check them out carefully.

5. Check the company's record with the Better Business Bureau and professional agency such as the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.

6. Talk to your insurance agency-you may be eligible for a discount of up to 30% on your homeowner's premium with installation of a home system. Find out the rules regarding the discount. It may affect your choice.

7. Always ask for an inspection, demonstration and itemized written estimate.

8. Read contracts and sales agreements closely before signing. Be sure you understand the entire contract.

9. Factor in all costs associated with the various systems. This means the monthly monitoring and maintenance fees, as well as the equipment and installation fees.

10. Consider leasing the security equipment if you are planning on moving in the next few years. It could save you money.

Source: Written from information from the Better Business Bureau.

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