The Top 3 Home Security Companies in Seattle, WA
Welcome to Seattle Home Security Judge! We’ve spent countless hours researching over 100 home security companies, and below you will find our top 3 home security company picks in Seattle, WA.
If you’ve decided to purchase a home security system, your next step is to pick a home security company.
Who is as important as what.
Who you buy your home security system from is just as important as what you buy.
- You and your home security company will have a long term relationship. Picking the right one will make it easy when equipment warranty questions arise or you need to change your alarm monitoring contract.
- All home security companies are not alike. Some do business directly with homeowners, others work through dealers. Many own their own alarm monitoring centers, while some use third parties. The fine print on alarm monitoring contracts can be as full of traps as a cellular service deal. And yes, some companies have good reputations, and others don’t.
The good news? There are excellent home security companies waiting to do business with you. You’ll need to do some homework to find them and that’s the purpose of this Guide – to give you the knowledge and tools to make smart choices for your home and budget.
Make a “What Do I Really Need” checklist.
Before talking to any companies, do some research on the internet about home security equipment and think about the kind of system that you need.
- Do I need a “monitored” or “unmonitored” system? If you’re away from home during the day or for extended periods, experts generally recommend a monitored system that notifies a monitoring center when an alarm’s triggered. Otherwise, if your home is always occupied and neighbors are close-by, a system that triggers a loud alarm may be satisfactory.
- How should my monitored system be connected to the monitoring center? In instances where an intruder could cut your landline or internet connection – and your local cell service is good – you’ll probably want a cellular connection. However, some companies charge more for both cellular installation and monitoring.
- Do I need video cameras? The best reason for getting an outside video camera is to see who’s at your door. If this important, get a basic system.
Some experts recommend multiple outdoor video cameras as a way to deter intruders and burglars. There are neighborhoods and situations where this makes sense, but your installation, equipment and monitoring costs will be higher. And remember, even so-called “wireless” video cameras need dedicated power cables.
- Do I need additional features like remote control of security, temperature, fire and flood detection, medical alerts, locks, lights and in-home video? Investigate your options and pick the products that you’d like to know more about.
- Do I want to own the alarm system, or let the security company own and maintain it? If you plan to move in the near future, owning equipment that you can take with you may have value.
- Do I want to install the security equipment? Many companies offer systems that can be installed by the homeowner. These D-I-Y options avoid installation costs, but you’ll need some technical savvy in order to install the system and connect it to the monitoring service. While installation costs more, a qualified installer handles everything and will train you on use of the system.
- Do I want a home security survey? Many companies do a home security survey before giving you a quotation. These surveys can point out hidden vulnerabilities and help you make an informed decision. The downside? You may have to sit through a sales pitch.
- Do I need an alarm permit? Many cities and states require homeowners to get a permit for a monitored alarm. Check with your city or township.
You’ll use this “What Do I Really Need” Checklist during your search for the right company. Write it down and keep it handy.
Who am I doing business with?
Most national home security companies distribute their products through local dealers. This means that when you call a national company’s 800 number and ask for a quote, you may be contacted by your local dealer. In these instances, you may pay that local dealer for equipment and installation, and get billed separately by the national company for monitoring service.
There’s another group of home security firms you should consider contacting – local alarm system companies. They may not have fancy web sites, but many are good businesses with thousands of local customers and significant knowledge about your area.
How do I find companies?
Start with your friends and neighbors. Ask them who monitors their system, who installed it, how the equipment has worked and their overall satisfaction. You may want to steer clear of any company with whom they’ve had a bad experience.
The Google search terms “home security systems” and “home security systems” followed by your hometown and state, will return a long list of national and local companies. The hometown search will also return a map with locations.
A source for local alarm companies is www.alarm.org, the website of the Electronic Security Association.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) web site (www.bbc.org) allows you to search for local and national home security companies in your area. Use the “category” search and enter “Burglar Alarm Systems”.
Angie’s List members (www.angieslist.com) can enter the search term “Alarms” and will get back a list of local and national companies serving your area.
Wow, how do I cut it down this long list?
Get out your “What Do I Really Need” checklist and use it to narrow your search. For example, if you’ll do the installation, cut your list down to those that offer D-I-Y installation. Do this with the rest of the items on your checklist and you’ll soon have a “short list” of six to eight companies.
Make Your Final List
Now it’s time to make a final list of companies that you’ll call and ask for a quotation.
Don’t make the mistake of signing up with a home security company before you research the company’s reputation by reading reviews from real customers. Yelp and similar websites can be useful for this, but always be wary of fake reviews.
The Better Business Bureau is another source, but it should be used with care. A BBB business with an “A” grade is a member of BBB, receives a volume of complaints consistent with its size, and follows BBB guidelines for disclosure and the handling of customer complaints. It doesn’t mean the company’s satisfying its customers. A company with an “F” grade may not be a BBB member and/or be rated on little or no information. When using the BBB web site, focus on complaint volume and customer reviews as opposed to letter grades.
Here how to cut through the fog of rankings, ratings and reviews:
- Pay attention to recent customer reviews with useful details about the company’s response to specific problems. Broad statements like “this equipment is junk” or “their customer service is awesome” are meaningless and may even indicate a solicited or planted review. Some sites also publish company responses.
- Check how long the company has been in business – the longer the better.
- Research the companies’ monitoring centers. The gold standard is one or more 5 Diamond-rated monitoring centers that are owned by the home security company. (The 5 Diamond rating is certified by the Central Station Alarm Association.)
Some companies use third party monitoring centers – don’t discount these, but find out more details. They have to be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If the company’s web site doesn’t give details, call their 800 number and ask for more information.
What’s also important is alarm monitoring performance. Look over the reviews on the web sites you visit and see if there’s credible information about their monitoring system response.
When you’re done with this research, you should have a list of four or five companies.
Scheduling the Home Visit
If you want a home survey, contact the companies on your Final List and ask them to send a representative to visit and prepare a quotation. Calling the company (as opposed to going on-line), lets you assess the company. Is the person handling your call courteous and professional? They may ask about your specific interests, so be ready to give a quick summary of your “What Do I Really Need” checklist. Do you have unanswered questions about the company, for example, what kind of monitoring center they use? Now is a good time to ask.
When you’re called to set up the appointment, get the name, address and phone number of the dealer that’s going to visit. Explain that you’re a serious buyer, are talking to several companies, and would like a security survey and a quotation for an alarm system. Ask them to give you the name of the person who will be visiting, and verify that they’re a full-time employee of the home security company or dealer.
If at any time during these calls you feel you’re being pressured (“You’ll have to sign-up this week to get free installation.”), or asked for credit card information to pay a “refundable” service charge, hang-up the phone. You don’t want to do business with them.
The Home Visit
When the representative arrives, give them your “What Do I Really Need” checklist. Make clear that you’re talking to several companies (you don’t have to tell them who), you want a formal written quote for all equipment, installation, activation and monitoring services, and that you won’t be making a decision until you review all the quotes.
Give the representative a tour of your entire house – inside and out. Don’t share information about the kinds of valuables you want to protect, simply point out areas of concern. For example, to give added protection for a safe in your basement, say “I’d like the alarm system to cover the basement.”
Use this tour to educate yourself. A good representative will point out vulnerabilities you’d never considered, such as access to upper level windows. He or she should also talk about the pros and cons of cost-savings alternatives, for example, using a motion sensor to monitor a room with many windows as opposed to sensors on each window. They may suggest other equipment or services that you’re unsure about. Ask them to list them on the quote as options. You can decide about them later.
Be ready with your questions. When dealing with a local company, find out as much as you can about them: How long have they been in business? Are they licensed? Are they insured? What kind of background checks do they do on employees? Are their installations done by full-time company employees or contractors?
Also ask these questions about the alarm system and local emergency response:
1. What exactly happens when the alarm is triggered?
2. What monitoring service is notified?
3. Is the monitoring service manned 24 hours a day? Does it have a back-up location?
4. How does the monitoring service contact me to check for a false alarm?
5. How does the monitoring service contact local police if they can’t reach me?
6. What’s the typical police and fire response in my community?
7. When the power fails, will the system operate and for how long?
When your tour’s over, the representative may prepare a written quotation on the spot, or they may want to send it later. Don’t sign anything and don’t give out any critical personal information like your birthday, social security number or credit card number – none of this is needed to prepare a quote.
If at any point the representative starts applying high pressure sales tactics, ask them to leave. Statements such as “This discount is for today only – you must sign now.”, “No one in this industry gives written quotes.”, or “You need to act now – there’ve been home invasions on the next street.” are designed to get you to sign without looking at all your options. After they leave, cross their company off your list.
Evaluating the Quotations
Now it’s time to look over your quotations.
- Does the proposal meet all the items on your “What Do I Really Need” Checklist?
- Are all the costs for equipment, installation, activation and monthly monitoring clearly broken out? Are options shown separately? Is the equipment itemized in detail? Are all contract terms and conditions included in the quote?
- If purchasing equipment, what’s the warranty? (Look for a one year minimum.) How can defective equipment be returned? When and how can you switch to another monitoring service?
- If the home security company owns the equipment, who comes out to repair it? Is the equipment guaranteed all-new or can used equipment be installed?
- What are the terms of the monitoring contract? How many years? Are there charges for cancellation? Are the rates fixed or can the company change them without notice? Can you switch to another service at the end of the contract? Can you transfer the contract to another location when you move?
- Is the monitoring service contract direct with a national security company, or with the dealer? In cases where the contract’s with the dealer, what warranties do they offer that the monitoring center will deliver high quality response to alarms?
- Who installs the system, and will the installer handle the activation and training?
- Has the company provided the names and phone numbers of local homeowners who can act as references?
- It needed, will the company provide the necessary paperwork to get an alarm permit? If a permit fee is needed, can that be added to the bill? Will the company provide a certificate that can be given to my insurance company in order to secure a lower rate?
- What signs and decals will the company provide? (Studies show burglars are deterred by the presence of an alarm system. You will definitely want to post signs and decals.)
Making the Decision
As you review the quotations, keep these points in mind:
- Many companies offer a package of basic “free” equipment, but you’ll generally pay for that in the form of mandatory, multi-year monitoring service contracts, installation charges and activation fees. You’ll also pay for additional equipment outside of their basic package.
- Decide the importance of flexibility. Short term monitoring contracts may cost more per month, but may be more consistent with your plans. Look at the fine print for cancellation charges.
- To make a cost comparison, look at the total cost of the proposals over a two or three year period.
- Not all companies can provide references, particularly those that sell equipment for D-I-Y installation. However, when a local dealer or company won’t give you references, it’s a bad sign.
- Don’t necessarily pick the lowest price – pick the company that offers the best balance between the quality of the equipment and monitoring service, price, and your comfort level with them.
If you have questions about the contracts and the terms, call the representative and go through the details, or ask them to stop in and see you. Remind them that you aren’t making any decisions until all your questions are answered.
Signing the Contract
You’ve done your homework, thoroughly checked your companies and their references, and have made your final decision. Some last recommendations:
- When paying for any part of the alarm system or monthly monitoring services, don’t sign up for automatic deductions from your bank account or credit card. Even if you’re offered a discount, it’s far more important that you keep control of your finances.
- If you’re paying for equipment and installation, don’t pay the entire amount up-front. Insist on holding 40% or 50% back until the installation is complete, your alarm’s activated and you’re trained on the system.
It’s taken some time, but your efforts to explore all the options have helped assure that you’ve picked the right home security company to protect your home and family.