Vacant Home Squatters…In the Northern Neck?

Squatter Mug Shot

Squatter Mug Shot

Virginia Law Helps But....

Fortunately for us in Virginia, squatting and actually taking and claiming possession of a vacant home ("adverse possession") is somewhat more challenging than it may be in other states where just staying in the vacant home for a short period of time can allow someone to make a claim of possession. But it can be done in Virginia as this NOLO article describes and if the individual isn't interested in possession but just wants to stay in the vacant home until made to leave, the legal hoops aren't important.

However, that doesn't have anything to do with someone moving into your vacant home while you're away (particularly if you have no professional home watch service) and making themselves at home until they are forced to leave by law enforcement.

In the Northern Neck or Middle Peninsula?

Think it doesn't happen in the Northern Neck or Middle Peninsula of Virginia? Think again or just ask a local realtor or your Sheriff's Office. Realtors that have vacant listings in our area (including right here in Northumberland County) have stopped by to check on vacant homes that weren't as vacant as they were supposed to be. A call to the Sheriff will usually solve the problem but the question is, how much damage has been done during the unwanted guest's extended stay and some of their closest friends? (Note: see our blog on the costs and benefits of home watch services)  Although the image in this article is from Florida, there have been Virginia cases in the news as well.

How Our Home Watch Services Help

This is why our professional and accredited home watch services are valuable and necessary when your home is vacant. We regularly visit your second or vacation home but rarely if ever visit on the same day and time each week or visit. Using public safety knowledge and perspective and our experience in the home watch and real estate professions, we constantly scan for signs of attempted or actual unauthorized entry and use and know when to engage law enforcement - proactively and otherwise.

Is Your Vacant Home on the Market?

Realtors can offer or suggest our services to owners of a vacant home or engage us directly to assist them in protecting vacant vacation and weekend homes. Some of the best realtors in our area (call us for referrals if you need one!) have many homes for sale that are vacant or unoccupied by the owners. Going by and checking on the homes to minimize loss and damage may be expected by sellers. Plus, what realtor wants to walk into a home to show potential buyers only to find out the home is damaged or occupied when it shouldn't be? That for sale sign is important for sales purposes, but could be letting everyone know you've moved.

And last, this is just one more reason why property insurers often charge an additional premium to owners of second homes that remain unoccupied for extended periods of time.

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The Costs and Benefits of Home Watch

 

waterfront home

An Ounce of Prevention...

Many people ask professional home watch service providers about the cost of our home watch services. It’s understandable, particularly for those on a fixed income and for those who haven’t thought about what the relatively small monthly cost can and will save. Remember the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? In this blog article, we’ll help you consider the costs and the cost-benefit potential of the home watch services we provide.

Before we jump in however, we want to be clear that our home watch services are designed around three important things:

  • Peace of mind
  • Preventing major costs where and whenever possible
  • Leveraging savings

What is Home Watch?

According to the National Home Watch Association, a professional association of hundreds of home watch companies such as Point to Point throughout the U.S. and Canada:

“Home Watch is known by many names: house watch, house check, home concierge, caretaker, absentee home service, property watch, and so on. Regardless of the name, a Home Watch service performs scheduled inspections of “vacant” properties while the owner is away. The National Home Watch Association describes Home Watch as “a visual inspection of a home or property looking for obvious issues.”

These inspections include a basic check of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems, as well as the overall condition of the home and property. Home Watch inspectors look at the house or condominium with a trained eye, making sure that everything is satisfactory. They look for leaks, pests and mold, all of which can be present in homes left alone for even the shortest interval.

Should the inspector find an issue or potential problem, they will immediately notify the homeowner. From there, the issue can be resolved by either the Home Watch service itself, or the homeowner will instruct the Home Watch service on how they want to proceed. By removing junk mail and flyers and creating a presence in the home, Home Watch adds a level of security to the vacant home. Home Watch is the line of communication to the homeowner that provides peace of mind during their absence.”

About Your Good Neighbor

Although you could get peace of mind by having a trusted neighbor check on your property, you’re missing out on at least two critical things: expertise and insurance. We provide both in all that we do so that you don’t have to worry about your neighbor falling on your steps or missing something critical and obvious that could cost you thousands, much less asking too much of your neighbors.

Now let’s talk cost-benefit. We’ll share some data, some hypotheticals and some actual stories from some of our home watch customers. Their stories speak volumes about the value of the service.

The Costs

As of November 2018, our most comprehensive home watch plan with inspections conducted every single week of the month in each
month of the year is about $65 per inspection.
In case you’re wondering, a proper and comprehensive home watch visit takes approximately 45-60 minutes from start to finish, not including travel time to your home. These costs don’t reflect discounts available or any additional services that you might choose to add-on at any point.

The Benefits

Your Trip Costs

Let’s begin with the basics…. if you’re like we were when we owned a second home in the Northern Neck, we would routinely make trips to the house just to “check on it.” Each trip for us from Northern Virginia was about 2 hours and 30 minutes, one-way, or about 274 miles round trip. Using the IRS’ standard mileage rate for 2018, that comes to $149.33 in mileage costs alone for a single round trip. This, of course, doesn’t even take into consideration the cost of your time. By this measure alone, a single trip to check on your home might just cost you about what it would cost to have a professional conduct a comprehensive home watch visit of your property nearly every week.

Just imagine if you had to make multiple trips to check on your home or meet a service provider and wait for them to complete work while at your home over the year. Your costs add up and not to mention taking you away from something else you’d rather be doing with your time or need to be doing with your time than driving back and forth.

Leveraging Our Add-On Services

home cleaningNow let’s assume that you’re in need of a regular service on your home, such as house cleaning or maintenance of your landscaping. There are some outstanding local people who provide those services but included in their fees is the trip to your home as well as the time there conducting the service. By adding on services to your home watch subscription, you save the trip fee in most cases because we’re already at your home conducting a home watch visit. By saving the trip fees associated with another service business, we estimate that you could save anywhere from $20 to $75 per trip. Example A: Home watch customer has gutters that are clogged with debris. The local service provider is quoting 2-4 weeks wait time and a minimum of $200 to come out. We're able to provide the service for about $100 total while onsite for this customer, saving the homeowner a minimum of $100. Example B: Home watch customer with a 4-bedroom, 4 bath home would like to add house cleaning to the home watch visits. Local service providers would quote anywhere from $120 to $145 per cleaning. We are able to quote this service at under $100 per cleaning for this customer because we are already in the home performing the professional home watch service, saving this customer $30 to $55 every cleaning.

Weekdays vs Weekends

Getting away during the week to make the trip to the Northern Neck is hard for many. But, many local service providers don’t work on the weekends or are hard to schedule for that coveted time, including HVAC services, deliveries, other repair persons, etc. Your time away from work has an impact and that’s not how you want to spend your vacation time. We can save you additional time and costs by handling these visits for you and in some cases, we can schedule our home watch visits at the same time as other service provider appointments.

Bigger Savings Possible

Just imagine the costs involved with a leak that goes undetected for weeks at a time (trust us, we know) or possibly worse, allowing someone to take advantage of a vacant home. In 2017, seasonal homes were targeted in one area of our county for burglaries, to the point that the Sheriffs’ Office recommended that out of town owners come to check on their homes. One of the features of our home watch services involves randomly scheduled repeat visits to the home and other steps to make it more difficult to identify a home that has no visitors or occupants over a period of time. With the average value of property stolen during burglaries in Virginia in 2017 at $1859 per burglary, it’s worth the prevention effort. (Stat Source: Virginia State Police)

Worthy of Note

Finally, second home owners may notice that some insurance companies will charge a premium if a home is vacant for any significant period of time. If you fall into this category, it may be worth asking your insurance company for some relief if you’re using a home watch service with regular visits. Additionally, second home owners who own their homes as income-generating or investment properties may wish to consult a tax advisor about the deductibility of home watch services, including our vacation rental assistance add-on services.

How We Differ

We mentioned expertise and insurance earlier. We've been second home owners for more than a decade and bring the combined experience of the real estate, property management and security to everything we do. In addition to being a professional and accredited home watch services company with a large rolodex of trusted local partners who can get things done when needed. Every member of our team has an annual background check with results available to you, we wear body cams to record our visits and we're a fully insured and bonded company. We are the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula's only professional and accredited home watch services company.

Pairing Food Lion To Go and Point to Point’s Concierge Service – A Smart & Convenient Option

Food Lion To Go Banner

Customers in the Northern Neck have a new service available to them from Food Lion - its called Food Lion To Go and allows you to shop and pay online and then pickup your order curbside at the Food Lion. Although delivery is also available, you'd need to be home to receive the delivery. This new service can be a great time saver and no doubt is worth the convenience.

Point to Point home watch subscribers can combine Food Lion's service with our concierge services for even greater convenience. After coordinating availability with us, customers go online, order what they need, pay and let us know when it will be ready. We'll go by Food Lion and pick the order up, take it to your home and unpack it before you arrive. No more late night stops at the store when you just want to get to the Rivah. Just imagine arriving to your weekend home to find your favorite cold beverage in the fridge or on ice and your pantry ready for that late night snack.

Concierge services are fully customizable services that our home watch customers can take advantage of, but are not available without a home watch subscription. We should also note that not every Food Lion has the new service available, but we know that the Heathesville location does.

Remember too that there are many other concierge services available - want us to put your drink on ice or pick up a bushel of crabs too? We can do that! See a full and growing list of what we can and can't do and let us know if you need a customized solution. We're in the service business, so as long as its legal, we're all ears!

Check out all of Point to Point's Home Watch Services online at www.pointtopointhomeservices.com

 

Food Lion How It Works

Food Lion Food Photo

Should I….Hire a House Sitter?

house sitter

Should I....Hire a House Sitter?

First, we’ll admit without hesitation that we’ve hired house sitters in the past and they’ve mostly worked out. There was that time when the house sitter was away from our home more than there and another time when our dogs apparently weren’t let outside more than 1 or 2 times during the week, but it was pretty nice not having to worry about our home or our dogs while we were on vacation. Oh, and we saved on the kennel costs for sure! But, there are some things you need to know before you decide if a house sitter is right for you.

About House Sitting

In most cases, a house sitter is someone without any specific training who is willing to live in your home for as long as you need them to. They make themselves at home while you’re away and make use of all of your belongings and utilities while you’re not there (did we emphasize “all” enough?). Most often, house sitters are someone you know and that means that they often aren’t insured, bonded, or accredited, but hopefully someone you trust. If they’re not someone you trust, you’ll want to check them out as best you can and we definitely recommend checking references and online resources, including sites that will help you avoid bringing someone into your home with a questionable past or someone that may put you, your home, and your neighborhood reputation at risk. Be sure you’ve accepted the realities that the house sitter will most likely not be insured (meaning your insurance covers that “oops”), that they could make a costly mistake, or that they could have some friends join them while there staying in your home (hey, “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!”). After all, they have been given permission to “live” in your home while you’re not there.

About the Home Watch Alternative

Home Watch EquipmentA home watch professional, on the other hand, is often a better choice if you don’t have pets that need daily care or don't need someone physically living in your home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Home watch professionals are often trained and prepared to look for and deal with the most common issues that arise while you’re not there, including plumbing and electrical issues, safety and security concerns, rodent, water, or storm damage and other problems. The equipment list included in this article gives you an idea of what we're prepared to handle. This is different from a house sitter that may call you or try to solve a problem as best they know how when or after the problem arises. Home watch professionals visit dozens of homes each week – they’ve seen it before and pride themselves on preventing a problem before it occurs as well as responding effectively if something does happen.

Another key difference is price vs service value. One fairly prominent house sitter website and blog recently answered the question “how much should I pay my house sitter?” According to the site, prices vary by region but range between $34 and $66 per day and overnight house sitting and any additional services can be more. This adds up quickly, with weekly base costs ranging from $238 to as much as $462 a week, compared to under $100 for a weekly, thorough professional home watch visit, which far exceeds what a house sitter will provide and does so with experience, professionalism, accountability. With our home watch services and pricing, even adding in the cost of our professional house cleaning would cost less than house sitting and we’re not using your stuff! Think about the value you're getting with home watch vs house sitting and think about what you really need.

The last point to be made in answering this question is about “who” is in your home.

With home watch services from Point to Point Home Services, you’ll have an experienced, bonded and insured home watch professional who has passed a national background check, provides you with a full report after each visit, and wears a body camera at all times while in your home. We’ll even leave our shoes at the door to keep your home clean and we’ll bring in your mail and water your house plants for free!

The Bottom Line...

In closing, there are times when a house sitter IS what you need, especially when you have pets that need daily care or when you absolutely must have someone in your home at all times of the day and night. But if that doesn’t describe your needs, you're likely much better off selecting an accredited professional home watch services company and you’ll likely save a lot of money at the same time.

About Us

Point to Point Home Services, LLC is an accredited, bonded and insured professional home watch services company serving Virginia’s Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula region.

We are accredited by the National Home Watch Association and the Better Business Bureau. We are a local and family-owned and operated business.

Email us at info@pointtopointhomeservices.com for a no-cost estimate to provide you with trusted and reliable peace of mind.

Virginia Association of Realtors Publishes 2017 Home Sales Results

Home for Sale

Virginia Housing Market Sees Continued Growth in 2017, including the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula

The Virginia Association of Realtors (VAR) recently released their 2017 Year-End Home Sales Report, providing good insights into the real estate market throughout the Commonwealth, including the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula regions. The report provides data showing consistent growth and strengthening in the market, particularly in more densely populated areas such as Central and Northern Virginia.

Regional Breakdown

The regional breakdown of home sales volume provides a good visual of where the sales activity has picked up.

The Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula fall within different VAR regions, however both regions saw relatively modest growth in 2017, with 1.2% increase in 2017 sales volume over 2016 figures for the Northern Neck region and 5.2% increase in 2017 sales volume for the Middle Peninsula region, which includes the Tidewater area.

Virginia Map Showing Regional Breakdown of Home Sale Volume in 2017

Full Report Available

The full report, Virginia Home Sales, Fourth Quarter and Year-End 2017, is available to the public from the Virginia Association of Realtors website. The report provides excellent detail regarding statewide trends that impact the real estate market, although more regional or even county-by-county breakdowns would make the report more useful to those of us interested in specific regions, such as the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. 

We plan to dive into this report in more detail in the coming weeks and to add in some additional perspective from some of our most knowledgeable real estate and mortgage banker partners. Stay tuned!