Seacoast Home Watch offers extra peace of mind

Business makes sure all is well when you're away

By Tom Cocchiaro

Hampton Union, October 4, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON — So, you're going on a two-week vacation and you need someone to water the plants, muck out the horse stalls and keep an eye on your property. Who you gonna call?

A fledgling local business is offering a service that might be for you. Established in April, Seacoast Home Watch offers custom services 24/7, 365 days a year to residents in 20 Seacoast communities, according to owner Jim Zavez.

"I do both indoor and outdoor inspections," he said. "Things like going into peoples' basements and making sure their water heaters aren't leaking, that their heaters stay on during the winter and that their property is secure and undamaged while they're away."

Zavez got the idea for the home watch business from friends and family who occasionally asked him to "drive by and keep an eye on the house while we're away.

"It wasn't long before I realized that there's really a real need for it," he said.

Before he started the business, Zaves did a Google search on home watch services and discovered that while similar businesses exist across the country, they were few and far between.

Zavez said the most interesting thing he has discovered since starting the company is that most people who want his services have alarm systems in their homes — some highly sophisticated. "I met with a gentleman several weeks ago who basically told me over the phone that he has a "mission impossible" security system but he still wants a physical person to walk the property inside and out," he said.

Zavez is licensed by the state of New Hampshire, a process that involves a criminal background check. "So when I go to a customer or potential client I let them know I'm licensed and I give them my license number so they can go online and verify my credentials," he said.

Zavez said he obtained a $50,000 surety bond before going through the licensing process and is fully insured.

Zavez said his primary target is the large "snowbird" population that heads south during the winter. He said they generally leave in three waves — after Labor Day, Columbus Day and the holidays. Zavez recently met with one prospective snowbird client.

"Like most snowbirds," he said, "he wanted to leave his heat on through the winter. He said, 'Don't be too concerned about the outside, don't worry too much about the inside — just make sure my heat's on all the time.'"

Zavez said he offers his services to banks and real estate companies managing vacant homes. "Most people are aware that vacant homes are primary targets for thieves who live on stealing copper wire and plumbing from homes that people have walked away from, or are forced to leave," he said.

Zavez said he also serves clients who contract for just a few days to several weeks such as frequent business travelers.

His services range from picking up mail and newspapers, making sure outside furniture is secure before a storm, checking for damage and managing contractors for any necessary services including yard work, repairs, fuel deliveries, snow plowing and snow removal from roofs.

"In most cases, I'm in the client's location once a week, but it could be twice a month," he said. "The frequency is really based on the customer's desires or wants."

Zavez documents each visit and sends a comprehensive report to customers via e-mail.

One fact Zavez said he discovered surprised him. He said most insurance policies have a clause that essentially absolves the insurance company of liability if a person is away from their home for more than 30 days.

"If something happens on day 32 where your house burns to the ground, they have the right to refuse to pay damages," Zavez said. "Sometimes all it takes to avoid that potential catastrophe is calling the insurance agent to have them effect a rider that covers you beyond 30 days. And it certainly doesn't hurt to tell them you've hired a home watch person to keep tabs on the property while you're away.

Zavez is a member of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce and affiliate member of the Seacoast Board of Realtors.