Home Security: How Much Does it Cost & Is It Worth It? | SafeWise

Having a security system can protect your valuables from burglars. But are they worth the expense?

In 2013, the average cost for installing and setting up a new in-home security system ranged from $600 to $1200, with monthly monitoring plans averaging around $30. Some plans were cheaper, with the lowest rates hovering around $15 per month, and others were significantly more expensive, topping out around $100. [6]

The good news for homeowners is that home security providers have worked to help make home security more affordable.

Beyond this, research also shows compelling benefits to home security like risk mitigation and peace of mind, which can outweigh the costs for many people.

To help you decide if home security is right for you, we've performed a cost-benefit analysis to look at home security from all the angles.

Ways Companies Make Home Security More Affordable

There are two common ways that home security providers make home security more affordable. The first way is to reduce upfront costs for people who sign a contract for monthly monitoring service. This is a great option for people who want home security, but can't afford a hefty upfront cost. Upfront costs can refer to equipment costs, installation and activation costs. Depending on the provider, installation and/or activation costs may still be required to sign up.

The other way some companies help reduce costs is by offering DIY home alarm systems. DIY systems are ideal for people who prefer to pay more in upfront costs, which usually allows for a smaller monthly monitoring fee. Some companies also offer contract-free DIY security systems for consumers who purchase their equipment upfront.

Before you start writing any checks, ask yourself: Do I really need a home security system? Will the protection I get justify the costs of installation and monitoring? To answer those questions, you might start by taking a good look at your own risk of becoming a burglary victim.

How likely are you to become a victim?

According to the FBI, burglary rates have been on the decline in recent years. Still, the Bureau estimated that over two million burglaries occurred in 2012 alone. [1] That same year, there were about 121 million households in the United States, [2] which would mean that each of them had roughly a 1-in-36 chance of being burglarized.[3]

Of course, those statistics are for the country as a whole, and burglary rates vary widely from city to city. Looking at statistics for ten randomly-selected large cities from the FBI's 2012 Uniform Crime Report, we can see just how much your hometown can influence your odds of suffering a burglary:

  • New York City: 224.8 burglaries per 100,000 residents
  • Lincoln, NE: 611.7
  • Raleigh, NC: 721.8
  • Pittsburgh, PA: 812.0
  • Denver, CO: 816.0
  • New Orleans, LA: 943.3
  • Houston, TX: 1223.1
  • Minneapolis, MN: 1225.4
  • Oakland, CA: 1544.0
  • Cleveland, OH: 2473.5 [4]

Luckily, the FBI makes their crime data available online to anyone who wants to see it, so you should be able to find the burglary rate in your area with just a few minutes' worth of searching.

In 2011, the average value of items taken in burglary was about $600.

How much are you likely to lose in a burglary?

Anyone who has been burglarized knows that the trauma of the experience goes far beyond the monetary value of whatever was stolen. But if you're interested in doing a cost-benefit analysis of investing in a security system, you should first ask yourself how much you'd have to spend to replace any stolen items.

In 2011, the average value of items taken in a burglary was about $600. But in many of those incidents, nothing was taken at all. When we limit our calculations to burglaries in which more than one dollar's worth of property was lost, that average jumps to $2,120. [5]

Obviously, the value of the possessions in your home may be much higher than that. Take some time to inventory your valuable items, along with an estimated value for each. Burglars tend to prefer items that are easy to grab and carry off, like cash, televisions, jewelry, firearms, computers and antiques.

Of course, that doesn't account for the sentimental value of heirlooms, collectibles and other items that aren't easily replaceable--if you can replace them at all. The cash value of that antique necklace that's been in the family for generations is probably just a fraction of how much it's actually worth to you. No insurance check can replace the memories attached to a keepsake like that.

How much is your peace of mind worth?

It's important to remember that security systems provide more than just protection for your valuables and heirlooms. They can protect you and your family from intruders and home invaders just as easily as they can protect your laptop, jewelry and high-end audio system. How much you value that peace of mind is something only you can know, but in the end, you should do your best to factor this into your own personal cost-benefit analysis.

References
[1] http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/property-crime/burglary
[2] http://www.statista.com/statistics/183635/number-of-households-in-the-us/
[3] http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=4657
[4] 2012 data, FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics
[5] http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/hb9411pr.cfm
[6] http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2013/09/09/the-cost-of-keeping-your-home-safe

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