ST. LOUIS PARK, Minnesota — One day in January 2020, Tamara Nugteren was walking down her driveway when she spotted an owl in the window of her neighbor's home.
Nugteren said it's likely the owl got into the house through the chimney. She knew her neighbor was out of town and had been gone for some time.
"Because he didn't have anyone watching his house, nobody knew how to get a hold of him and it was a real effort to figure out how to get the owl back out," Nugteren.
Nugteren and her neighbors were able to reach the owner and eventually get the owl safely out of the home but it inspired Nugteren to start her own home watch business.
"If something like that happened when you weren't home, how long would it take for someone to notice it?" she asked.
Snowy Owl Home Watch launched in fall 2022 as a resource for anyone who knows they will be away from their property for an extended period of time.
There are approximately 44,000 snowbirds who leave Minnesota for part of the year.
"The home watch industry is actually really large, less so up here in the Twin Cities. But most of the businesses, by far, are in the areas where people tend to have second homes because there will be large communities of homes that are just empty. Whereas here, it's a house or two here or there," Nugteren said.
But Nugteren said she sees homes that are left unchecked or under-checked.
"Often times, they rely on a neighbor or another family member ... a son or daughter that lives in town. But it's just not really a good choice. If something were to go wrong, it's a huge burden," Nugteren said. "There are so many things that can go wrong when your home is unattended for long periods of time."
Snowy Owl is accredited by the National Home Watch Association.
Depending on the home, they have a long checklist of things they check both inside and outside. For example, checking for any water leaks or pests.
"Homeowners should turn off their water when they're not home so Snowy Owl will come back in and turn the water on, run all the sinks, flush all the toilets to make sure that the traps don't dry out," Nugteren said.
After a snowstorm, Nugteren will check the amount of roof on the snow and watch for things like ice dams.
"I made the motto of Snowy Owl Home Watch, 'Discreetly and respectfully watching your home when you can't' and the reason I did that is because that's what I would want for my home," Nugteren said. "I want it to be someone who I know is properly insured, who has been background checked, and really has my interests at heart."
Snowy Owl has some clients whose homes they check weekly, while others may be a couple times a month. Rates depend on how much time it takes to be in the home.
Snowy Owl serves most of the Twin Cities west metro, along with western parts of Minneapolis and south Minneapolis.
Know a local business we should feature for our Behind the Business segment? Email Heidi Wigdahl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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