As real estate agents we take special precaution to make sure that while showing a home we are looking out for both the interests of the person looking, as well as the homeowner and their valuables. However, we are only human and professional criminals have devised tricks that even the most experienced agents may not realize are putting the home in jeopardy. For Sale by Owners are especially vulnerable as they are left with the responsibility of showing their own home without turning off the potential buyer by smothering them with attention. If you are a For Sale by Owner, here are some tips to make sure that you and your home are safe when opening your home to strangers.
1. It goes without saying, lock up all of your valuables in a safe or a cabinet. Keep expensive jewelry, money, or keepsakes out of view and while showing the home try to avoid wearing flashy jewelry. Never tell anyone that you have recently had surgery or anything that would indicate you have medication in the house. Criminals will ask to use your restroom and then steal them from your medicine cabinet.
2. Have an “escape” route from your home. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster exit.
3. When prospects begin to arrive, jot down their car description, license number and physical description.
4. DO NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, allow a stranger to tour your open house BY THEMSELVES! Stay alongside them at all times. Direct them, by gesturing for them to lead and saying things like, “the kitchen is on your left.” Keep a watchful eye on how they act and what they touch. Especially note anyone who opens and closes cabinets. This could indicate they are looking for things that may be hidden such as medications or jewelry. You don’t want any of your possessions walking out the door.
5. Never show people through your open house on your own. However, if that is unavoidable then consider these options:
– Make appointments and open your house by appointment only.
– Let your spouse, friend or neighbor know when you have open house appointments.
– Arrange to ring your spouse, friend or neighbor as soon as the open house appointment is finished.
– Have a prearranged time for your spouse, friend or neighbor to phone you
if you haven’t already phoned them back.
– Have a prearranged PASSWORD you can use on the phone if you are in any way uncomfortable with the situation. The password code might be something as simple as “don’t forget the birthday cake.”
6. Never tell a stranger that you can’t show them the house because you won’t be home. That is an open invitation to any criminal. Simply say something like “I’ll be busy then… how about 10:30 instead?”
7. While showing the home, try to avoid answering distractions like children or phones. These provide great opportunities for criminals to steal things while you aren’t paying attention.
8. After showing the home, check every window and door to make sure they are locked. Sometimes criminals will unlock windows and break back into the house later.
Go with your gut instinct. If you feel anything is suspicious try to coax them out as calmly as possible or call the police. Remember, your life is more valuable than your belongings so if something does go wrong, get out immediately!