On a recent business trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee I saw a news story featuring a trend I wasn’t familiar with - theft occurring during an open house. Homeowners should be able to trust that the herds of strangers walking unattended throughout their home will not leave them a victim of robbery, right? Wrong. Sorry folks, apparently this is actually a thing. And if they don’t rob you at your open house, they may be casing your home for burglary at a later date.
I reached out to a couple of real estate friends in Nashville to verify that what I heard was true. They sadly confirmed the issue exists, and gave me some good advice for how to protect your home when preparing to host an open house.
1. Move those valuables out of that drawer. Let’s just go ahead and state the obvious: Hiding your valuables in a bedside drawer or dresser is not going to be enough to keep them safe. “We live in a world where we need to have more caution,” said Nashville realtor, Blake Samples. “When I am holding an open house in an occupied property I give my sellers instructions to put away valuable items like jewelry and electronics in places other than a drawer. Pick somewhere less obvious. Better yet, remove them from the home.” And don’t forget about those important documents scattered around your home. Personal information is a hot commodity when it comes to identity theft.
2. Invite your neighbors. Neighbors are typically curious about an open house and will often stop by. Let them know that you are concerned about theft and ask them to let you or the agent know if they witness any suspicious behavior while touring the home.
3. Capture “before” images. Once your home is staged and ready to play host to a slew of strangers, make sure to take a few minutes and snap a photo of each room. If you notice anything missing afterwards, you can use these photos when you contact the police.
4. Remove beloved family photos. This tip goes beyond theft and addresses basic safety issues. Here’s where it also gets pretty creepy. Your home may be decorated with photos of kids, a husband or wife, or maybe just your loyal pooch. These beloved images become safety issues when strangers are involved because they reveal who lives – or more importantly does not live - in the house. “I don't want anybody viewing the house to know that my clients have children or that the homeowner is a single female and that she lives alone,” said Samples. As both a woman and a mother to a child, duly noted.
5. Require visitors to sign-in. You have every right to ask your agent to have visitors sign-in upon arrival. Yes, it’s possible that they could leave fake contact information. But what I like about this tactic is that it lets visitors know that you’re paying attention to who is accessing the home. This simple ask for personal information just might be enough to deter someone who has ill intentions.
6. Check all locks at day’s end. Before closing up the house for the day, check the locks on all windows and doors. Someone casing the home for burglary may have left a point of entry for themselves while touring the home.
7. Got security cameras? Use them. Last, but certainly not least, if your home has a video surveillance system, there is no better time to put it to use. It’s your home and you have every right to record activity happening while you are away. Propping a few dummy cameras in rooms throughout the home is not a bad idea either.
Bottom line, you just never know what people’s intentions may be and it’s better to protect your home in the best way possible. Work closely with your real estate agent to make sure you are comfortable with the level of security provided at your open house and best of luck with selling!