There’s been a lot of advice lately about real estate agent safety, but what about home seller safety?
This area seems a bit poor in advice, as a profession we probably owe more consideration to the vendors who pay for the food on our table. The appropriate time to discuss security with your new client is probably right after signing up.
There are the points you should cover with your salesperson:
Explain that you cannot protect valuables
If you’re planning on hosting an open house, remind them that you probably won’t be following every potential buyer around the house. Unless you insist that visitors log in or check their IDs, you also won’t know exactly who is walking around the house.
Unless you, as the agent, plan to be present at every visit, you will need to explain that you cannot protect their valuables.
Delete pharmaceutical products for each round
Jewelry, laptops, iPads, personal mail, and especially pharmaceuticals are prime targets for thieves if not stored properly. Encourage your salesperson to remove prescription drugs from the house before each visit or to properly dispose of expired prescription drugs.
The mail may contain personal information and bank statements and poses a risk of identity theft. Explain that officers do not want to be confronted with someone taking these types of items from a home.
Store knife blocks
Ask the seller to put away all the knife blocks before showing. These can be a security concern for any officer showing up at home.
With all those high definition images of the inside of the house on every listing site, it’s like a takeout menu for a thief. Suggest that your seller consider stocking high-end stereos, flat screen TVs, etc., until they are sold.
Surprising Tip: Delete Photos of Children
If your client has pictures of his wife, teenage daughter, or children, tactfully suggest that it might not be appropriate, if for example a pedophile or stalker has walked through his house.
Tell sellers not to offer tours on their own
Even without a sign outside a property, the fact that the address is on every city website is an open invitation (or excuse) for someone to knock on the door and ask sellers to “peek” inside. Explain to them that it’s not a good idea to let them in and that they should just say, “Please call my agent with any questions or to book an appointment.”
Explaining Craigslist Scams
With the growing rental fraud scams (ads being taken down by scammers who post fake rental ads on Craigslist and other sites), potential tenants might also be showing up at their doorstep ready to move in.
Check locks after tours
Discuss with them how to make their home burglar-proof when it’s on the market and the need to check that a prospect hasn’t deliberately left a door or window unlocked, so they can gain access easily later.
If they don’t plan to go straight home after a visit, recommend that they ask a trusted neighbor to drop by to make sure your doors are locked and the windows are secure.
Consider that there would actually be a lot less to worry about if we knew exactly who is looking at a house.
How do we protect sellers?
So why do we let any old Tom, Dick or Harry look at houses in the first place? Why do we allow unverified buyers into our sellers’ homes?
Agents should consider advising the seller to only allow verified leads into their home.
The Des Moines Area Association of Realtors has already come up with an innovative Seller’s Agreement, which states that no real estate agent is allowed to show the home to anyone the agent has not met and identified before.
As a positive side effect, with this contract in place, it allows agents to tell potential buyers that they have no choice but to meet the agents in public first as this is required by the contract with the seller .
The other advantage is to respect the seller’s time and effort in the preparation of each exhibition.
After all, sellers are expected to maintain order and be ready for the next show. I’m sure many sellers spend some time getting ready for the next show and then leaving the house, sometimes with kids and pets in tow.
The cheat sheet for your salespeople:
Here is an abbreviated version of the suggested list of points you should discuss with a door-to-door salesperson:
- Explain that you cannot be present at every visit or be responsible for their valuables.
- On open days, you will not show the house to all visitors.
- Jewelry, cash, laptops, cell phones, gaming systems, and pharmaceuticals should all be stored out of sight and out of drawers.
- Store high-end stereos, flat screen TVs, etc., until they are sold.
- Remove all knife blocks and mail from their kitchen counters
- Delete personal photos of your wives, teenage daughters or children.
- Never agree to let in a stranger who knocks at the door.
- Check doors and windows after each visit.
September is Realtor Safety Month
Consider making these recommendations your own personal standard. Ask your broker to include them in their broker security policy (they have one, don’t they?)
Talk to your local realtor association about Des Moines area association initiatives and how you can implement them.
(Disclosure – Peter Toner is the founder of the Verify Photo ID security app that verifies the photo identities of weird prospects and checks them against a national sex offender list).