Anyone preparing to sell a house is likely overwhelmed with the endless number of tasks associated with the stressful action. Cleaning, de-cluttering and redecorating are just some of the jobs needed to spruce up a home for potential buyers. Because it’s such a big financial and emotional period, a good realtor will likely help prepare the seller for anything – except a burglary. It’s probably the last thing on a homeowner’s mind, but selling a property involves a lot of trust. Viewings, inspections, and open houses give a wide variety of strangers access to a home. For the most part, the practice is safe but there have been a few occasions where things ended badly.
Once a home is ready to be listed on a real estate portal, an agent may suggest that the family held a public open house. This means that any interested parties can visit the home over a multi-day period and explore the layout and features. Because a single realtor is a host, this can leave a number of visitors un-monitored as they explore the rooms. These types of events are also without vetting, which means any person off the street can attend as long as they print their name on a sign-in sheet.
In early July a young couple was arrested by police after conducting a series of open house burglaries in numerous California cities. Dubbed “Bonnie and Clyde” the pair eluded authorities for a long period before finally being followed by cops after a showing. The sneaky detectives were able to catch the couple with piles of stolen property. Unfortunately, the situation is not uncommon, especially in today’s competitive housing environment where sellers are eager to obtain the best price for their home.
Additionally, many real estate websites show virtual tours and photos of the interior of the house. This gives potential thieves the knowledge of the home’s layout and an idea of the available valuables. Enterprising crooks can easily attend these gatherings to quickly swipe smaller possessions like laptops, collectibles and more.
What’s a seller to do? Some safety experts argue against holding an open house due to its public nature. However, as owners are typically worried abut a potential sale, this is not realistic for all. Families can ask the hosting agent to check ID and gather phone numbers of those who visit. Thieves are less likely to swipe items if they know their names and addresses are on record. It’s also important to keep an inventory of expensive items so checks can be made after each showing.
Others suggest that the only way to ensure protection is to keep the home’s security alarm active during showings. That way, the homeowners have video records of the attendees should any incidents occur. Additionally, the presence of surveillance all but ensures that open house burglars will look elsewhere for a crime opportunity.
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