Stranger Danger? Open House Safety.
You’ve decided to sell your home. Whether you want to do it on your own or hire an agent, you likely need to do a few open houses along the way. What this really means: strangers will be showing up and walking through your house!
Letting complete strangers tour your home is a little unnerving. Along with dealing with lots of unknown visitors, you may also fear judgment for hoarding unfinished projects in your laundry room. Most things that can cause social embarrassment are easy to hide, but it is worth putting some thought into keeping your home and belongings secure throughout the process of finding a buyer. Even legitimate buyers may take something if the temptation is available.
Last April, 27-year-old Ashley Okland was fatally shot in the head and chest while working at a model home. The crime remains unsolved (as of the date this was written). Let’s prevent this from ever happening again.
When selling a home, we are usually focused on getting as much attention as possible. It’s all focused on the sale. It rarely hits people at what this means: complete strangers will come into your house, often with you alone at the home. Realtors typically have systems in place. Most For Sale By Owners have never given this any thought.
You need to be aware and set yourself up in a way to minimize the risk. Personally I am not a small male. I have also been studying various forms of self-defense for a long time, yet I could still be a victim. Below are some tips and tricks to ensure that you do not allow the opportunity for someone to have an opening.
1. Think about it. This is unpleasant to even think about, but it’s a reality you need to come to grips with. Acknowledging this and thinking it through is the first step in personal protection.
2. Know the status of all doors and windows. You control the access. Also inspect after people have left. There was an incident where someone removed the door hinges to be able to gain access later!
3. Bring someone. Perhaps the biggest deterrent to a crime is if you have a partner do the open house with you — and that partner doesn’t have to be in real estate. Mortgage brokers, real estate lawyers.. they all like to give out cards too.
4. If you can’t find a partner, make it appear as though one is coming any minute or is already there. For example, at your check-in table, have a second chair with a sweater or jacket over it, while your chair also has a sweater or jacket over it. Have an opened can of soda or bottle of water in front of you but also one in front of your “partner.”
5. Consider the valuables. Have a discussion with the seller about removing everything of value including jewelry, electronics, prescription drugs and anything else of value.
6. Get familiar with the property before the open house. Learn your way around, the major doors and places that lead to corners. May seem like over kill but planning how to avoid the potential can save you from over having something happen. Check the closets and all the rooms.
7. Dress for success. Not just the look of what you wear but important safety clothes: Do not wear high heels!
8. Keep your cell phone on you… and accessible.
9. Don’t be laxer with small women versus large men. It’s not just about physical violence, theft is a concern.
10. Always stay behind visitors. It’s easy to step to the side and allow them to pass. Not only is it safety, it helps them get a solid impression as they walk in.
11. If someone came in and was very suspicious. Take notes, including descriptions of them and if possible note the car they drive. It may be nothing, but it never hurts to have information and not need it versus trying to remember later.
12. If someone makes you feel afraid, and it’s just you and that person — make an excuse to leave that won’t be suspected as an escape attempt.
13. Park where you cannot get blocked in. Agents are most afraid when they are walking back to their car after an open house. Take a few minutes to make sure you have a clear line of sight to your vehicle.
14. Meet the neighbors. There’s safety in numbers. Introduce yourself, point out your car, and invite the neighbors over to the open house. Its safety and it’s also a potential source for referrals!
15. Advise clients about valuables. Thefts often result in lawsuits against agents. To forestall this, develop a list of valuables clients should put away before an open house, including mail, jewelry, prescription drugs, extra sets of keys, and financial statements, among others.
16. Set up for safety. Hang decorative bells behind every outside door that you have unlocked. These will alert you whenever someone enters the house.
17. Do not bring your laptop to an open house. Not only can it be easily stolen, but signing on to someone’s unsecured wireless network can open you up to identity theft.
18. Carry only what you need — purses go in the trunk of your car before you leave your house, not when you arrive at the open house.
19. Check out your guests as they arrive. As soon as someone comes in, jump up, introduce yourself, and direct guests to a sign-in sheet. Legitimate buyers typically do not mind.
20. Never, ever turn your back on a prospect. Let prospects walk in front of you. If a man says, “Ladies first,” to a female agent, the agent should say something like, “You are such a gentleman, thank you. But I really want you to see this home, and if I can direct you where to go, I think you’ll gain a further appreciation for this home".
21. Close up in teams. Openings and closings are the most dangerous times during an open house. If you can have someone else with you, that’s the best way to safety.
22. Check your cell phone’s strength and signal prior to the open house. Have emergency numbers programmed on speed dial. Ensure you have a charged phone.
23. Turn on the lights and open the curtains. These are not only sound safety procedures, but also great marketing tactics.
24. Notify a friend or a relative that you will be calling in every hour on the hour. And if you don’t call, they are to notify the police immediately.
25. Remove family photos for your safety. Many real estate agents advise sellers to remove family photos as part of the staging process, but removing photos can also help protect your family’s privacy.
Have any questions? Reach out. Even if you are not a client, always feel free to reach out as I am always available for questions.