Your realtor has arranged an open house for you, in an effort to help you sell your home. You may feel uncomfortable, but your realtor knows what is best, right? Your most personal and valued possessions are in your home. You wouldn't dream of taking these items outside and placing them in the driveway and leaving them unattended. Why? Because you know there are people who would take the opportunity to steal your possessions and you would have no way of recovering them. In a way, that is exactly what could occur during an open house.
How do open house thefts happen?
Your realtor is there, you are there, you may even have your family there. So how do people steal from you? They do not show up with masks and a moving van. The thieves watch for open houses in nice areas. They look for a time when there is a lot of activity, such as the lunch hour or a weekend day. They will typically wait until you are busy with another potential buyer and then make their way through your home.
While there seems to be no reasoning in some of the unusual items that are taken during a home showing. As a general rule, the thieves will look for small items that can be slipped into a pocket or large handbag. A few items that routinely disappear is:
- Jewelry (even if it was in your jewelry box)
- Prescription drugs
- Cell phones, tablets, and other small electronics
- Decorative pieces, including photographs, nick-nacks, and silverware
- Designer handbags
As frustrating as this is, the circumstances can, in fact, be much worse. You have opened your home to the public. Once inside your residence, the thieves who are there to "case" the house, take note of the nicer furniture you own. This tells them that you are possibly, "financially comfortable." They pay attention to where each room is located within the home. They look at your family photos and immediately know, you have a wife and two young children. They look at what you own and how easy it would be to remove it from you. While most open house crimes happen at the moment of opportunity, you must consider, if the temptation is too great, they could return when nobody's home and finish the job.
How can you prevent making your home a target for open house thieves?
- Do not have an open house
Is having an open house really important to the sale of your home? The answer is no. You can sell your home without having an open house. People do it every day. This is a tool used by the realtor to get more potential buyers in the area. As guests stroll through, he or she discovers who is relocating to the area. Who is ready to move and upgrade their location? Who is having issues with the selling of their own home? Potentially, everyone who comes to your open house is interested in the area. Your house will sell to only one buyer. The realtor will gather his or her leads and sell more homes because of your open house.
- Tell your realtor to bring help
The standard method for open house burglary is for two people visit the open house. One will distract the realtor or homeowner with questions while his partner takes your valuables. Have a friend help you keep an eye on folks.
- Take advantage of home security systems
Use your home security system. Baby monitors and nanny cams are also great investments. If you do not have one, you can probably borrow these from friends who are parents.
- Remove temptation
Place valuables in a safe place and out of view. Lock items in a closet or drawer or even in the trunk of your car.
- Speak up
If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, say something. This is your home. Tell the couple to wait, and you will have someone show them around. If they protest, your instinct is probably right. Insist that they wait.
- Tell your neighbors
Let your neighbors know that you are having an open house and ask them to report anything strange to you ASAP.
- You may need evidence
Do a walk-through of your home with a video camera, even on your phone, to record what is in each room. Do another walk-through after the open house and compare them. If you notice anything is missing, report it to the police. You may need the recording to help identify your valuables. Your insurance company will appreciate these videos as well.
Who is liable?
The showing is over, and you discover your grandmother's wedding ring is missing. You go the realtor, who reminds you that they told you to put valuable things away. Who has to pay? This is one of those times when you need an attorney. There are a few things to consider:
- Can you prove the value of the item that was stolen?
- Where was the item at the time of the theft?
- Did you file a report with the police?
- Does your realtor’s agreement state that they will be responsible for damage or theft?
- What does your insurance company advise?
Having an open house may or may not appeal to you. If you become the victim of theft after an open house, contact an attorney for help.