Safety tips for sellers
1. Prescription drugs: Remove or lock them up prior to showings.
Nearly half of 164 real estate professionals recently surveyed at the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors® Expo reported knowledge of prescription drug theft taking place at open houses.
"Similar to asking our clients to remove clutter and valuables when holding open houses, this is another key item to protect that we want our Realtors® to advise their clients on," says Leslie Kilpatrick, president of the San Diego Association of Realtors®. "It's a safety issue for clients and real estate professionals. We don't want to be confronting someone taking this in a home. We also want our sellers to be protected and to keep their medications safe."
2. Stow away valuables: Remind clients that you can't be responsible for thefts.
Valuables include everything from the mail left on countertops (which may contain personal information and bank statements) to such items as jewelry, artwork, cellphones and gaming systems. (Agents should also avoid listing photos that include valuables.)
"Too many people fail to consider that criminals nowadays can case houses from the comfort of their computer," says Hawkins, who offers safety training for real estate professionals through her Consumer Safety and Security Specialist program. "They can see all the person's valuables when you put them in fliers and on a website. If the valuables are not being sold with the house, why do they need to be shown anyway?"
3. Remove family photos: It's for your clients' safety.
Many real estate professionals advise sellers to remove family photos, but the conversations are often framed around staging so prospective buyers can imagine themselves living there.
Instead, Hawkins says, focus on the safety of their family.
"Clients may be reluctant to remove their family photos just because you say it will help new owners envision it becoming their house," Hawkins says. "I tell agents to tell sellers: 'You don't know who's walking through the house. You have photos of your wife, teenage daughter, children displayed, and you could have a pedophile or stalker walking through your home.' Who would leave their family photos up after you say that?"
4. Make a house safe for the buyers and the agent.
Turn on lights prior to showings – whether it's daytime or evening – so that agents and buyers can move safely through the home and not have to face any dark unknowns. (During the initial safety check of a listing, practitioners should ensure all rooms have adequate lighting as well.)
Also, sellers should make sure there are no potential hazards in their home, like loose floorboards or carpets. They don't want to risk someone tripping and falling in their home and open themselves up to liability.
Hawkins says it's important to tell sellers to remove not only weapons like guns before showings, but also not-so-obvious weapons too. For example, many homeowners may have a block of knives on their kitchen countertops; remove these for the agent's safety as well, Hawkins says.
5. Keep the house locked: Consider extra monitoring.
Another safety reminder for clients: Doors need to be kept locked at all times. A home is being presented to the public, and it may attract intruders.
Hawkins tells real estate professionals to talk to their home sellers about deadbolt locks and explain to them why they're safer. Also, sliding glass doors can be secured with bars and extra locks. Motion-sensor lights can be a good option for outdoor areas for added security. Windows should be checked to make sure they are locked securely.
6. Beware of unexpected visitors coming to your doorstep.
When a house is for sale, owners may get some unexpected visitors who ask to see their home. Instruct clients about the proper procedures for showings: Only real estate professionals using the lockbox should gain access to their home.
"I've heard agents talk about clients who have had homes on the market, and a couple may knock on the door and just hand them a business card and ask to see the house, and the seller lets them in," Hawkins says.
What's more, a growing rental fraud scam is causing more home sellers to report renters who are showing up at their doorsteps, too, ready to move in. Real estate professionals say their for-sale listings are getting scraped from websites by scammers who then place them as a rental listing on sites like Craigslist.