When people decide to sell their own home, they often believe the biggest threat is the theft of belongings, and they rarely consider their own personal safety in the planning process. The sad truth is that even real estate professionals have been attacked while showing homes, as Housing Watch (Curry, 2010), the Washington Post (Phillip, 2014), CNN (Ford, 2014), ABC News (Little, 2011) and others have reported in recent years.
Cutler Realty agent Andrew Vonstein, 51 was found dead in a vacant home which he’d shown the day before (Curry, 2010). Essence Realty agent Vivian Martin, 67 was found murdered at a home she’d been showing (Curry, 2010). The home was also set on fire by the perpetrators. Real Estate agent Beverly Carter, 49 was found buried in a shallow grave after showing homes in Little Rock Arkansas (Phillip, 2014). Ashley Okland, 27 was killed while showing a home in Iowa (Ford, 2014), Sarah Anne Walker, 40 was stabbed 27 times in Texas (Little, 2011).
Of course if you want to consider other dangers, identity theft, rape, armed robbery, assault and others do exist. Identity theft is one very common danger, especially for FSBO (for sale by owner) sellers who print their name, phone number, address and e-mail addresses on fliers that they distributed around town. The owner, by selling his/her property by himself may even be exposing the rest of the family to danger at the hands of strangers.
The National Association of Realtors issues safety guidelines for its members, but even if you're selling your home without an agent, taking these precautions is a good idea. Here are 13 ways to protect yourself and your property (Curry, 2010).
1. Schedule Appointments
Don't allow people to just ring your bell at any hour for a showing. Instead, have them phone ahead to make an appointment. Take their name and phone number and call them back to schedule, so that you're sure you are reaching them at a legitimate number.
2. Give contact lists to others
Make sure that a friend or relative at a different location has a copy of the appointment list so that they know who you have showings with and when. Check in with each other immediately after each showing.
3. Show when the sun is up
Show the house in daytime whenever possible. If you must show it after dark, turn on all lights beforehand, and keep the shades, curtains or blinds open at all times.
4. Pair up
Make sure someone else is present with you for all open houses or showings and that at least one of you (subtly) keeps an eye on the prospective buyer at all times.
5. Bring up the rear
Let the prospect walk in front of you. Don't lead them, but rather, direct them from a position slightly behind them. You can gesture for them to go ahead of you and say, for example, "The master suite is in the back of the house."
6. Don't get parked in
During showings, park your car in front of the property rather than in the driveway or in the garage, so that you avoid having your car blocked in. This will make it easier for you to escape in your vehicle, if need be.
7. Plan ahead with escape routes
Stand near an exit whenever possible. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked for easy access to the outside.
8. Carry an alarm device or cell phone
If you have a home security system with a remote key fob, keep that in your hand in case you need to press the panic button to alert the monitoring service. You can do the same with the panic button for a car alarm, as the noise it sets off outside can alert people to what's going on (especially if you warn neighbors in advance of your signal). If nothing else, keep a cell phone with you.
9. Take notice of vehicles
While prospective buyers are taking a tour, take a moment to walk outside to document their license plate, or give this task to a neighbor to note the year, make, model and color of each vehicle that drops people off at your home.
10. Keep valuables out of sight
Remove small jewelry and money from plain view and out of the front of drawers, especially if you're not going to tour with each prospective buyer. Store away laptops and, if possible, put high-end stereos, flat panel TVs, etc., in storage until you sell.
11. Trim hedges
Keep shrubbery clipped down around waist level to ensure that you give your front door or your back yard maximum visibility to neighbors or others from the street.
12. Don't be too public
Limit the amount of personal information that you share. Consider advertising without using your home phone number or address on fliers. Have potential buyers e-mail you to obtain additional information. Use free accounts, such as those available from gmail.com, whenever possible.
13. Be mindful of groups
During an open house, be alert to visitors' comings and goings, especially near the end of showing hours. Police have reported groups of criminals that target open houses, showing up in groups near the end of the showing.
This goes beyond the Realtor vs FSBO debate. Let's all stay safe out there. If you ever decide to list your home with a Realtor, Sales Professional in your area and want to know who to work with, visit my page at www.GeorgeRosario.com or contact me at my office @ 347-671-SOLD. To sell your Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, New York City, Long Island, Bronx or Staten Island home, I have a team of real professionals prepared to deliver the highest level of service the industry has ever produced.
George L. Rosario
Real Estate Salesperson
Coldwell Banker Kueber
DESK : 347-671-SOLD
Curry, S. R. (2010, September 23). Two Ohio Real Estate Agents Slain on the Job. Retrieved February 9th, 2015, from AOL Real Estate: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2010/09/23/two-ohio-real-estate-agents-murdered-on-the-job/
Ford, D. (2014, October 1). Risky business: Real estate agent's killing hits home for Realtors. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from Cnn Online: http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/01/us/real-estate-risks/
Little, L. (2011, April 11). 6 Crimes Committed Against Real Estate Agents and How to Stay Safe. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/dangers-real-estate-criminals-witnesses-safety-expert-keeping/story?id=13375723
Phillip, A. (2014, October 1). Arkansas real estate agent’s murder highlights perils of the job. Retrieved February 9th, 2015, from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/10/01/arkansas-real-estate-agents-murder-highlights-perils-of-the-job/
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