We recently saw a news report that a fake Realtor had successfully gained access to a home for sale in Lehi, Utah by knocking on the door at 7:30 in the morning (see full story here). This is troubling news, especially for those who are trying to sell their homes without the assistance of a Realtor. Even those who use a discount broker are at risk, since the homeowner often is the one who sets up any showing appointments. It’s unknown why this person went to these lengths to get into the home, but one could speculate that it was to discover if there was anything of value in the home worth stealing.
The news report lists several points to remember when selling your home:
1- Always put away valuables before showing your home. (This includes, but is not limited to, money, jewelry, prescription drugs, important documents and mail, valuable keepsakes, and small electronics. Plus, a good home stager can advise you on what to remove from the home and what can stay, prior to any showings taking place.)
2- Do not accept “walk-ups”. Always have prospective buyers and agents go through your agent for an appointment. Your Realtor should also be there for those appointments. (If you don’t have a Realtor, get one! But, keep in mind that some buyers are inclined to feel uncomfortable with the owner or listing agent in the home during the showing. Use good judgment! Also, you as the seller can stipulate what times you are willing to make your home available for showings. Your agent can include this in the listing remarks, and this should help to prevent the early morning/late night attempts to see your home. )
3- Keep your guard up during open houses. Make sure you have enough people to keep an eye on your entire house. Groups of thieves will try to distract agents and homeowners while their accomplices look for things to steal. (This is one reason why some agents and sellers won’t do open houses at all, but if they do, they insist that everyone that comes into the home sign in on some kind of log. While not foolproof, it is an added level of security.)
4- Have your Realtor secure your house with an electronic lock box on the front door. Most now use them. It is the same concept as the old combination boxes that allowed authorized agents to show a house even when the owner wasn’t home, only it is more secure and the electronic key that’s used to open it also keeps a detailed record of who entered your house and when. At any time, your agent can call up an online report showing who has used the box to enter your home. (While any kind of lock box is better than none at all, we can’t emphasize enough the superiority of the electronic lock box. For security and accountability, it is unsurpassed. It takes a special keypad to access this type of box, and only authorized agents will have this keypad.)
As mentioned earlier, home owners who are trying to sell their homes without a Realtor’s assistance (FSBO’s or For Sale by Owners) are particularly vulnerable to fraudulent attempts to enter their homes. These sellers are pretty much on their own in during all phases of the home selling process, including their home’s security, and might be more susceptible to someone knocking on their door asking to see the house, especially if the home has languished on the market and the home owner hasn’t had many showings. This is just one more reason why selling with the help of a Realtor makes more sense than trying to go it alone.
The bottom line is, use caution when placing your home on the market. Use common sense to safeguard your valuables, your property and your family during home showings and, if in doubt, ask your Realtor.