Help Your Sellers Keep Their Homes Safe When Listed

LockboxBRR has received reports of jewelry and prescription medications being taken from homes listed for sale — one at an open house, and another by a person posing as a real estate agent and requesting to preview a home without an appointment. In both cases, the sellers reported the incidents to local police.

We’d like to take this opportunity to remind our REALTOR® members to talk with their clients about how to keep their homes and possessions safe while on the market. The following six tips have been adapted from the REALTOR® Magazine article, “The Safety Talk You Need to Have With Clients” and tips 1, 2, and 6 are specifically about theft and unexpected visitors…

1. Stowaway 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 jewelry, artwork, cellphones, and gaming systems. Remind sellers that agents can’t protect valuables and that as a seller’s agent you won’t often be present at home showings, and if you are, you likely won’t be following prospective buyers all around the house, especially during a busy open house. Remind sellers that before they leave the house for a showing, they are responsible for walking through the house and making sure everything of value is out of sight.

2. Remove or lock up prescription medications prior to showings. Similar to asking our clients to remove clutter and valuables, this is another key item to protect, plus, it’s a safety issue as we don’t want to be confronting someone taking this in a home.

3. Remove family photos: It’s for your clients’ safety. Many real estate professionals advise sellers to remove family photos from their home as part of the staging process, but it’s also for the privacy and safety of their family.

4. Make a house safe for buyers and agents. Turn on the lights prior to showings — whether it’s daytime or evening — so that agents and buyers can move safely through the home. It’s important to tell sellers to remove not only weapons (like guns) before showings but also not-so-obvious weapons. For example, homeowners may have a block of knives on their kitchen counter which should be removed for everyone’s safety.

5. Keep the house locked and consider extra security systems. Doors need to be kept locked at all times. Talk to your sellers about deadbolt locks, securing sliding glass doors with bars and extra locks, installing motion-sensor lights for outdoor areas, and check that all windows are locked securely. Some real estate professionals recommend the extra step of installing a wireless security system, and maybe one that alerts sellers if motion is detected, especially for vacant properties.

6. Beware of unexpected visitors coming to your doorstep. Forewarn your clients that should they get unexpected visitors and they weren’t expecting any showings, they do not have to let them in. Remind them that only real estate professionals who have made an appointment and use the lockbox should gain access to their home.

As a follow-up to this last tip, if something does not feel right, trust your gut. You or your seller have the right to decline any showing request. If you feel like something is not right during a showing or an open house, ask the agent and their client(s), or the open house visitor, to leave. If they do not do so immediately, leave the house and call the police.

After showings — and especially after an open house — don’t assume that everyone has left and that the property is secure. A resource from the Association of Buyer’s Representatives recommends the following procedure when leaving a property: “Check the interior of the house prior to locking the doors, working from the top floor to the bottom, back of the house to the front, locking the doors behind you. Be familiar enough with each home to know the exits. Be aware of your surroundings. Be prepared to protect yourself.”

This information is certainly not meant to create fear and mistrust, but rather to help REALTORS® and their clients think practically about the ways to secure properties and possessions and maintain everyone’s personal safety.

Below are links to the articles referenced and others for additional information:

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Boise Regional REALTORS® Chief Executive Officer, Breanna Vanstrom, at breanna@boirealtors.com or 208-376-0363.