Whether your realtor is scheduling an open house or you are selling the home yourself and want to show it to potential buyers, it’s always smart to take precautions to protect you and your stuff.
Potential buyers are curious and will check in every drawer, closet and cupboard. But by removing temptations and taking steps beforehand, it could deter stop people from finding your valuables.
“Even when a realtor is showing the house, they aren’t with them 100 percent of the time,” says Joe Peffer, broker-owner of Delicious Real Estate in Columbus, Ohio.
And he’s not talking just about stealing an expensive watch or swooping up some crystal goblet. They also can take your identity and bank information, among other things.
“I call it low-hanging fruit, like a checkbook or credit card. People leave stuff out like that, and it’s so tempting,” he adds. “Usually when you are showing a house to someone, they are serious buyers,” Peffer says. “But theft does happen.”
Here are some things you might want to think about hiding until after the showing or open house is over:
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Many people have their Wi-Fi password written on top of their router, modem or computer. A person can memorize it, go outside to log in to your Wi-Fi and start finding all your accounts. “People can do so much damage in such a short time,” he says.
Passwords to your bank account, etc.
“A lot of times, especially with baby boomers, they have a list of all their passwords next to their computers,” Peffer says. “It’s a good idea to put it away in a safe place when showing your house. “People also have their bills, credit card statements and other personal mail just sitting there. Identity theft is a real problem.”
Also, store away your family calendar. No one needs to know when you’ll be gone for a week on a cruise.
It’s easy for people to hide a laptop or tablet in their coat or purse. You need to put them in non-obvious places, lock them away in a desk drawer or closet, or put them in a locked trunk.
Some people think they are being smart by putting them in a locked box, but that locked box should be hidden because it also can be taken easily.
Real estate agents aren’t everywhere in the home during an open house, so they can’t keep an eye out for everything that might be taken.
It’s pretty easy to snatch a wine bottle from the wine fridge or rack and put in a tote bag. So, just keep out a few of your least expensive bottles for staging and store the rest.
Heirlooms and priceless objects
Don’t use your finest heirlooms and treasures for staging. Also, if photos of your home are displayed on any of the MLS listings or house websites such as Zillow, make sure expensive valuables are not displayed.
There are prescription drug abusers that come to open houses to seek out their next fix. In fact, a few years ago in San Diego, public service ads ran to raise awareness of this issue. So, clean out your meds and hide them or keep them with you.
Remote controls and keys
That extra car fob and garage door opener hanging by the back door are just an invitation for a thief to grab and come back some other time to steal your car, or have access to come into the house to take whatever they want.
Peffer says the best way to prevent theft during an open house is to not have an open house at all. The most recent statistics from the National Association of REALTORS® shows that only 2 percent of homes were sold because of an open house.
But if you do schedule an open house during your for-sale-by-owner house or with your realtor, do some things that might safeguard your possessions.
Have a sign-in sheet for everyone coming into the house. Keep your home security going during any showings, even if you have already moved out of the house.
If the home has several floors, ask agent to bring along helpers so all floors are covered. You can also ask friends to staff your house to walk around watching for anything suspicious.
Lastly, don’t put stuff in your top dresser drawers. That’s the first place thieves look for valuables.
“As a realtor, you always want a crowded open house for more potential buyers, but that can also be a little bit scary,” Peffer says. “You can’t be everywhere. Some realtors just hang out in the kitchen. But I like the idea of circulating around the whole house. Your agent needs to be out and about, so that everyone knows he/she could pop into any room at any time.”