Your home is your pride and joy. Although you might be ready to part with it for the next chapter in your real estate life you don’t want one of your final memories to be that of the prized possessions inside it going missing. While you may be coveting the additional thousand square feet in the home down the street, someone else might be coveting the irreplaceable fine china on display in your dining room armoire. This problem appears to be a double-edged sword: on the one hand you want your home to show at its very best but on the other you may be attracting burglars and thieves with your “showboating.” Don’t fret…the best defense is a good offense and when it comes to securing your home during an open house that means taking the right measures to avoid becoming a victim of your own open house.
There’s security in numbers
At any given time during your open house you can have as little as one young couple purchasing their first home to an unmanageable twenty individuals or groups of people and families roaming your abode. While it is the job of your Realtor to manage visitors and field questions and interest, it behooves them to do this in pairs or even groups.
Realtors will often recommend that homeowners steer clear of the open house but to ensure your home is in good hands ask your Realtor if their open house plans include additional associates to help keep an eye out for roaming guests. We naturally don’t let strangers walk into our homes but for the sake of an open house we turn our back on this natural action—this leaves us vulnerable. Your Realtor should play the part in keeping your home and belonging safe by ensuring proper coverage of all that come through. If you cannot be there to do it yourself, make sure your Realtor has enough associates to have your back. Some homeowners have been known to use security cameras to monitor open houses from their smart phone so that’s also something you could discuss with your Realtor. Also, if you have a home alarm installed, be sure to set the alarm to chirp every time a door is opened to alert you to traffic coming in and out of the house.
Have the Joneses keep up with your property
Keeping up with the Joneses takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to securing your home during and after an open house. A real concern exists when your open house provides an in for criminals to “case” your home. Your neighbors can be a safeguard for you if you make them aware that they are just that. Often times neighbors will come through your home during an open house out of sheer curiosity rather than an intent to consider putting a bid in. If you have a good rapport with your neighbors and trust their observations they can come through your open house and report back any suspicious visitors. Additionally, making it known to others that neighbors are themselves harmlessly “casing” the home and noting everyone in it on your behalf this should help deter would-be robbers and/or burglars. If your neighbors make it clear that they’re observing all the “going ons” in your home this will signal to criminals that the home is under surveillance and make it a less desirable target.
Take an inventory of your visitors
Whether it is you, your Realtor (and their associates), or your neighbors, it doesn’t hurt to take stock of your would-be buyers and their vehicles. Noting license plate numbers, makes, and models can help you recover items should you be the victim of a robbery or burglary. No one wants to worry about their belongings during an open house but then again no one wants to be utterly clueless should something happen. Often times Realtors will ask visitors to sign in, but there’s no guarantee that every individual will do this—especially when the open house sees high foot traffic. Again, using your neighbors or Realtors’ associates—or both if they’re all available—will help mitigate any delays in recovering your precious belongings.
If you got it, DON’T flaunt it
It goes without saying: if you don’t want something stolen don’t leave it out. Enticing would-be criminals with your valuables lying out or personal statements in easy view is unfortunately an amateur move that may cost you. Besides, a desk full of bills in unattractive anyway. Before opening your home to strangers, lock up or even stow away valuables in a location that is out of sight and secure. Make sure that bills, statements, or modes of payment (cash and credit cards) are tucked away in a safe place that is not easily accessible to people walking through. If you can lock it, do so with your desks and file cabinets that may contain personal information. Take stock of where everything is and how you leave items and rooms before the open house so you can quickly recognize any suspicious changes. You may want to take a photograph of each table before the open house to have a point of reference.
Last, but certainly not least…talk to your Realtor.
You can take all the noted precautions but at the end of the day—and especially if you will not be present at the open house(s)—your Realtor should be someone you trust and has a demonstrated record of success and security when it comes to their past clients. Not only should you trust your Realtor and their associates to care for your property while showing it but you should be able to speak with them candidly about any questions or concerns regarding the security of your property. Conversely, seasoned Realtors should also be able to share their experiences and safeguards as though it is second nature. Your Realtor is the main line of defense, but it’s up to you to do your part in securing your property and all that is in it.