Safety First Is the Golden Rule

By Steve Flanagan

You’d like to welcome all potential buyers to your home with open arms, but the truth is they are strangers. Real estate agents are taught to be alert to potential criminal activity at all times. The threats are real and should not be taken lightly. These safety tips will improve the security of your home showings and open houses.

Before a showing:

Vet buyers before they visit. When a buyer makes contact with you, ask him or her to scan their driver’s license and email it to you along with their contact information and documents showing they are pre-qualified by a lender. Do a Google search so you know as much as possible about the buyer before scheduling a visit. (Extra benefit: You’ll know more about the buyer which could make it easier to carry on a conversation during a showing.)

Don’t be too public with your information. Limit the amount of personal information that you share. Consider advertising without using your home phone and have potential buyers email you to obtain additional information. Use free email services such as Gmail, not your main email account, and think about getting a temporary cell phone for communication with buyers.

Remove small jewelry and money from plain view and out of the front of drawers.

Store away laptops and, if possible, put high-end stereos, flat panel TVs, etc., in storage until you sell.

Offer showing times during the day when possible. Choose times when you know the neighborhood will be active. If it works better to show your house at night, turn on all interior and exterior lights beforehand, and keep the shades, curtains or blinds open at all times.

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.

During a showing:

Don’t get parked in. Park your car in front rather than in the driveway or in the garage during a showing in the unlikely event that you need to escape in your vehicle.

Don’t go it alone. Make sure someone else is present with you for all open houses or showings and that at least one of you keeps an eye on the prospective buyer at all times. If feasible, keep your immediate neighbors up to date on your showing schedule in case they see anything suspicious.

Follow your prospect. Don’t lead visitors, direct them from room to room alongside them or slightly behind.

Carry an alarm device and/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 whose noise will alert neighbors that something is wrong if you coordinate that signal with them ahead of time. At a minimum, keep a cell phone with you.