How Safe is Your Listed Home?

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In today's news, there was a report that a Phoenix area Real Estate agent was arrested for stealing jewelry out of a listed home that she showed. Not only did police track some of the jewelry to the pawn shop she had sold it to, but pawn records show that she probably stole from many more unsuspecting home sellers. Generally, real estate agents are extremely trustworthy, but just like in any profession, there are bad apples. Even though it is highly unlikely that a licensed, fingerprinted, Code-of-Ethics bound REALTOR® will pilfer through your valuables, it is a possibility that someone to whom they are showing your house would. Your home could be a target for other crimes, as well. Here are a few tips on keeping your home, your valuables, and yourself safe while you are waiting for it to sell:

  • Store your valuables, expensive art work, extra car/house keys/garage remotes and important papers in a safe, or better yet, keep them off-site. You wouldn't believe how many homes I've shown with smart phones and tablets laying around! Don't keep papers with sensitive information out in view. Your tax return isn't a selling feature, anyway!
  • Don't keep any drugs, including non-prescription, in your medicine cabinet or drawers. They are a currently a huge target for thieves.
  • Remove photos of children, art with names of family members, etc. from the home. Family photos and other personal effects not only distract buyers, but can draw unwanted attention to your family.
  • Lock your computer passwords or turn them off completely (don't forget your laptop/cell phone/tablet!)
  • Lock up weapons also. Not only to keep them safe, but prospective buyers may also get a negative impression about the safety of your neighborhood if you have a gun by the front door or on your night stand.
  • After every showing, check every window and door in the house to ensure they are locked.
  • Don't ever open the door to a showing without a licensed agent present. Ask for a a business card. It is safest to have showing agents make an appointment with your agent even if you aren't home.
  • Use home security measures such as an alarm, "Beware of Dog" signs, security cameras, etc.
  • Ask your agent to only use an electronic lockbox for showings. These boxes record the time, date, and name of agents showing. Agents have a special electronic key or fob to open them. They can also be programmed with a Call Before Showing ("CBS") code so agents have to call your agent first - this will prevent agents from showing without looking it up in the MLS first. Ask your agent to program the box so it only opens during daylight hours if desired. If contractor lockboxes are necessary to allow workers in, change the code after each crew is done.
  • Leave the porch & driveway lights on all night. If your yard has lights, keep them on as well.
  • If your agent does a public open house, ask them if they will have someone else with them, and what other safety measures they will take. Real Estate agents are often victims of crime as well.  There is power in numbers, and one agent cannot effectively supervise multiple parties in the house at one time. Consider not having an open house at all. Sometimes bad guys target open houses to see if there is anything easy to grab, or to see what they could come back for when nobody is home.
  • Yard signs may mean more exposure to buyers, but they make your home vulnerable to thieves or vandals, especially if your home is vacant.  Consider not having your agent erect a sign on your property if vacant. Most buyers these days find their home online or through the MLS anyway. HVAC condensers are currently a huge target for thieves, who cause thousands of dollars worth of damage for about $30 worth of copper. We have also seen appliances and fixtures stolen from vacant homes. Keep serial and model numbers of appliances for insurance purposes if anything does go missing.
  • If your home is vacant, continue to maintain the yard, pick up flyers, newspapers, and sweep leaves or other debris from the doorway, and perhaps used timed lights inside to give the impression that your home is occupied. Ask your neighbors to keep an eye on suspicious activity and to call you or your agent (or police if a crime is occurring).
These are just a few of the many steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of crime. Please be assured that the Real Estate agent that was arrested was not representative of professionals in our industry! Thousands of homes are safely shown in the Phoenix area each day, by ethical agents escorting honest buyers. Although 99.9% of listings are sold without incident, it certainly doesn't hurt to take extra measures to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your home. Best of luck with your sale!