Thieves Hit Real Estate Open Houses

Here’s a strange proposition; place an ad in the local paper requesting complete strangers come to your home and look inside your kitchen, bathroom, your kids room and your bedroom. In the ad tell them how nice the house is and you want them to see it from 2-4 on Sunday afternoon.

Then, to make it even more interesting, have another stranger (or someone you only have a brief relationship with) show them around the house. Meanwhile you go out, run some errands or have lunch.

Keep the block of knives on the counter and leave everything pretty much where you normally would and when you get home maybe it will still be there. Sound like a sound plan? It’s one that thousands of people execute hundreds and thousands of times a year.

Open houses are (in my mind) a weird process that is otherwise a good way to bring attention to the sale of a home. If the homeowner is smart, they will hire a professional real estate agent to facilitate the process. However, the homeowner often puts too much faith in the real estate professional to protector their belongings. This is a big mistake and a false sense of security.

No offense to the real estate professionals, many of them don’t really understand what they should and shouldn’t do in regards to “securing” your stuff.

I present about 50 programs a year to real estate agents on this topic. I always ask “what would you do if you saw someone steal something?” Inevitably I get responses where agents would say “I’d tell them to put it back!” Alrighty then. While this is the “right thing to do” it’s not the right thing for the agent to do. Because now the thief has to decide how bad they want the stuff and they now have to determine what it’s going to take to keep it. Giving a thief an ultimatum may result in violence.

The Aldergrove Star reports “These crimes are committed by thieves posing as potential homebuyers attending open houses or walking through homes for sale with a realtor. The thieves will distract the realtor, perhaps asking for a tape measure, and while the realtor facilitates the request, property is pocketed. Property targeted during these thefts includes laptops, jewelry, designer purses, small electronics, and other miscellaneous items.”

Real estate agents should not consider themselves in any way “security guards”. The home owner in no way should consider agents responsible for protecting their stuff. If you are a homeowner or a real estate agent, have a discussion that includes the following tips:

  • Hide or remove your valuables and medications.  If it can be easily stolen and has resale street value, then remove it.
  • Request your real estate agent bring additional agents. There is always strength in numbers.
  • Protect yourself from identity theft. Remove or lock up bills, credit card receipts and bank statements.
  • If anyone ever steals something and you see them, run out of that home as fast as possible. If a person is crazy enough to steal from an open house, then they are crazy enough to commit violence.  There is nothing of monetary value on the planet that I would fight for.
  • Put signage out saying “Property Under Video Surveillance
  • Always check the security status of home security systems, doors and windows before and after a showing. Make sure they are all locked and the hinges are still in the doors.

Robert Siciliano personal security expert to ADT Home Security Source discussing Home Security and Identity Theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover. Disclosures.

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