How to Keep Your House and Family Safe When Selling
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In the real estate world, FSBO means ‘For Sale by Owner’ which means the sellers are not using the services of a real estate agent to sell their property.
While the National Association of Realtors (NAR) suggests that FSBO sales only account for 8% of the market, recent statistics show that selling a home without an agent is more popular than they think.
A Redfin study discovered that 25% of people who sold a home did so without the aid of a full-service agent.
So what’s the For Sale By Owner attraction?
Easy, everyone knows the cost of selling a house is very high.
By going the FSBO route, you can sell your house safely, without paying a real estate agent’s commission, which can be as high as 6% – 7%.
If you sell your property for $400,000, an agency’s commission is a whopping $24,000!
When you sell your house with ISoldMyHouse.com’s Flat Fee MLS Listings, you guarantee to save at least half that amount or all of it!
However, in your rush to save money, some homeowners are guilty of ignoring a few inconvenient facts about FSBO sales.
When people come around to your home for a showing and you leave valuable data and possessions on display, you could be asking for trouble if you are not careful.
Learning all you can about getting a house ready to sell is prudent for all home sellers, fsbo’s or not.
In this comprehensive guide, we clearly outline the steps you need to take to protect your family and home when selling a house for sale by owner.
How to Prevent Theft of Valuable Personal Property and Information
The last thing that FSBOs consider is home safety when selling.
But it should be one of your key concerns.
When you allow strangers into your property, there are always risks attached.
There have been cases of real estate professionals being attacked during showings, let alone homeowners and there is even the potential of a robbery.
Let’s take a look at the security precautions you should take to help prevent theft.
Leaving your possessions on display during a home showing transforms your home into a candy store for prospective thieves.
Imagine how easy it would be for an experienced criminal/burglar to snatch a necklace or a pair of expensive earrings without you noticing.
Alternatively, there could be thieves masquerading as interested buyers who case your property.
If they see valuables in the open, they’re likely to return in the dead of night and pilfer the lot.
Invest in a personal home safe to lock up valuables or even store them at a trusted friends or families home in order to keep them out of any sketchy home buyers hands.
There is a practical reason for removing all touches of personality from your home.
Photos of you and the family could serve to distract prospective buyers and decrease the possibility of them making a purchase.
Although it is common for people to share photos of the family with complete strangers on social media, don’t make a habit of it when showing your property.
During the FSBO process, there could be dozens of people coming to your house and there’s no guarantee that all of them are interested in making a purchase.
Leaving pictures of your family out for all to see is bad enough but allowing your bills and financial information to be seen is downright negligent.
According to the 2017 Identity Fraud Study, over $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million Americans in 2016 and ID thieves have stolen a total of $107 billion over the last six years!
Did you know that fraudsters can do serious damage just by knowing your name, address and date of birth?
Add in bank account details, credit card information, and your Social Security Number and all hell could break loose for you!
If you leave your personal information lying out there waiting to be seen, you could give a thief the opportunity to assume your identity, or at least make purchases under your name.
Protect the home, and yourself, by ensuring there isn’t a shred of personal information in the home while you show it.
This tip should be a no-brainer but we’ll include it in the list of security precautions anyway.
Whether you own a gun or another dangerous weapon, either store it away from the home or lock in it a gun safe where only you know the access code.
Leaving weapons in the open is like Christmas for would-be thieves because it becomes incredibly easy for them to pick it up and carry out their intended robbery there and then.
Unfortunately, medication in the United States can be exceedingly expensive and prescription drug theft is becoming commonplace.
Given the prevalence of substance abuse, it is no surprise to learn that people steal from hospitals, pharmacies and distributors to feed their addiction.
For some addicts, a house showing is a golden opportunity to raid your medicine cabinet.
Stop this crime of opportunity by ensuring your medication is taken away or at the very least, stored in a locking medicine cabinet.
Instances of cybercrime are increasing at a disturbingly rapid rate.
So one of the most important security precautions you can take is to either remove your computer from the property or at the very least password protect it.
A savvy cyber-criminal only needs a few minutes alone with your machine to destroy your life.
Think about it, if these criminals can breach the security of companies such as Equifax, Anthem, and Premera Blue Cross, how long do you think it will take them to get into your system while sitting at your computer?
You won’t be surprised to learn that the two largest states, California and Texas, have the highest number of cybercrime victims with over 39,000 and 21,000 per annum respectively!
Maintaining House Safety During Showings
Most people take home safety when selling for granted and make mistakes that leave them open to physical harm; not to mention enabling thieves to waltz in and out of the property with their prized possessions.
The murder of Arkansas real estate agent, Beverly Carter, should serve as a warning to ensure you have adequate security precautions in place when selling your home by owner.
Verify Buyer’s Agents
Most people interested in your home will be represented by a buyer’s agent, especially when you take the recommended approach of listing your house in the MLS which will get you more money.
It offers them an element of protection as the agent knows what you have to disclose and how to verify this information.
You must protect your home when selling by ensuring the buyer’s agent is licensed.
It is crucial to remember that there are different licensing requirements in all states.
Sadly, there are many cases of agents representing a buyer in a jurisdiction where they don’t have a license.
It’s a good idea to check their website, assuming they have one, and determine the amount of real estate experience this person has.
You can complete your verification by looking up their license at The Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO).
Find out the agent’s license number or go to your state’s licensing division to get verification and you’ll not only determine if the agent is legitimate, but you’ll also verify their identity as well.
What About Unrepresented Buyers?
Although most real estate experts will advise buyers that it is foolish to try and purchase an FSBO property without representation, a number of people try this approach and will go it alone.
It is a good situation for you as a FSBO seller, because you don’t have to pay a buyers agents commission.
It is imperative that you protect your home against solo buyers because they can use all sorts of dirty tricks to jeopardize your home and families safety.
Here are some basic, common sense tips:
1 – Verify ID Before Showings
First and foremost, DO NOT allow anyone who doesn’t have an appointment to come in.
While it is normal for people to see a ‘For Sale’ sign and wander in off the street, you are placing you and your home’s safety at risk by doing so.
Make sure they book their appointment ahead of time and ask for their name, address, and phone number.
You could even go as far as to ask for their license plate and driver’s license numbers.
Ask them to show a valid form of ID when they show up before allowing them to set foot in your home.
Finally, before they proceed with their viewing, call someone and pass along the information you’ve gathered.
Do this within earshot so the prospective buyer knows you’re taking security measures
2 – NEVER Be Alone with Them in the House
There is safety in numbers so make sure a friend or family member is with you when showing the house.
If being alone is unavoidable, consider one of the following options:
- Open your house for viewings by appointment only.
- Let a friend, family member, or spouse know when you have appointments.
- Arrange to call or text one of them at the beginning and end of the appointment.
- Ensure there is a pre-arranged time for someone to call you if you haven’t phoned back.
- Arrange a ‘safety phrase’ which you can text to someone if you’re feeling uncomfortable with the stranger. This acts as a signal for a friend to come over and assist you.
3 – Make Sure There is Daylight
Only make appointments during daylight hours and before allowing anyone in, open all curtains, blinds, and shades, and switch on the lights if necessary.
This is important because criminals are less brazen in the daylight hours.
4 – Take Note of Lingering Viewers
Although viewers may feel suffocated if you follow them around, it is good protocol to protect your home when selling.
Professional thieves have a habit of lingering in rooms looking for items to steal and also to locate security devices.
It is suspicious if a couple decides to split up and one remains with you to serve as a distraction.
The golden rule of in-house safety is to enter each room behind the viewer so you can’t be blindsided by an attack.
5 – Ensure All Exits Are Open When Showing the House
Make sure front and back doors remain unlocked for the duration of the showing and always trust your instincts.
If you have suspicions about the person, find a way to end the viewing as soon as possible.
In this scenario, it’s a clever idea to casually mention that you’re expecting someone to arrive soon; this information should serve as a deterrent.
6 – NEVER Let a Potential Buyer Know When You’re Away
When it comes to home safety when selling, there are few worse mistakes than saying the following to a prospective purchaser:
“I won’t be able to show the home at 2 pm because I’ll be at work.”
Talk about an open invitation to commit a crime!
FSBOs need to realize that the person on the other end of the phone is not necessarily a legitimate buyer.
7 – Ensure the Buyer is Pre-Approved
One way to separate legitimate and dubious would-be buyers is to ask for a copy of their pre-approval letter before they visit the property.
This document shows that a lender has pulled the person’s credit and verified their income.
It is a sure sign of a motivated buyer.
If they claim to be a cash buyer, ask for Proof of Funds, which could be a bank account screenshot.
If they make excuses not to show this information, you might want to reconsider allowing them to see your home.
Things to Check After a Showing
Once a viewer has left the vicinity without incident, you probably think you have done a good job of protecting the home but don’t be so sure.
Experienced criminals know how to steal while making it seem as if everything is hunky dory.
After they are gone, perform the following checks to ensure all is as it seems.
Make Sure Homes & Windows Are Locked After Showings
Even if you think you’ve had the person in your sights for the entire time, it is a mistake to assume anything.
We have heard numerous tales of people unlocking windows or other entrances at home viewings so they could return and break in later.
Be sure to check basement entrances as well.
Check for Missing Property
Hopefully, you’ve put away your valuables but in the event you haven’t, quickly scan the home for missing items.
If you see something missing, contact the police ASAP before the perpetrator has the chance to flee or pawn your valuables.
Real Estate Key Lockboxes
An essential way to protect your home while selling is to invest in a key lock box.
It is a safe way to protect your house keys and allows more flexibility when it comes to scheduling appointments.
Boxes from the 1970s were opened by a key and held your house keys but they are a little more advanced these days.
Here are two of the most common types of lockboxes.
- Combination Lockboxes: The combination lockbox has been one of the nation’s most trusted lockboxes for over four decades and is still commonly used today. Although it is difficult to break into one of these lockboxes, their electronic equivalent has several advantages.
- Electronic Lockboxes: These boxes are an essential security precaution because many of them operate on Infrared systems so there is no need for keys. The release mechanism is released by pointing an electronic ‘key’ at its sensor or by a temporary code you can pass along to buyers or agents. The lockbox then records the user’s entry and opens the box. The system also sends you an email when it is opened and you can program the box to only open at certain times.
Video Home Security
Another tip to ensure home safety when selling is to invest in security tools such as cameras.
There are dozens of reputable providers selling top-quality cameras for less than $100.
They are easy to install and their relative inexpensiveness means you can place one in almost every room in the home.
There are even systems that allow you to view a live Internet recording of your house.
When selling your property, a security camera can pick up the activities of professional criminals who come back after a viewing to break into your home.
Please note that you must disclose the existence of the security cameras to any prospective buyers that walk through.
Of course, you don’t have to tell them where the cameras are located.
Home Security Monitoring
If you don’t have a home security system, we strongly urge you to invest in one because you can use it to monitor your property 24/7, even if you’re not selling the house.
The safety features of these systems prevent theft as they monitor the opening and closing of doors and windows.
When someone tries to break in, an alarm will sound and both you, and the security firm, will receive instant notification.
It is a lot easier, and safer, to sell a vacant home where all furniture has been removed and personal belongs packed into boxes and also out of the home.
It is safer because you’ve automatically removed all traces of personal information, and easier because prospective buyers can visualize what they want in their new property; it’s tough to do that when there’s a lot of clutter around.
However, there are some instances where selling a vacant home becomes a royal pain.
For example, you may have to ‘stage’ the home which means adding furniture etc. to rooms because buyers are turned off by viewing nothing but room after room consisting of four walls and a ceiling.
Then there is the increased likelihood of vandalism which will force you to pay for repairs.
We recommend investing in insurance to ease the financial burden and help sell the house safely.
Also known as unoccupied home insurance, it is a way to keep you financially safe if your home is likely to be vacant when you try and sell it.
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a home is deemed ‘vacant’ if left unattended for 60+ days.
If your home remains vacant beyond this timeframe, it’s possible that you’ll void your homeowner’s insurance coverage.
By purchasing this coverage, you will protect your vacant home when selling and eliminate one more potential headache.
We are not huge advocates for open houses.
All you’re doing is inviting chaos by enabling multiple people to parade through your home simultaneously.
Common sense dictates that it is far easier for criminal minds to prosper when your attention is diverted elsewhere.
Imagine this scenario: You have an open house and 30 people arrive in the space of a few minutes.
How do you account for them all?
It will be almost impossible to get everyone to sign their name and include their phone number and address.
If something goes missing, it will be impossible to determine the culprit unless you either catch them red-handed or see them on security cameras.
Even in the latter case, you will have little recourse unless they were foolish enough to give their real name and address.
We heard of one case where a seller had an agent in charge of an open house.
Over the two-hour window, up to 40 couples came and went and while the agent tried her best to watch everyone, her scrutiny didn’t prevent a $5,000 painting getting snatched off the wall.
In reality, open houses are only good for agents as it allows them the opportunity to gain buyer leads.
By avoiding open houses, you protect your home while selling and lose nothing because the chances of it leading to a sale are minimal at best.
But you should decide what is best for you and your situation.
Final Thoughts on Home Safety When Selling
Selling your house as a FSBO will save you thousands of dollars but don’t let that savings be negated by not taking the security precautions presented in this guide.
To protect the home and ensure it is sold safely, you must take detailed security precautions.
Make sure you strip the property of everything valuable and remove all personal information to reduce the risk of identity theft.
Stay safe by verifying the buyer’s agent and if they don’t have one, do your best to ensure the person is a legitimate buyer.
Invest in security cameras if you haven’t already and just say ‘NO’ to open houses as they are far more trouble than they are worth!
About the Author: Kris Lippi is the owner of ISoldMyHouse.com and the broker of Get LISTED Realty. He actively writes about real estate related topics such as buying and selling homes, how-to guides for around the house and home product recommendations. He has been featured in Inman, Readers Digest, American Express, Fit Small Business, Policy Genius, Lending Tree, GoDaddy, Manta as well as other major websites. Read more about us here.