Guide to SHOWING YOUR HOME SAFELYList your Home for Sale
Though it's not an issue anyone likes to dwell on, staying safe while showing your home is paramount. While incidents involving theft or personal injury may be rare, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Keep in mind that these security measures are relevant when showing your home to potential FSBO buyers who are not using a buyer agent. If you decide to accept inquiries and have buyer agents show your property, you will want to be flexible with the following suggestions, as buyer agents will be present at all showings.
Screen Your BuyersWithout exception, anyone who wants to tour your house should be screened in advance to determine whether they’re a legitimate house hunter. In an initial phone call or email exchange, ask the prospects:
• Their name
• Their phone number
• What neighborhood they currently live in
• If their house is for sale
• When they want to move
You may want to take this a step further and request a copy of their mortgage pre-approval letter and driver’s license. Either way, keep a log of everyone with whom you speak, email or text about your home. If they pass your screening, make an appointment. Finally, when potential buyers arrive, write down their license plate number and their car’s make, color and model, in case you need to track them down later.
Private InformationWhen you’re listing your home, creating marketing documents and speaking about your home to potential buyers, keep certain information private.
Protect yourself by not using your full name. Instead, use a first initial and last name only. This doesn’t disclose gender. Similarly, don’t use your personal phone number or email address. Route all calls through a call center; this provides a secure and effective way to communicate with house hunters and eliminates the need for you to share contact info. Use a temporary email address account that you can cancel after your home sells. These measures not only ensure your privacy and safety, they also help screen serious buyers from lookie-loos. Services like NoMoreAgent.com offer an 800 number and call center that takes your calls, as well as an e-mail address that will keep your personal information anonymous until you are ready to move forward.
Remember that you don’t need to verbally share information with potential buyers, even if they ask nicely. For example, they don’t need to know your children’s names, where they attend school or their ages. Keeping private information private provides a safety net.
Call for Back-UpSpeaking of a safety net, it’s good to have one. First and foremost, never show your house alone. Your kids don’t count; in fact, you'll probably want to have them stay at a friend's during showings. Always make sure at least one other adult is present.
Before every showing, let a neighbor, friend or family member know the time of the appointment, the name of the person you’re showing the home to, and what time the showing should end. If you don’t call or text them by an agreed time, they should know to come over and check on you.
If for some reason you must show your house alone, agree on a distress signal with a friend. That way, if you feel unsafe during the showing, you can call your friend and use the distress signal. This word or phrase should be something that you can both remember. It should also sound innocuous, so you can use it if the person that’s making you uneasy is listening. It could be something as simple as “Can you text me that address we talked about?”
Finally, pre-program emergency numbers into your phone, including 911. If you have a home phone, use that first, as your address will be transmitted to the 911 operator automatically when you dial.
Appointment OnlyWith the exception of open houses – where the whole point is to get as many people as possible through the door – follow a policy of not showing the home to walk-ups. If a passerby knocks on the door and expresses interest in seeing your home, politely but firmly ask them to make an appointment.
During the ShowingSchedule your showings for daylight hours only and keep all of the windows and drapes open.
Always walk behind the potential buyer; if you’re showing to a large group, do your best to keep them together and not let individuals wander freely around the house. Avoid letting visitors use the restroom, as they may search your medicine cabinet or unlatch a window for easy entry later.
However, it’s not always possible to stay with potential buyers all the time, so safeguard your valuables, as well as your personal documents to prevent identity theft. Collect objects that are easy to transport or might attract thieves, and store them in a secure location: a safe, a safe deposit box, or even the locked trunk of your car. Note: Don’t just throw your valuables into a drawer; you never know when someone will decide to rummage through it.
Valuables to keep out of sight include:
• Laptops and digital devices
• Jewelry and watches
• Car keys
• Financial statements, bills and other sensitive documents
While televisions, computers and stereos might not be easily portable, they can be tempting. Consider moving them out of the house during showings. Ditto with pictures of your children or anything that indicates where they attend school, such as clothing with school emblems on it.
Precautionary MeasuresBefore an open house or a showing, take a few simple precautionary measures to ensure your safety. First, park your car in a spot where you can’t get blocked in by other cars. This may mean parking on the street, rather than in the garage or driveway.
Have an escape route planned. Keep your doors unlocked whenever someone is touring your home and try not to let the visitor get between you and your exit.
Finally, carry your cell phone, cordless phone or security system key fob with you at all times in case you need to hit a panic button. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, you have every right to refuse to show the home or cut a showing short. No potential sale is worth a threat to your safety, so trust your instincts and stay safe.
Note for buyer agent showings: When you’re showing a home to buyers’ agents, you’ll need to be flexible on the above suggestions. After all, the agent will be present during all showings. Still, it's a good idea to always ask buyer agents to provide you with their contact information and ask for the name of their brokerage firm. A quick internet search will help you verify the identity of the agent. Consider purchasing a combination lock box to allow agents to enter your home for showings; just be sure to change the combination frequently.
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