Safety issues when marketing your home
Julie Garton-Good, GRI, DREI

If you've decided to sell your home on your own, you may have gathered information from a variety of sources -- facts and forms from lenders about how to prequalify buyers, information on comparable properties to gauge what your home should be worth, and so on. At this point, you probably feel you've covered all the bases and are ready to launch your marketing campaign.

But, wait. What about safety issues? How do you know that potential buyers entering your home aren't there to "case it," steal your possessions or, heaven forbid, harm your family? While we all hate to think about the consequences of crime, taking precautions up front before you start to market your home is your best safety bet.

Here are some common sense steps to take:

  1. Pre-screen buyers. When buyers first call to inquire about your home, obtain their name, address and phone number, and ask whether or not they've talked to a lender to be prequalified or preapproved for a loan. Don't be too concerned that these types of questions might turn off a prospect. A buyer worthy of taking your time to tramp through your home will gladly offer this information. In fact, buyers who have spoken to lenders are usually more than happy to volunteer that they're financially approved. If you volunteer that you're collecting information very much like an agent would when working with a prospect, buyers will understand. And it's great for keeping a log of inquiries should something adverse happen in the future. You may want to assure prospective buyers that you'll be safeguarding the information you receive from them and won't use it to contact them in the future.
  2. Show your home by appointment only. Yes, you have a sign in the yard; but that doesn't mean that you have to open your door to anyone just "dropping by," especially after dark. In addition, it's best if you don't show the home alone. That way, if there's more than one buyer in the prospective group, you won't be spread too thin not being in all rooms at all times.
  3. Be well staffed at open houses. Having too few tour guides during an open house can invite trouble. One often reported scam is for couples posing as buyers to head in different directions. The female goes straight to the kitchen, the male goes to check out if the antique bed they have will fit in the bedroom. Later, the seller discovers jewelry, collectibles and heirlooms missing, often appropriated from dresser drawers while talking to the female accomplice in the kitchen. After an open house, check to make sure that the house is secure. It's not uncommon for a thief, posing as a buyer, to leave a window open in the basement or garage or an outside door ajar so they can obtain access later.

One way to avoid many of these problems is to list your home with a Realtor. Not only will the salesperson make appointments to show your home, you'll have peace of mind in knowing that the prospective buyers escorted through your home are legitimate buyers, financially qualified and ready to buy.

It may seem silly to worry about crime happening right in your own living room. But to stay oblivious can cause you and your family potentially much more heartache than a broken real estate sale. Take safety precautions when selling your home. Your "castle" and your family are worth it.