Open houses: worth the risk?
In Chicago, I was recently alerted to a new lawsuit involving a theft at an open house. During an open house on April 22 in Highland Park, a wealthy Chicago suburb, the resident allegedly had $162,000 worth of jewelry stolen. According to an article in the Chicago Sun Times, Lena Katamnin is suing Midwest Realty Ventures, a Prudential Rubloff affiliate, for unspecified damages.
According to reports, Katamanin’s lawsuit alleges that Midwest Realty Ventures had “sole control” over her property during the open house, and, because of its “careless and negligent acts,” are thus liable for the theft.
Now, open houses are often up for debate anyways, as to whether or not they should still be done. The main thing going for open houses, even in this technological world, is that top producers maintain that they are still a great source for leads. They’re not necessarily great for selling the house, but as far as an agent’s business goes, they are still a top lead generator and referral source.
This lawsuit is an eye-opener
I have to say, I haven’t personally heard anything like this happening, ever. Chicago Agent magazine recently published an issue about open houses, and I have to admit, a few things crossed my mind: are the valuables hidden by the owners, or by the agent? Are they hidden within the home? Is the agent supposed to watch everyone who enters the open house, not only to gauge interest but also to make sure nothing shady is going on (and also to look out for the agent’s own safety, another big issue with open houses)?
Diana Ivas, a RE/MAX agent in Hinsdale, commented, “We have the seller sign a disclaimer that the agent is not responsible for such an occurrence that could happen at an open house.”
An anonymous commenter also had this to say, “In this day and age, I question the wisdom of open houses in occupied homes. Should we throw open those doors and permit anyone and everyone to wander through? The odds of obtaining a qualified buyer for that particular property are low. The likelihood of open house visitors being unqualified, or curious neighbors, or decor-idea shoppers or larceny minded rogues far outweighs any benefit. I understand that it is a prospecting tool, and a way to meet prospective homebuyers or even sellers. But at what risk to the homeowner?”
If you’re an agent, what do you do? Besides maybe not holding open houses and avoiding this potential mess entirely? Do you have the homeowner sign a disclaimer? Do you have the homeowner lock away valuables or stow them away to their liking? Should open houses become obsolete, seeing as there are other ways to get referrals and sell homes without putting peoples’ possessions and safety in jeopardy?