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Homeowner suing brokerage for theft during open house

A recent case in Chicago has the real estate industry reevaluating their position on open houses, how to safeguard, and whether they are even worth the risk.

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open house theft

open house theft

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?

Stephanie Sims is the managing editor of Agent Publishing, which currently has online publications in Chicago, Houston and Miami. With expertise in evaluating housing markets, website content and social media strategy, and reporting information agents want to know about, Stephanie can be found at her desk with coffee that got cold or not eating lunch because she’s busy planning editorial assignments and interviews for the Agent Publishing websites.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    November 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I’m pretty sure if you pulled out a waiver for your clients to sign before holding an open house – without a great script to talk them off the ceilling –  they would balk at you doing the open house in the first place.
     
    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Emmy Basch Simpson

    November 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    I tell my seller clients when we do a walk thru right after the listing agreement is signed that they must must must put away all valuables – jewelry, electronics, and so on. I constantly remind them, too – especially if an open house is being held. Invest in a safe if the items you need to stow away are used regularly…or a safe deposit box for important papers and so on.
    Should we be held responsible? Not if we’re doing our job as a listing agent.

  3. VickiMoore

    November 15, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I always tell my clients you’re opening your door to strangers – even for private showings.  If you have anything: jewelry, firearms, prescriptions, checkbooks, passports, credit cards, taxes – get them out of the house.  Identity theft is just as important to safeguard against.  But I don’t have them sign a waiver – well, I haven’t yet.

  4. FredLight

    November 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    This is why doing a video walk through is far superior than an open house.  You have an “open house” 24/7 around the world.  The neighbors, the curious and the unqualified can see and walk through the house without bother ing anyone or wasting anyone’s time.  For those who are seriously interested, it a FIRST SHOWING.  When they make that appointment for a private showing, it’s a SECOND SHOWING.
     
    And, most of all, security is not an issue in any way.  Not to mention, as a Realtor you don’t have to spend your Sunday afternoons babysitting someone’s house and blowing up balloons.

  5. J Philip Faranda

    November 16, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Let’s suppose the agent accosted the thieves in the act. What then? Tackle them?
    Take one in the gut for the sale of the seller’s material possessions? People need to secure their valuables. Real estate agents cannot sell and prevent crime simultaneously. It isn’t safe and it doesn’t sell the property.

  6. JimLee

    November 16, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Still another great reason not to do open houses. We do broker opens for agents in the area but almost all of our sellers are relieved when we tell them we won’t be doing a public open house.

  7. MiriamBernstein

    November 24, 2012 at 11:41 am

    then there are thieves who appear, keep the agent occupied and one takes her purse, her car and house keys and then leave while the agent continues to do the open house….

  8. Lahore Real Estate

    November 28, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Why residents don’t save their items although they know someone may see the open house whether they are with broker or not. We cannot blame someone until we know who the thief is. It is our responsibility to save any kind of important things in own house.
    Marketing Manager
    http://www.zameen.com/

  9. Pingback: Should Real Estate Agents Attend Home Inspections?

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Austin

Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?

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Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.

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aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

Click here to continue reading this story…

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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zillow move

Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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