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The safety of Realtors is top of mind, but what about clients?

shadowing hand over house

There has been lots of advice recently about Realtor safety, but what about the home seller’s safety?

This area seems a little scant on advice, as a profession we probably owe more consideration to the sellers who pays for the food on our table. The appropriate moment to discuss safety with your new client is probably right after the listing is signed.

There are the points you should be covering with your seller:

Explain that you can’t protect valuables

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If you’re planning on hosting an open house, remind them that you likely won’t be following every prospective buyer around the house. Unless you are insisting on visitors signing in or checking IDs, you also won’t know exactly who’s walking through the house either.

Unless you as the agent plan to be there for every showing, you’ll need to explain that you can’t protect their valuables.

Remove pharmaceuticals for every tour

Jewelry, laptops, iPads, personal mail, and especially pharmaceuticals are prime targets for thieves if not put away properly. Encourage your seller to remove prescription drugs from the home prior to every showing, or properly dispose of expired prescription drugs.

Mail may contain personal information and bank statements and are a risk from identity fraud. Explain that agents don’t want to be confronting someone taking these types of items from a home.

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Put away knife blocks

Ask the seller to put away any knife blocks before showing. These may be a safety issue for any showing agent in the home.

With all those high-definition images of the home’s interior out there on every listing site, it’s like a robber’s take-out menu.  Suggest to your seller that they consider putting high-end stereos, flat-panel TVs, etc., in storage until they sell.

Surprising tip: remove pics of kids

If your client has photos of their wife, teenage daughter or children displayed, tactfully suggest that this might not be appropriate, if say a pedophile or stalker walked through their home.

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seller safety tip

Tell sellers to not offer tours on their own

Even without a sign outside a property, the fact that the address is on every website in town is an open invitation (or an excuse) for someone to knock on the door and ask the sellers to “take a peek” inside. Explain that it’s not a good idea to let them in and that they should simply state “Please call my agent with any questions or to make an appointment”.

Explain Craigslist scams

With the growing rental fraud scams (listings are scraped by scammers who post bogus rental listings on Craigslist and other sites) potential renters could possibly be showing up at their doorsteps too, ready to move in

Check locks after tours

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Discuss with them how to make their home burglarproof when it’s on the market and the need to check that a prospect has not deliberately left a door or window unlocked, so they can gain easy access later.

Recommend that if they don’t plan on returning directly home after a showing, they should ask a trusted neighbor to pop in, to make sure your doors were locked and the windows are secured.

Consider that there would actually be a whole lot less to worry about if we knew exactly who was looking at a home.

How are we protecting sellers?

So why are we letting any old Tom, Dick, or Harry look at homes in the first place? Why are we allowing unverified buyers into our seller’s homes?

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Agents should consider counseling the seller to only allow verified prospects into their home.

The Des Moines Area Association of Realtors has already come up with an innovative seller contract, that states that no real estate agent is allowed to show the home to anyone the agent has not previously met and identified.

As a positive side effect, with this contract in place it allows agents to tell prospective buyers they have no choice but to first meet the agents in public because it is required by contract with the seller.

The other upside to this is respecting the seller’s time and effort in preparing for each showing.

After all, sellers are expected to keep up with tidiness and be ready for the next showing. I’m sure many sellers spend quite some time preparing for the next showing, then having to leave the house, sometimes with kids and animals in tow.

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The cheat sheet for your sellers:

Here’s a shortened version of the suggested list of points you should discuss with a home seller:

  • Explain you can’t be there for every showing or be responsible for their valuables.
  • At open houses, you won’t be showing every visitor around the home.
  • Jewelry, money, laptops, cellphones,  gaming systems, and pharmaceuticals should all be stored away from plain view and out of the front of drawers.
  • Put high-end stereos, flat-panel TVs, etc., in storage until you sell.
  • Remove any knife blocks and mail on their kitchen countertops
  • Remove personal photos of your wives, teenage daughters, or children.
  • Never agree to let in a stranger knocking on the door.
  • Check doors and windows after each showing.

September is Realtor Safety Month

Consider making these recommendations your own personal standard. Ask your broker to incorporate these into their Broker Safety Policy (they have one, right?)

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Peter Toner is a third generation real estate agent who has been practicing for nearly two decades. He is the Founder of Verify Photo ID - a safety app that verifies the identity of strange prospects before you meet - in three simple steps; it includes a Safety Monitor with panic alerts.

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