There have been several recently reported thefts that have occurred during open houses in Santa Clara County. Individuals have been attending open houses and signing in with a fake name, phone number, and address. They are commonly targeting two story houses so they have a better chance of creating separation between themselves and the REALTOR®. Common items that have been reported stolen include cash, wallets (out of purses), jewelry, and other small items. Sometimes the thief will do a quick walk through the house and then ask a question about the number of bedroom or bathrooms upstairs. They will then say that they missed a room and go back upstairs for a quick look. Many of the thefts are happening at this time. In many instances, the thief says that they are very interested in the property and plan on coming back later in the day with their spouse, but they never return.
Since holding open houses exposes you to people that you’ve never met before, it is critical that REALTORS® follow all possible safety precautions. Even a buyer that seems legitimate could quickly decide to steal a small item on a whim. NAR has provided the following 10 tips for holding a safe open house:
- If possible, always try to have at least one other person working with you at the open house.
- Check your cell phone’s strength and signal prior to the open house. Have emergency numbers programmed on speed dial.
- Upon entering a house for the first time, check all rooms and determine several “escape” routes. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape.
- Make sure that if you were to escape by the back door, you could escape from the backyard. Frequently, high fences surround yards that contain swimming pools or hot tubs.
- Have all open house visitors sign in. Ask for full name, address, phone number and email.
- When showing the house, always walk behind the prospect. Direct them; don’t lead them. Say, for example, “The kitchen is on your left,” and gesture for them to go ahead of you.
- Avoid attics, basements, and getting trapped in small rooms.
- Notify someone in your office, your answering service, a friend or a relative that you will be calling in every hour on the hour. And if you don’t call, they are to call you.
- Inform a neighbor that you will be showing the house and ask if he or she would keep an eye and ear open for anything out of the ordinary.
- Don’t assume that everyone has left the premises at the end of an open house. Check all of the rooms and the backyard prior to locking the doors. Be prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.
The following video also provides a great refresher on safety tips when holding open houses and meeting clients for the first time: