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Open House Thefts

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Dear Phyllis,

Three years ago, our home was on the market but because we listed a bit high it didn’t sell. During the first open house, my Rolex was stolen. I didn’t leave it out in plain sight – it was in my dresser drawer. When I told my Realtor® about it, he acted as if it were my fault. I am thinking about selling my home and am concerned about being burglarized again. Do I have to have open houses? If I do, can I remain in the home? If I agree to have open houses, what security steps should my Realtor take?

Thank you,
Reluctant Seller

Dear Reluctant Seller,

There are two very different open houses: Broker’s and Public. The Broker’s open house (caravan) is held on the same day each week (La Canada/La Crescenta are Tuesday, Glendale on Wednesday, Pasadena and Burbank on Thursday). This is a day filled with Realtors®, some bring their clients and others “send” them. We Realtors® know the drill and can easily spot suspicious activity. With so many real estate agents walking through your home, thefts on these days are rare.

Sadly, thefts during public open houses do occur. A smart real estate trend of the last decade is shortening the duration. Typically, a two hour open house provides a constant stream of visitors, making it very difficult for a thief to rifle through your dresser drawers. But to answer your questions:

Do you have to have open houses? No, but in today’s internet driven society open houses sell homes. Gone are the days of home buyers driving aimlessly around the city looking for open house signs. Today’s buyer has researched your home online and your open house is more accurately a second showing. So let’s focus on you hiring an agent who will be more watchful the next time around.

Can I remain in the home? It’s your home you can do whatever you want. But my experience has taught me that the polite buyers will be very uncomfortable looking, opening and commenting when viewing your home. This leaves you with the buyers who will have no embarrassment – not your first choice of who you would like to be in escrow with.

What security steps should my Realtor® take? A short duration is an important step. If you have a two story home (or large home), insist on a second agent or assistant helping to keep a watchful eye.

Fortunately, open house thefts are not common and I am sorry that you were one of its rare victims. Keep in mind, that in addition to jewelry, thieves are also looking for prescription drugs and to steal your identity. Now that you are armed with these answers, when you interview real estate agents next time around, ask them what steps they will take to ensure the safety of your home and its contents during any open houses.

Best of luck to you in your sale.

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