It is summer, and I know there are a lot of people who are trying to sell their homes and settle into a new place before the school year begins.
Selling a house is stressful enough without having to worry about the security of your home while it’s on the market. Last summer, folks in California’s San Gabriel Valley area experienced a string of burglaries targeting homes for sale.
Police arrested Arthur Edward Hernandez and Tracey Lee Viera at a vacant home and booked them for burglary, grand theft, identity theft, receiving stolen property and trespassing.
Local authorities realized these two were responsible for other burglaries in the area after they recovered stolen items from several homes in a Rosemead storage unit the duo had rented.
Police also discovered Hernandez and Viera had used real estate websites — like Zillow and Trulia — that showed pictures of the homes to determine if they were unoccupied. Clearly, these two criminals did their homework.
Steps to Secure Selling
When selling your home, the more information and exposure you can provide to potential buyers the better. However, you need to balance the security risks of sharing too much information. According to realtor Brent Chang of real estate firm Compass, “Exposure sells houses. The biggest peril we see is exposing too much information on the internet.”
That being said, here are five ways you can keep your home safe and secure while still appealing to potential buyers:
- Ask your neighbors to help — If you’ve already moved and are no longer in the area, ask a neighbor to look after your house. This should include checking to make sure the doors and windows are locked, turning lights on and off, even putting out the trash. Hopefully, you will have many prospective buyers coming and looking at the house, and who knows what door or window they may inadvertently leave unlocked. So ask a trusted neighbor to check the house regularly.
- Inventory your home — If you’re still living in the home, your realtor will let you know when they want to bring by potential buyers. The nice thing about this is you will know exactly who has been in your home if anything goes missing — which is why I recommend always conducting a quick inventory check after each visitor leaves. Ensure no items are missing, especially personal items such as medications, mail and anything else that contains confidential information. Plus, don’t forget to make sure all doors and windows are locked after someone tours your home.
- Contact your insurance company — Call your homeowners insurance company to see whether your coverage changes at all if your home is vacant. You should also ask if they offer any type of extra vandalism coverage, which you may want to consider purchasing if your home is empty.
- Keep your security system — If you have a home security system, you should absolutely keep the system turned on until your home is sold. Criminals will assume that if a home is empty and the owners have obviously moved, they will have canceled or deactivated the security system. Most alarm companies will allow you to set up guest codes for realtors. Or if you have a system that’s connected to your smartphone, you can turn the alarm off for each viewing (just be sure to turn it on again afterward).
- Be wary of unexpected visitors — Whether you are using a realtor or selling on your own, always be cautious of people who stop by unexpectedly to see the house. Some criminals case homes by pretending to be interested buyers. Think about it — it’s an easy way to convince someone to let you in. Always be cautious of unexpected visitors and trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right.
Real estate agents have to be incredibly safety-conscious when showing homes and this caution should extend to the seller as well. Remember, criminals are always on the lookout for easy ways to gain access so they can steal your belongings. Don’t make it any easier for them.
And it certainly won’t help you sell your home if you have a squatter or find out that a thief has made off with all of your appliances.