How to stay safe while selling your home

MAY 17, 2017
How to stay safe while selling your home

Most sellers put a lot of time and effort into getting their homes ready for viewings and show days, but they also need to think about how to keep themselves and their belongings safe while the property is open to the public.

That’s the advice of Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, who says: “Prospective buyers are not the only ones who can read an advertisement or a ‘For Sale’ sign. Con artists and burglars can too, so sellers need to set boundaries from the start, and enlist the help of their agents to enforce these.

“For example, it is never in order for a stranger to just turn up and try to enter your home unannounced, on the pretext that while looking for a property in your area, they saw your sign and decided this might be the perfect home for them. You should never let them in, no matter what they say or how charming they seem. Refer them to your agent and explain that all potential buyers are being asked to make appointments to view your property and will only be able to gain access if accompanied by your agent.”

To this end, he says, you should ask your agent to use their advertising and signage as your first line of defence and include phrases like “view by appointment only”. They can always put up direction boards for a show day, and flag the event in their print and online advertising that week.

“In addition, you should ask your agent to pre-qualify anyone they bring to view your home by running basic identity, credit and employment checks on them. Anyone with criminal intent will not want to go through this process, which will, incidentally, also save you and your agent a lot of time by eliminating people who are not actually in a financial position to buy your home, no matter how much they might like it.” 

If for some reason you do have to conduct a viewing without your agent, Kotzé says, you should make use of the “buddy system” and arrange to have your partner or a friend there at the same time. “Try to show your property only during the day and make sure you have your cell phone and a remote panic button in your pocket. Dress plainly and don’t wear any expensive jewellery.

“This may sound a bit paranoid but being guarded and alert can keep you from getting into a vulnerable situation. You should also not relax your vigilance just because someone arrives in a smart car, or with a family, or with a business card that says they are a professional or an executive. Con artists come in many guises.”

He also says that if you don’t already have one, now would be a good time to install a home security system with video surveillance cameras – and put up signs advertising this fact at your entrance. “This will not only increase your security but will also boost the resale value of your property – and make criminals think twice about trying their luck at your show days.  

“And speaking of show days, you should prepare by removing all valuables, private papers and medicines from cupboards or drawers and putting them in a safe or in a hidden lockbox. Do not leave laptops, cellphones or other expensive equipment lying around either. Sometimes criminals will come to a show day not to steal anything themselves, but to act as an informant for others who plan to burgle your home later and want to know where you keep the ‘good stuff’.

“At other times, however, their intention will be to pocket whatever they can that has resale value – and it is very important that if you or your agent suspect them of doing so, or see them taking something, you do not confront them or try to take the item back. You should rather leave the property and immediately call the police and your security company.”

Meanwhile, Kotzé says, there are a few other steps you should take to make sure your show house is safe for real buyers – the first of which is to put away anything that might be hazardous to children who get bored while their parents are viewing the property and start exploring on their own. If you have a pool, you should also padlock the pool fence gate or make sure the safety net is on and properly secured.    

“In addition, you should make sure that the path to your front door is clear of any toys, bikes or tools, and that there are no wrinkled carpets or wet floors indoors that could also be a trip or slip hazard. And finally, if you have dogs, you should make sure that they are securely contained before anyone starts to arrive – or better still, taken to a friend or family member for the day.

“The last thing you want is for anyone to get hurt while viewing your home.”