Would you allow total strangers to wander through your home while you're not there? Or put up a sign in the front yard or post on the Internet saying, "We won't be home from 1 to 3 p.m., so come on in and hang out at our house -- and while you are here, make sure to look in our closets!"
You probably would answer no, but that's exactly what happens at an open house.
Now that your home is ready to sell, opening it to the public for showings poses a few risks. While the idea of theft shouldn't be your main worry come open house day, you don't want to tempt people either. Most people aren't touring the house in hopes of walking off with your family jewels, but I certainly wouldn't want to leave any enticements. Let's just say people are naturally curious, and I have seen it with my own eyes. It's a fact: Buyers open all closets, cabinets, and drawers of furniture pieces while they are touring a home.
Reduce the chance that you'll return home to one or two fewer of your precious belongings by thinking about the target spots: medicine cabinets, jewelry boxes, and rooms filled with little gadgets someone can easily snatch. Scan your house room by room and consider removing anything you don't want an opportunistic stranger to grab. This includes locking up prescriptions, notes with valuable or personal information, paperwork, checkbooks, and jewelry.
Also, don't overlook potential opportunities for identity theft. Never leave mail, bills, or bank statements where anyone can have access to them. Stuffing them into a drawer is not a safe solution. Lock them up while your home is on the market. Home shoppers will rifle through drawers and cabinets, especially those who may have anything less than good intentions.
I'm not a big proponent of obsessing over the security of each and every item in your house. That only creates a state of fear. No one is going to walk out your front door carrying your plasma TV during an open house.
However, it's important to safeguard yourself. So with that in mind, consider the following tips.
Open house safety tips
- Find a reputable agent and talk to her or him about how to safeguard your possessions.
- Make sure your agent uses a sign-in sheet for everyone who comes into the house.
- For multilevel homes, ask your agent to bring an assistant so all floors are covered at all times.
- Remove valuables from view and store them in a safe, locked place.
- Remove all prescription medicines and lock those up too.
- Don't forget about small electronics, such as laptops, iPads, smartphones, and other electronic devices that are easy to pick up and tuck in a pocket.
- Make sure your desktop computers are locked with a passcode.
- Bills, checks, bank statements, passports, and ID cards should be secured.
- Don't use any heirlooms or valuable possessions to stage your rooms.
- If images of your home are on Trulia or any other online real estate site, don't display valuables that will entice thieves.
- After each open house, insist that the real estate agent lock all doors and windows, as you wouldn't want anyone "stopping back by" later after they have already been through the house.