There’s a video going around of a realtor in Virginia stealing pills from a home she was supposed to be showing to clients. The video exists because the homeowners installed a camera system when they discovered that jewelry was missing after previous showings.
Are these isolated incidents? Well they are very infrequent, but, unfortunately, they are not unique.
Sure, you interview your real estate agent thoroughly and you are confident that he or she is a trustworthy person who will represent your interests diligently.
The thing is that your home may be shown, as most are, by a buyer’s agent and that’s a person you probably have never met. To make things riskier still, the buyer’s agent brings with them, of course, the buyers. Most agents only meet their buyers for a very brief period and some even just meet them at the property, so there is very little vetting done. There are stories of bands of thieves acting as interested buyers touring homes to either plan a later robbery or to just pocket whatever they can during the showings.
In New York, for example, they teach Real Estate courses in jails as part of a rehabilitation program.
So what to do?
Sure we can point the finger at the crumbling values in our society and wish for a return to better, more honest times, but righting that ship can take more time and resources than the average homeowner has.
You can lobby and demand that there be more rigorous standards for Real Estate agents and you certainly should that. In New Jersey, we have some pretty high standards, especially when compared to other states. In New York, for example, they teach Real Estate courses in jails as part of a rehabilitation program. When I bought my real estate study guide for the New York Real Estate salesperson exam, the instructor gave me his email address and told me that he’d buy it back from me for $40 and use it to teach his students in the penitentiary. Again, in NJ, felons cannot get a license and even other convictions on one’s record are scrutinized before awarding a license.
If my clients don’t have a safe, I lend them one of mine until they get one of their own or a safety deposit box.
So yes, a solution is to demand higher standards for realtors and, aside from an amorous romp here and there caught on camera, I am glad to say that realtors in NJ are, the overwhelming majority, really good solid people.
The thing is that even the most trusted realtor is no match for professional, career thieves looking to steal stuff during a showing. I bet even well trained detectives will probably not catch too many of these crooks if they were showing homes.
Safeguard your stuff
My advice to my clients is very simple – safeguard your valuables. Take your jewelry and valuables to a safety deposit box. If you can’t do that, then at the very least use a safe and bolt it down so that it’s not easy to walk away with. If my clients don’t have a safe, I lend them one of mine until they get one of their own or a safety deposit box.
Small electronics, cell phones, ipods etc and various objet d’art are also attractive targets for the sticky fingers crowd. One way to secure a those is to just put a deadbolt on a small closet and explain that if the prospective buyer is serious about making an offer you’ll be happy to show them the closet during a second showing with your realtor present.
By the way I am sure I don’t have to mention how critical it is that firearms be absolutely secured!
Also note that not just watches and jewelry have to be secured but also any documents or correspondence that would enable a would be identity thief to compromise your identity.
Absolutely invest in a camera system, even if it’s just a nanny cam, and make sure you use it. A word of warning here – don’t abuse your “camera privileges” If you use your nanny cam videos to criticize other realtors for petty nonsense or because you don’t think their “selling style” is what you think it should be, then you are shooting yourself in the foot. Word will spread and realtors will avoid showing your home – trust me on this one! So use the camera system for its intended purpose of identifying thieves not -harassing realtors.
Who is showing your home?
Should you have your agent present during showings? If at all possible you can ask for that, but chances are you won’t always get it. If your realtor has a dozen or more listings that’s just not gonna happen. If this is paramount concern, then investigate how many other listings your agent has before hiring them to represent you. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, ask your agent if an increase in commissions will incentivise them to be present at the showings.
Who is seeing your home?
should shall be prequalified. This is a very important point because it will not only save you from needless traipsing through your home, but it is also an important step to ensure that your home is shown to “real” buyers and not to con artists looking to loot and do harm. A “prequal” is not a foolproof method, but it is an additional layer of protection and one more professional talking to your potential buyer before they enter your home. The mortgage broker may be able to detect inconsistencies in the individual’s story and alert the agent.
Most agents do pre-qualify their potential buyers, but some, usually newer agents, don’t. Make sure that your listing agent tells showing agents that all potential buyers must be pre-qualified.
Selling your home is, for most, one of the most stressful things in life and encountering unscrupulous people only makes it worse. The steps outlined above will help your selling experience be safer and maybe somewhat saner too. Please keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of agents are honest hard working people dedicated to their profession and to their clients. Personally, I have not met a single agent that I would hesitate to recommend based on their integrity.
If you have any questions on how to make selling your home a more pleasant and comfortable experience or if you are looking for someone to sell your home, please email me at ChrisHinova@gmail.com or just Call/Text me at 201.562.6850. I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. To see some of the things I do to help sell your home, please click here.