You’re ready to sell your house. You contact your Realtor and start going through the checklist to prepare your house – scrubbing the floors, re-arranging furniture, straightening the picture frames and de-cluttering all those souvenirs you’ve accumulated through the years.

It is an exciting time - an anxious time - and there are so many unknowns into which you are now stepping. As Realtors, our team engages in this process almost daily. It is old hat for us. And we also recognize the importance of being thorough with you in properly preparing you and your house. This every day occurrence for us is not every day for you. To that end, there are some critical conversations in ensuring your house is not only presented perfectly for the buyers. Equally important is to ensure your house and your family are safe when on the market.

To be direct – you are letting strangers into your house. Most of those strangers are clearly there with the intent to purchase a home. Naturally, they will tour the home with their Realtor or, during an open house, with one of our team. However, we cannot be in all places at all times and some simple precautions will protect your family and your possessions. Even the best-intentioned buyer may spot a small tech device and easily pocket it without notice.

And in the absolute extreme cases, there may also be individuals who simply attend an Open House with the sole intention of a quick theft or, at worst, gaining information about you and your family.
Common items that get stolen include jewelry, mobile phones, laptops and tablets, sentimental valuables and in extreme cases, identities.

A good realtor will work with you to stage your house, but ultimately they are not liable or responsible for the items you leave in your home during any showing. We always recommend a few easy-to-follow steps to protect what matters most to you.
 
Remove the valuables
All the items listed above are very popular, high value and easy to conceal. “Crimes of opportunity” are just that – opportunistic and easy to quickly pocket an item of value. When removing these items, it is always best to take them right out of your home or lock them in a safe or storage unit. Strategically hidden in a dresser drawer can also work although there have been cases of people being caught opening drawers and looking around.

I recall on one occasion a buyer and their agent coming into the open house. The buyers started to go upstairs so the agent felt this a perfect opportunity to sit on the couch and check his email. I disagreed however and did kindly remind him that his client was to be escorted through the house by him. Suffice to say that if the Realtor is not with the client, how does anyone know what the potential buyer is doing in another room.
 
Remove the medications
Prescription and over-the-counter medications are not something that a lot of people would consider a theft risk, but there are people who do seek these out. Prescription drugs especially are important to put away. These are easily sold on the streets for profit and, more important, losing your meds when you may need them most could have serious health implications. Put your prescriptions away or take them with you; and hide those over-the-counter meds that are an easy sale for profit.
 
Secure the important documents 
More often than I care to recall, I have walked through homes with buyer clients and found very personal seller information exposed on desks, counter tops and stuck to fridges. On one occasion, it was tax season, and all the seller’s bills and tax related items were spread out on the dining room table. VISA bills, T4 Income statements left fully exposed for wandering eyes.

On another tour of a home, written on a white board, were sums of money listed and to be paid off. Large sums of money that were owed and the seller was clearly dependent upon the sale of the house to dig out from under a significant debt. Not information that should be readily visible when exposing a house to the market. Things like bills, bank statements, credit card receipts and passports are high value items. And it is not just about keeping your information private. Identity theft is a significant problem in our current world. It doesn’t take a lot of information to open a new bank account or credit card in someone’s name, and should someone get a hold of your mobile phone or laptop (see point #1), having all your passwords saved in the apps and browsers makes digital identity theft incredibly easy.

And those wall calendars or calendar whiteboards – the ones that are colour-coded – that have little Johnny’s schedule in red and Mary’s schedule in green make it very easy for strangers to track your activities. Please, when selling, keep your life private from wandering eyes.
 
Remove the photos
Our families at varying stages of life create wonderful memories. And those memories are often captured in a photo and hung on the wall. It is our home and we are proud. Though you may be going for a ‘homey’ feel during showings, this point underscores the last few – theft is easier when someone has a clear picture (no pun intended) of what your life looks like. Thieves who get an idea of how many people to look out for and what their schedule is like may find opportunities at another time to retrieve what they want to steal. Anything that identifies you should be removed entirely.

In old home staging vernacular, we used to advise that it best to remove family photos so the buyer can see their life in the home and not your life. That does hold true to a certain extent now. However, more critical, is that a stranger now potentially knows what you and your children look like. I do not wish to cause fear or panic in the minds of anyone selling a home. Details of your life, where you go to the gym, what school your children attend are details that a very small percentage of our population are actually looking for. Remove, remove, remove. Keep you and your family safe.
 
Take inventory
Not all stolen items are identified as stolen right away – if you aren’t fully aware of what is and isn’t where it should be, you may not even notice something’s gone. Keep a detailed list – and take photos – of what’s most valuable to you and take inventory after every showing of your house. Call your Realtor right away and advise them of a missing item. That way, we can easily track the last few showings and narrow the list of possible suspects.
 
Track your guests
Having a sign-in sheet or having someone escort them around is the only way to dramatically reduce potential theft. Encouraging guests to leave oversized coats and bags at the front of the house also removes the ability to easily conceal stolen items.
 
Check the doors, windows… and the lockbox
You have been out of your house for a few hours. In that time, there have been six showings. Realtors get distracted with client questions, phone calls, emails, texts… any number of things. When you return home, make sure all the doors were locked and windows secured. And most important, check that the lockbox is secure. On rare occasion, I have come to show a house and the lockbox, although closed, is set to the actual code and therefore easily opened.

Always spin the numbers to ensure your lockbox is properly secured. And absolutely, when you return and notice a door unlocked or the lockbox not locked, call your Realtor. It is easier for us to follow up with those last few showings and politely remind the other Realtor of there professional obligations when showing homes.
 
Moving is a necessity of life. And being aware of the potential perils is your Realtor’s obligation to share and prepare. Are you ready to showcase your beautiful home for the world to see? Give us a call. We will work tirelessly to ensure your house is the best on the market AND that you and your family are safe every step of the way.