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For Sale by Owner Articles • - Home Selling Tips

Safe To Show?

By Robert Irwin
One of the biggest concerns "by owner" sellers have is safety. Is it safe to show your home to strangers? In order to sell, you must make your product, your house, available to potential buyers. And, of course, that means letting some people who you don't really know, into it. Is that a safe course of action?
The straight answer is that it you never be 100 percent safe - there's no way you can know for sure that the person you let into your home isn't going to steal something (then or later), or isn't going to attempt some other kind of harm. However, that's also largely true when you list and have an agent show your property. It's one of the risks of selling in today's society.
However, the number of problems associated with showing homes is relatively small. And there are ways to minimize the risk.
What's The Danger?
There are two basic threats: The first is that a visitor to your home won't really be a buyer, but will be someone who wants to steal something from it. While walking through, an unattended person may simply open drawers in a bedroom or bathroom and go through your things. There have been cases where a couple would come through and while one would distract an agent in one room, another would go through drawers in another room looking for loot.
The other threat is that the person coming through might intend bodily harm of some sort on you. While more serious, it's probably far less likely to happen.
How Do I Prevent It?
There are a variety of steps that you can take to help safeguard your property as well as yourself. For one thing, as soon as you decide to sell, clean out all your small valuables. Put them in a safety deposit box, a locker, or leave them with trusted friends or relatives. If there's nothing small to steal, it won't get stolen.
Of course, the crooks could be after bigger game than small items such as watches or jewelry. They might be after TVs, furs, valuable furniture or paintings. The person coming by either with an agent or on their own might just be "casing" your house - looking it over to see if there's anything worth stealing at a later date. The idea is that later, when you're gone, this person and cohorts might pull up with a van and loot your home. This is rare, but if you're concerned about it, the usual safety measures apply - harden your home with locks and deadbolts, put up lots of lighting, alert trusted neighbors to your movements, and, if you're really concerned, install a security system.
Threats of bodily harm are far more serious, but also can be minimized. With an agent, you can be absent while the house is shown. Selling "by owner," you'll probably want to be there. So you should screen the person as much as possible over the phone before letting them in. You can, at the least, get their phone number and call them back, so you have some contact information. And you can judge whether they have a typical buyer's knowledge of real estate and enthusiasm for house hunting.
Beyond that, it's a good idea to never show the home alone, especially if you're a woman. Have someone else, even several others there with you. There's usually safety in numbers.
No, you can't ever protect yourself completely. But, you can take reasonable measures to reduce the threat.
Robert Irwin is the most prolific real estate writer in America having produced over 100 published books in the field. His TIPS & TRAPS McGraw-Hill series has sold well over a million copies and his FOR SALE BY OWNER KIT and FIND IT, BUY IT, FIX IT and other books have been strong sellers for Dearborn.
In addition Irwin writes a regular real estate column for The Wall Street Journal online and is introducing a new weekly column
Irwin has sold his own property "by owner" and during over 30 years in the business has been a broker and consultant to lenders, agents, buyers and sellers.
He can be reached through his website

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