Prepare for security issues when hosting an open house

When you promote an open house, you're essentially letting people know that anyone who wants to can go inside your home on a certain date. What's more, you're actively encouraging people to peek into your closets and cabinets, and you won't be there when they do.

Put this way, it's clear that open houses present some security risks. Before you host this type of event when selling your home, you'll want to make sure you take a few safeguards to prevent theft.

Since real estate agents will often be busy greeting visitors and answering questions about the property, thieves can easily take the opportunity to steal a few things. Ann O'Connell, writing for the legal site Nolo, says prescription drugs are the most commonly stolen item at open houses, followed by jewelry and small electronics. These items can be quickly and surreptitiously pocketed, especially if they are out in the open.

Before hosting an open house, you should make adequate preparations to discourage theft. Bill Gassett, owner of the Massachusetts company Maximum Real Estate Exposure, says this starts with finding a real estate agent whom you trust. It helps to have a professional with good references who has experience hosting open houses.

You can also recruit a few other people to keep an eye on visitors during the open house. Your agent may be able to bring an assistant, which is especially helpful if you need to monitor multiple floors. Your neighbors may also be willing to mingle with the visitors and look out for any suspicious activity.

You can take on this role if you decide to stay in the home during the event. However, it's important to refrain from responding to any comments visitors make and to let your real estate agent do the job of promoting your home.

If you are particularly worried about theft occurring during an open house, you might want to hire a security guard attend the event. Jenny Hu, writing for the home security company Reolink, says you can ask this guard to wear plainclothes to avoid making visitors uncomfortable.

Security cameras can be a useful way of keeping track of visitors, and visible cameras may help to deter theft. Cameras stationed near any valuables might be able to capture footage of a theft and help the police identify the culprit.

Many real estate agents require visitors to sign in to attend an open house. You might require that visitors show a photo ID as well. These requirements allow you to keep a record of visitors and track down suspects if a theft occurs.

Of course, one of the best ways to avoid the loss of valuables is to make them less accessible to would-be thieves. Michael Corbett, writing for the real estate site Trulia, says you should lock away any valuable items that might be easily stolen. Don't forget to hide materials that could open you up to identify theft as well, including financial documents, mail, passports, or other documents with personal information. Prescription drugs in the medicine cabinet should also be removed.

Choose a hiding place carefully. Items stowed away in a dresser or nightstand drawer can be found easily. Valuables should not only be kept out of sight, but also secured behind lock and key. Chrystal Caruthers, writing for, recommends using a heavy, non-rolling file cabinet for this purpose.

Take away anything that would allow a stranger to access your home after the open house is over. Spare keys and garage door remotes should not be left in a place where they can be pocketed.

Even with precautions, there's still a chance that something could be stolen from your home. Hu says you should check your homeowners insurance policy to make sure you're protected against theft.

Make a note of any valuables before the open house takes place. Kristin Milner, writing for ADS Security, says taking photos before the event will provide a clear record of your pricier belongings. These photos can also be helpful if you need to report a theft to the police.

Limit access to the home to prevent people from discretely entering the home. Hu says there should only be one entrance open to visitors, while other doors should be kept locked.

After the event is over, check all of your doors and windows. Caruthers says some visitors may use the open house as an opportunity to case your home for a burglary, and may also surreptitiously unlock a point of entry. Don't forget to check the windows in the basement and upper floors.

You may also opt out of an open house altogether. Gassett says only a fraction of homes sales are made through this type of event, and that many visitors are simply curious to see the inside of a residence. Instead of the open house, you might focus on alternate ways to market your home and connect to potential buyers.


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