How to Reduce the Risk of Theft During an Open House

Posted by Hannah Smith on Jul 25, 2019 04:51 PM EDT
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Open houses are a great way to drum up interest in a home and get potential buyers to put in an offer. But opening the door to the public does come with risks. One big risk that sellers (and some agents) often overlook is theft. 

An open house is a perfect opportunity for a thief to walk off with the seller's valuables or personal information. 

The Risks of an Open House

Most open houses go off without a hitch. But without careful planning, the risk of theft is very real. 

Thieves don't walk around wearing signs, so it can be impossible to pick them out in the crowd. While touring the home, there's a risk that a thief could:

  • Steal the seller's belongings, particularly jewelry which is valuable and easy to transport.
  • Steal the seller's mail to gain their personal information.
  • Steal important documents that contain sensitive and personal information.
  • Scout out the home for a future burglary.

Theft, in general, comes with serious penalties. Even mail theft can come with a hefty penalty. According to Keller Law Offices, offenders can face up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine for mail theft. But identifying the thief can be virtually impossible unless there is a complete log of all of the visitors. Even then, it's easy for someone to sneak through, especially if the open house attracts a lot of people.

How to Reduce the Risk of Theft During an Open House

Agents and sellers shouldn't let the prospect of theft put them off from hosting an open house. Taking steps to reduce or eliminate the risk of theft can make the open house safe and successful.

Remove and Protect Valuables

The first and most obvious step is to remove and/or protect the seller's valuables. Ideally, valuables should be locked away and removed from the property. If it's not possible to remove the valuables, they should at least be removed from out of sight.

This includes:

  • Jewelry
  • Family heirlooms
  • Financial documents
  • Cash
  • Art and collectibles
  • Prescription drugs
  • Firearms

It's better to be overly cautious than to be careless when it comes to protecting valuables. Really, there's no reason for sellers to have these items out in the open, particularly because the goal is usually to de-personalize the home.

Remove Mail and Electronics

Along with protecting and/or removing valuables, sellers should also remove mail and electronics that may contain personal information. 

Thieves can gather a lot of information from stolen mail. Laptops and tablets are easily stolen and may provide thieves with data that allows them to steal the seller's identity. Desktop PCs should be password-protected to prevent any visitors from viewing any files on the computer.

Keep Track of Visitors

It's customary for guests to sign in when coming into an open house, but not everyone will do this. It helps to have an extra person on hand to make sure that everyone signs in. If possible, it may be worthwhile to keep track of the cars and license plates of all vehicles outside of the home. 

If something is stolen, the guest list and license plate information may help track down the culprit.

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