Although Reifler-Alessi showed the house (pictured at left) in Boston's Fairmount Hill only when both she and her husband were at home, she didn't take any other safety precautions. "We did not follow people around. We didn't want to hover."
The couple was taking a risk. For starters, the 1882 Victorian was advertised as being "on a quiet dead end street" -- a potential lure for would-be burglars.
While theft of belongings is the first thing that comes to mind as a risk for home sellers, personal safety should also be a concern. Even real estate professionals have been attacked while showing homes, as Housing Watch has reported. Two Ohio real estate agents recently were killed while showing properties.
Identity theft is another danger, especially for FSBO sellers like Reifler-Alessi, who printed her name, phone number, street address and e-mail -- albeit a special e-mail account set up just for this purpose -- on fliers that she distributed around town.
The National Association of Realtors issues safety guidelines for its members, but even if you're selling your home without an agent, taking these precautions is a good idea. Here are 13 ways to protect yourself and your property.
1. Schedule appointments
Don't allow people to just ring your bell at any hour for a showing. Instead, have them phone ahead to make an appointment. Take their name and phone number and call them back to schedule, so that you're sure you are reaching them at a legitimate number.
Make sure that a friend or relative at a different location has a copy of the appointment list so that they know who you have showings with and when. Check in with each other immediately after each showing.
3. Show when the sun is up
Show the house in daytime whenever possible. If you must show it after dark, turn on all lights beforehand, and keep the shades, curtains or blinds open at all times.
4. Pair up
Make sure someone else is present with you for all open houses or showings and that at least one of you (subtly) keeps an eye on the prospective buyer at all times.
5. Bring up the rear
Let the prospect walk in front of you. Don't lead them, but rather, direct them from a position slightly behind them. You can gesture for them to go ahead of you and say, for example, "The master suite is in the back of the house."
6. Don't get parked in
During showings, park your car in front of the property rather than in the driveway or in the garage, so that you avoid having your car blocked in. This will make it easier for you to escape in your vehicle, if need be.
7. Plan ahead with escape routes
Stand near an exit whenever possible. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked for easy access to the outside.
8. Carry an alarm device or cell phone
If you have a home security system with a remote key fob, keep that in your hand in case you need to press the panic button to alert the monitoring service. You can do the same with the panic button for a car alarm, as the noise it sets off outside can alert people to what's going on (especially if you warn neighbors in advance of your signal). If nothing else, keep a cell phone with you.
9. Take notice of vehicles
While prospective buyers are taking a tour, take a moment to walk outside to document their license plate, or give this task to a neighbor to note the year, make, model and color of each vehicle that drops people off at your home.
10. Keep valuables out of sight
Remove small jewelry and money from plain view and out of the front of drawers, especially if you're not going to tour with each prospective buyer. Store away laptops and, if possible, put high-end stereos, flat panel TVs, etc., in storage until you sell.
11. Trim hedges
Keep shrubbery clipped down around waist level to ensure that you give your front door or your back yard maximum visibility to neighbors or others from the street.
12. Don't be too public
Limit the amount of personal information that you share. Consider advertising without using your home phone number or address on fliers. Have potential buyers e-mail you to obtain additional information. Use free accounts, such as those available from AOL.com, whenever possible.
13. Be mindful of groups
During an open house, be alert to visitors' comings and goings, especially near the end of showing hours. Police have reported groups of criminals that target open houses, showing up en masse near the end of the showing.
Reifler-Alessi was lucky, in more ways than one. Her showings went without incident, and she had a contract to sell the $400,000 house within two weeks.
For more on home security, home selling and related topics see these AOL Real Estate guides:
- Home Security Systems With Cutting Edge Protection
- How to Choose a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your Home
- Top Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent
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