You've dusted every nook and cranny, pulled rogue weeds from the garden bed and strategically placed cut flowers in every room of the house. However, if you feel a bit unsettled when you close the door and leave for a showing of your home, you're likely not alone. Unfortunately, houses for sale can be targets for theft, liability lawsuits and more -- particularly during an open house while there a lot of people milling around at once. Here are a few ways you can protect your home while it's on the market so that you can feel more at ease.
Inform the neighbors: If you're not returning directly home after a showing, ask a neighbor to swing by and make sure your doors were locked after the showing. This will keep your home safe
Items to remove from sight: your Social Security number, blank checks, prescription medications and anything else that someone might be able to snatch unnoticed.
Hide the valuables: Don't keep high-value items visible in the home while it's on the market, especially jewelry, collectibles and other items that can be easily stolen. Keep these items in a large, heavy safe or secure a safe deposit box at your bank to stash them while your house is on the market. Other items to remove from sight: your Social Security number, blank checks, prescription medications and anything else that someone might be able to snatch unnoticed.
Slips, trips and falls -- oh my!: If someone gets hurt on your property, they can hold you liable and sue. Since potential buyers aren't familiar with your home and you're not there to warn them about "that one loose floor board," make sure to prevent injuries and resulting lawsuits with these preventive measures:
- Repair loose and uneven flooring, especially on porches and decks.
- Remove ice and snow from walkways and steps.
- Secure rugs with non-slip padding.
- Keep hallways and stairwells clear of clutter.
- Make sure your home is well lit inside and out.
Gun safety: Gun owners -- you may think your gun is well concealed in your bedroom closet, but potential buyers likely will poke around in there to get an idea about storage space. If you keep a gun in your home, make sure it is unloaded, locked in a gun box and out of sight. This can prevent accidental injuries and theft.
Dog bites: If you are a dog owner, consider what you will do with your pet while your home is being shown to potential buyers. Your best bet? Remove dogs from the premises. This will not only make your home more appealing to non-animal lovers, but it also eliminates the threat of dog bites. While Fido might be your most loving companion, you never know how he's going to react when strangers come a-knockin'. If you can't remove your pooch from the house, secure a dog crate that can be placed indoors or out, so that the animal can be safely contained during the showing.
If you have particular concerns about your property, communicate these to your real estate agent. You can always request that he or she is present for any showing of your home. Also talk to your insurance agent if you have questions about the types of coverage you have for property damage and personal liability lawsuits. Since your home is likely your biggest investment, make sure you protect it and your financial livelihood while it's on the market to get the biggest bang from your home sale buck.
Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley writes for HomeownersInsurance.com, an online insurance resource for homeowners and drivers across the country. The HomeownersInsurance.com blog provides fresh tips and advice on a range of financial topics to help homeowners and homebuyers make educated decisions about their insurance purchases.