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Client Safety

Realtor safety has been spotlighted recently (and I wrote an entire post about it last week), but I’d like to turn our attention to client safety this week. Our industry does a fine job, I think, of educating Realtors on what they should do to keep themselves safe when meeting new clients or hosting open houses, but helping to keep our clients (and their homes!) safe focuses this issue in a new — and less talked about — direction. So, let’s change that, realizing that the more we talk about safety issues, the more we educate our clients and readers and friends, the better chance we all have of keeping this business, ourselves and our clients safe!

I’d encourage my fellow real estate professionals to offer a security survey to any potential client. Of course, we don’t want to frighten homeowners as they’re preparing to put their homes on the market, but denying that a home for sale carries certain vulnerabilities is just asking for trouble. It is a far better practice to have open and honest discussions with clients and give them the best possible advice about how to keep their homes and their possessions secure while their home is on the market. Arm yourself with this checklist of sound advice and I’m certain that your clients will thank you!

REMOVE OR LOCK UP ALL PRESCRIPTION DRUGS BEFORE A SHOWING. Almost half of Realtors questioned in a recent safety survey said they were aware of prescription medication being stolen from a home they were showing, either during a private showing or an open house. Clients should lock prescription medication in safes or simply take them with them when they leave the house for a showing. Often, clients don’t even know what kind of medication they’re storing, so this is a great opportunity to safely dispose of expired medication, too!

STOW VALUABLES. Of course, we’re talking about heirloom jewels and great-grandmother’s sterling silver tea service, but it is also important that clients remove mail (which can contain personal and financial information), gaming systems, cellphones and the like. In addition, clients should always remove items of sentimental value, regardless of their monetary value. Buyers often bring their children to showings and despite our very best attempts, it isn’t always possible to make sure that little Suzi is completely “hands off.”

REMOVE FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHS. Many realtors advise clients to remove family photos, but most homeowners think this is primarily a “staging” decision. Not so! In gentle terms, explain that complete strangers will be touring their home and while you will do your best to ensure that each potential buyer has been thoroughly vetted, you just can’t guarantee that everyone is 100% trustworthy. Just as a client wouldn’t post personal family photos to an open-forum chat room, they should also avoid showcasing their family members to prospective buyers.

TURN ON THE LIGHTS. A lighted room is simply more attractive, but turning on all the lights before a showing – whether daytime or evening – helps keep you and buyers safe from dark corners and unexpected (and unseen) hazards. Similarly, homeowners should give their homes a thorough inspection before they list their homes and ensure that floorboards and carpeting are in good repair.

NO WEAPONS. This seems like a no-brainer and most homeowners know to remove guns before a showing. However, many overlook the less-obvious weapons like a knife block on the kitchen counter. For everyone’s safety, they should be removed and locked away while the home is on the market.

KEEP THE HOUSE LOCKED. Even in the safest of neighborhoods, a home for sale is simply more vulnerable than its neighbors. Please remind clients to always lock their doors and windows. Sliding glass doors should be reinforced with safety bars and extra locks. Many clients will balk at the idea of a Realtor’s lock box and prefer to install their own combination lock. This is a mistake and can often have extremely serious ramifications with insurance companies. Encourage your clients to make use of a Realtor-safe lock box. If they insist on using their own, make sure they check with their homeowner’s insurance to determine their liability with a less-safe combination lock.

LET THEIR BE {OUTDOOR} LIGHT. Motion-detector lights are a great idea for outdoor lighting and can be installed inexpensively. Best of all, they help eliminate dark hiding spots around the perimeter of a home.

BEWARE OF UNEXPECTED VISITORS. Advise clients to NEVER allow a “buyer” into their home unannounced. It’s not uncommon for unexpected visitors to show up and ask to see a home. This is strictly forbidden! Anyone who legitimately wants to see a home should schedule a visit with their own or the seller’s real estate agent.

While not an exhaustive list, ensuring that these safety tips are followed will help keep you, your clients and their homes secure until you hammer that SOLD sign in their front yard.

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