Spring is here and that means a lot of folks are getting ready to put their homes up for sale.  

Barbara Gofter just put her home in Lutz on the market.  She took the advice of her realtor and not only made her home ‘show ready,’ but also ‘show secure.’

“We took all our valuables and put them in our safety deposit box.  Took all of our paperwork that was important to us and locked everything up,” Gofter said.

Having strangers in your home is a necessary part of selling it, but it’s also important to be proactive and eliminate temptation.

“If it has value, it’s locked up!” said Gofter.

Lock ‘em up!

Most of us know not to leave expensive jewelry, cash and other valuables out in the open, but it’s also important to not just put them in a drawer that you think puts them out of sight.

“We know clients open cabinets, because they want to see what you have in there or to see if their items will fit in there, or they’re just being nosey,” explained Real Estate Broker Ellie Lambert, owner of Ellie & Associates. “Put [valuables] in a safety deposit box, put it in a safe in your home, put it in a locked cabinet, just don’t leave it out!”

That’s smart and that goes for prescription medications, too—especially pain medications.

“Some people are out there and they have addictions, so if you have pain medications lying around, not a good thing to do,” explained Lambert.

Also, remove any mail or documents with personal information.

“Fraud, identity theft, it’s huge. Don’t leave your mail out. Don’t leave your mortgage information out.  Don’t leave anything that would have your Social Security number, don’t leave anything out at all,” Lambert said.

Learn about lockboxes

If you do put a lockbox on your home, so that prospective buyers can have access to your home when you’re not there, ask your realtor what kind of lockbox they use.  Make sure it’s a realtor and appraiser-approved one and not just a simple, combination lock that anyone can buy in a hardware store.

Electronic boxes provide extra protection, because only licensed agents and appraisers have access.

“No one off the street can just come and get into your home [by asking for the code],” Lambert said.

She demonstrated how an electronic lockbox works with a special app on her smartphone.  It required a unique, realtor-assigned password to get the box to open and access the key.

“When you do open this [electronic lockbox], it notifies the listing agent what time you opened it and who opened it,” she said. “The minute you put the key back we also get notified.”

Lambert also prefers ‘For Sale’ signs that have a text code, rather than just a phone number and recorded message with information about the home for prospective buyers.  Texting adds another layer of protection.

“If it’s a text code, now we capture your phone number from where you’re actually texting to obtain information about the property,” Lambert explained.

Open house caution

Open houses are another area to proceed with caution.

“One of my main concerns is when there is an open house,” Gofter said. “There’s a flow of people coming in and out of your house and there’s virtually no control.”

Of course, a lot of sellers like open houses, because they often generate a lot of foot traffic and the hope that a buyer will walk through, but Lambert says you’re better off scheduling appointments to show your home. That gives your agent the chance to ask a buyer’s agent questions to get a better idea of who exactly is coming into your home and whether they truly have the means to purchase your home. 

“Are they pre-qualified, do you have a copy of their driver’s license, who are you bringing into someone else’s home?” she explained.

What if something is missing?

After any showing or open house, take a look around to make sure nothing is missing and check doors and windows to make sure they were not left unlocked. That goes for side doors and bedroom doors, as well. This will help to prevent someone with bad intentions from leaving an inconspicuous door open, with the goal of coming back later to rob you when no one is home.

If something is missing, unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do.  You should, however, tell your agent who can then contact other agents who’ve been in the home to alert them.

“A lot of times, people come in with their kids, and kids like shiny objects, and they do sometimes have sticky fingers, not because they’re trying to be malicious, but because it looks pretty,” Lambert said.

In those cases, a parent sometimes realizes their child took something and will return it and apologize. It’s best, however, not to leave things to chance. 

“Protect your family, by being proactive,” Lambert advised.

Follow these steps to help protect yourself when you put your home up for sale.  It’s the smart thing to do. 

  • Find a reputable agent
  • Lock up valuables
  • Remove prescription medications
  • Remove mail and documents with personal information
  • Use text codes on your ‘for sale’ sign to get information on your home
  • Use electronic lockboxes, not simple combination locks
  • Schedule showings when possible to get more information on prospective buyers
  • Be extra cautious when having open houses
  • Check doors and windows after a showing or open house