DEAR MONTY: I recently listed my home for sale. There have been several showings. Yesterday I had a showing that made me worry about safety. A couple came through with their agent. I thought it was unusual the way they looked at the house. While the agent asked me questions, they took it upon themselves to walk through the house. I felt like the agent was trying to keep me occupied. The couple split up and went in different directions. Within just a few minutes, they reappeared and went into the living room together. The husband seemed to be checking the window locks. They came back to their agent and said they were ready to leave. I went back through to check the house, and the cabinet over the bathroom sink was ajar. I know it was closed earlier. When I called my agent, she said the couple’s agent was a co-broker, and she did not know who the people were. Then she brushed off my concerns. This incident makes me feel unsafe, like they were casing the house. What can I do to prevent a reoccurrence and feel safe in my own home?
MONTY’S ANSWER: According to the FBI, there are 2.5 million burglaries every year. Even when it is not for sale, protecting your home will reassure you that you are safe. Here is a link to Thezebra.com that provides data on burglaries in the U.S. Here is a helpful link to a Dear Monty article on showing your home.
OUTSIDE YOUR HOME
No. 1: Install motion detection floodlights in strategic locations outside. Crooks don’t like the spotlight.
No. 2: Use the buddy system with your neighbors, as in neighborhood watch groups.
No. 3: Secure basement windows with steel bars or convert them to glass block.
No. 4: Add security deadbolts on outside doors and upgrade doorbell with a security camera.
No. 5: Cut a broomstick handle to fit in your sliding door track, making it difficult to force open.
INSIDE YOUR HOME
No. 1: Use curtains or shades you can close at night or when you are away. Most burglars work in daylight.
No. 2: Add a security system with notification features. You want to know about an intruder whether you are in bed or on vacation. Some systems will call the police if you don’t answer.
No. 3: Make your bedroom hard to enter with a deadbolt to give you time to call the police.
No. 4: Have a personal alert device to call a relative or friend.
No. 5: Forbes magazine writes that gun sales have risen dramatically. Many people do not want a gun. A can of wasp spray with a 20-foot reach may be as effective a deterrent; if your aim is good, it will temporarily disable the intruder, allowing you to escape.
YOUR CURRENT SITUATION
Ask your agent to be present at every showing or have another company representative present. If your agent pushes back, ask the designated broker in her office to replace her with an agent that will respect your wishes. She did not experience what you did. You did not react in this manner with earlier showings. It could be just a strange couple. Although rare, bad people break into homes looking for drugs or other valuables. It seems more people today are concerned with safety. There are some costs involved in making these changes that may well be recovered in the sale.
Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty, or at DearMonty.com