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Keeping It Real: Tips for Real Estate Agents to Keep Listings Safe

January 07 2014

homes com Keeping It RealIt's stressful enough being in charge of your own home security, but real estate agents have it extra rough. Sure, you experience the satisfaction of helping houses become homes, but you're also responsible for the security of multiple homes. It's enough to keep you awake at night pondering the safety of your listings, and that's not what you want. Rest easy and focus on your job by following these preparation tips and tricks to keep your listings safe.

1. Pretend to be locked out!

Time to whip out all that theatre you did in college! When you first get the keys to your listed property, walk around the outside the house. Then imagine for a moment you didn't actually have the keys in your pocket. You forgot them inside! Oh no! How would you try to get in? Do you see a window with a broken lock that would get you into the dining room in 90 seconds flat? Is there a ladder on the side of the garage that, when properly placed, takes you straight to the balcony — and the perpetually unlocked sliding French doors? If you can get back into the house without the keys, someone else can get in without them, too. Any weak spots should be addressed: lock that ladder back in the garage, install a security bar on those French doors and, darn it, get that window lock fixed!

2. Have potential clients sign in at an open house

Open houses are necessary in sales success, but they do you leave you and your listing very vulnerable. After all, you're inviting a group of strangers into the house! Have a strictly enforced sign-in sheet at the front door, so that should anything go missing (or should there be an attempted intrusion later that evening), you'll have the information to hand over to the police. Get people really psyched to sign in by using technology — doing your sign-in sheet on a tablet computer is the quickest way to turn a grumpy "Why should I tell you my name"-er into a curious "What's this cool app?"-er. Need proof? Look into any tech or office shop that lets customers play on the merchandise and count the smiles. Just be sure to keep the tablet on you at all times!

3. Check all the locks and windows after.

Some criminal masterminds who are playing the long game will come to an open house and discreetly unlock a previously locked door or window. They'll return later with their easy access point picked out. After every open house and every showing, walk through the house and check every single point of entry to make sure they're still locked. That means doors, windows and, yes, even Fido's personal entry pet door (make sure the dog is where she's supposed to be first!).

4. Trick onlookers with timed lights.

Houses are most vulnerable when no one is in them, and the surest way to alert robbers to vacancy is a dark house. That said, leaving lights perpetually on is bad for the environment and can be just as telling as leaving them off. Put your lights on a timer so that they turn on and off as though someone were really home. For an added tech boost, grab a switch that lets you control the lamps from your smart phone. That way, you can shake up the times the lights turn on and off. That'll really throw everyone for a loop!

5. Use social media wisely.

Social media is wonderful — it's free marketing, and a digital alert for potential customers. But if you Tweet about when you're leaving a listing or when it's completely vacant, it's like you sent criminals a Facebook invite to an event called "Rob This House." It's unfortunate that we have to, but imagine all your Twitter followers are burglars. All of them. So think before you hit submit — "Would I want 346 burglars to see this message?" If not, try a different status update.

6. Make your listing a pretty gem for buyers or renters, not thieves.

Make sure cameras, laptops, fur coats, jewelry and other valuables aren't visible from the outside. For bonus points and added security, make sure they're stored in a safe or are taken off site when no one is home or when the house is being shown. The more lucrative the loot looks, the more likely it is that someone will attempt to break in, even if you've made it difficult to do so.

7. Install a security system!

This is wonderfully easy and relatively inexpensive. Installing a security system (and a sign out front saying the house is protected) is a wonderful way to scare off potential intruders. If anyone does get in, systems can alert law enforcement and speed up response time, making sure you don't walk in and make the terrible discovery yourself – or worse – walk in when someone is actually inside your listing (they may mean you harm). This could be a responsibility for your client to handle, though, so —

8. Partner with your clients to keep everyone safe and happy.

Are you selling a house for someone who's currently living in it? Just like you'd partner with them in other ways (alerting them when you're showing a house so they can make plans to be away that hour, for example), partner with them to make sure these and other security precautions are taken into account. Remember — they're selling the house, so they want everything safe and sound and un-vandalized as much as you do. And they have the added motivation of also having their passports, wallets and family photo albums on the line. Most people will be perfectly willing to listen and respond when you alert them to a broken window lock that needs to be replaced, or when you strongly recommend a security system.

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