Open-house events can leave home sellers open to theft

Justin Stoltzfus

Home viewings and open house events can be great ways to get a property noticed. But they can mean a constant parade of strangers coming through your front door and having a look around — and these strangers might not be as interested in the house itself as they are in the valuables inside.

Open-house events can leave home sellers open to theft
Open-house events can leave home sellers open to theft

According to a 2007 San Francisco Chronicle article, open-house thieves have been known to steal glassware, collectibles, jewelry, laptops and even toiletries. According to the Wisconsin Realtor’s Association (WRA), thieves are making off with expensive prescription medications as well. While some use these drugs for their own habits, others sell them. One pill of oxycodone, for example, can fetch between $75 and $100, according to the WRA. Some particularly sneaky thieves, according the WRA, will steal only a few pills instead of the whole bottle so that the homeowner won’t notice the theft until much later.

Residential listing contracts generally put the burden of asset protection on sellers — not their agents or brokers, according to the WRA. But those who are informed about open-house theft can fight back with common-sense measures. On her website, Tia Rowland, a Realtor in Pasadena, Calif., recommends that homeowners do the following.

  • Hide valuables, including medications, jewelry and other small items that can be easily pocketed. Lock them in your car’s trunk or place them in a safety deposit box.
  • Get extra security for open-house day. If your home has several floors and out-of-the-way wings, station family members or friends around the house to keep an eye on visitors.
  • File away financial paperwork with personal information that could be used for identity theft.
  • Put away personal photos that reveal too much about your identity and lifestyle.

The Protected Home website, a project of home security business Control Products Inc., has some more tips for open-house events or any other times you might have a stranger in your home:

  • Avoid showboating. Try to hide evidence of a glamorous lifestyle or significant wealth, whether it’s reflected in personal photos or home decor.
  • Make sure off-limits areas are locked up.
  • Don’t leave a spare key around. A visitor could swipe it and get unlimited access to your home.

Home insurance covers theft. However, you’ll likely have to pay a deductible. And your policy might provide insurance coverage for valuables only up to a certain dollar limit — usually $1,000 to $2,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute. To protect your valuables, you’ll need to purchase floaters, which are add-ons that provide extra coverage for certain items.

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