Here's a list of things I tell my sellers to do before I hold an Open House to make sure everything is safe and secure.
This is one of those times when it’s better to be safe than sorry. I think the best way to take care of your valuables is to think of them in categories:
• Jewelry. This is the item I’d be most worried about, because it’s small and easy to walk out with, making it an easy target for thieves.
• Prescription drugs. Remember that time you broke your ankle and got Tylenol with codeine? Perhaps you didn’t throw out the extra but shoved it in the medicine cabinet, where it’s in easy reach of any open house visitor who just asks “to use the bathroom.” Some people keep their meds in the refrigerator, where they’re in pretty easy reach too. Take them with you before you leave the open house in the agent’s hands instead.
• Small electronics. Cameras, iPods … these are the kinds of things that are small enough to hide in a handbag or coat, and can therefore turn up missing. Lock them away in a filing cabinet along with …
• Personally identifiable information. This means stuff that has your bank account or social security number on it; mortgage bills, bank statements, credit card statements, cell phone bills. Most identity thieves aren’t going to go to the trouble of attending an open house, but before you let your agent host an open house, make sure these things aren’t lying on your desk (or in an open top drawer where they could be quickly snatched.)
• Art. Paintings are often large, but photographs and sculptures are not. You may be most vulnerable to theft from your agent here — I remember selling a loft where the tenant was a famed fashion photographer and there were just boxes and boxes of prints lying around. You’re obviously not going to strip all your walls, but if you know something is really valuable, why not stash it at your sister’s house?
In addition to these five tips, you’ll want to make sure your agent runs a sign-in sheet. I find that there are always people who scrawl their names illegibly, but it’s better than nothing, and if you’re in a market that can tolerate it, the agent can ask open house visitors to show their driver’s licenses.
Also, you’ll want to keep your house in spic-and-span shape for showings. I'd like to continue my conversation on Open Houses next week with some simple tips on "What to do to get your home Open House ready."