Preparing Your Seller to Prepare the Home to be Prepared for Showings — Part 2
Protecting the Seller’s Personal Property
As per lines 174-178 “Open House and Showing Responsibilities” of the WB-1 Residential Listing Contract Exclusive Right to Sell listed below, it is the seller’s responsibility to prepare the home for open houses and individual showings. However, sellers often look to their listing agent for guidance.
“Seller is aware that there is a potential risk of injury, damage and/or theft involving persons attending an ‘individual showing’ or an ‘open house.’ Seller accepts responsibility for preparing the Property to minimize the likelihood of injury, damage and/or loss of personal property. Seller agrees to hold Broker harmless for any losses or liability resulting from personal injury, property damage, or theft occurring during ‘individual showings’ or ‘open houses’ other than those caused by Broker’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing.”
Listing agents should review this language with all sellers. In addition, licensees should have a checklist handy or provide suggestions to the seller as to how the seller can go about preparing a home for showings. The following are a few tips that may be helpful to the seller:
- Hide or remove any valuables, including electronics, jewelry, weapons and prescription medications.
- Do not leave personal information where anyone can see it.
- Determine what will be done with the seller’s pet(s) during showings.
- Consider removing all references to the names and pictures of any children living in the home.
- Confirm that all windows and doors are locked before leaving the property.
Protecting the Agent
Sometimes individuals do not like to acknowledge a reality that exists because denial is an easy place to reside. However, opening our eyes to a reality allows us to be better prepared if a time comes when we need to react.
The reality of the practice of real estate is that while sellers’ properties are being opened to the public, agents are the ones showing the property. Whether it is vacant land, a single-family residence or a commercial property, agents place themselves in potentially perilous situations every day. A self-defense class is one of the easiest steps to take in learning how to protect yourself.
Also, discuss with your broker whether your company has a distress code; if not, discuss whether the broker is interested in creating one. A distress code is a word or phrase that a company has in place that an agent would use if the agent was feeling threatened or uncomfortable while with a consumer. The company policy should be clear as to what the phrase or term is and what happens when an agent uses the distress code — whether the police are called, another agent is sent out, the agent is to be called away, among other methods. Also, another decision to make is if the company should have a policy that all new clients should be met at the office and possibly provide a copy of a photo identification and possible license number.
However, the following are some pointers to better protect you as an agent when showing properties or holding open houses.
- Trust your instincts.
- Pay attention to both your phone and battery strength.
- Identify all escape routes as you enter into the property.
- Walk behind people; never enter into a room first.
- Notify your office, and potentially someone else, as to your location(s) throughout the day and check in regularly.
- Check all the rooms, locks and windows prior to the leaving the property.
- If possible, avoid showings after dark.
- Never go into a space or room you cannot get out of easily.
- Lock your purse or wallet in the car.
- Have a visitor check-in sheet that allows you to obtain an individual’s name and contact information.
- Park at the curb rather than the driveway.
- Always have your keys ready when walking to your car.
- Lock your car doors once you have entered.
- Be observant — stop talking on or looking at your phone!
- Use technology to your advantage. MRIS has created Moby. Moby is a free app that is designed especially for the safety of real estate professionals that will contact emergency services and provide your location. For more information on Moby, visit www.mris.com/mris-products/affiliated-services/moby.
Protecting the Property
Protection of the real estate itself may seem like an unusual item to address when discussing safety. However, lately in some communities, including a popular Madison neighborhood, police departments have been contacting local boards to notify agents concerning burglaries. These burglaries have occurred in occupied homes and vacant homes, and it appears that entry was most often made through unlocked windows and doors.
Vacant homes are often easy targets as well because it is presumed that no one will be returning home or regularly monitoring the property. Law enforcement also indicated that vandalism and theft are regular issues in vacant properties.
- Be certain to be mindful that doors and easily accessible windows are securely locked, even when agents and owners are home.
- Check vacant homes frequently.
- As the listing agent, introduce yourself to the neighbors — provide them with your business card — and ask them to contact you in the event they notice any unusual activities at your listing. They are there every day and can be a great asset in keeping an eye on the property.
- At all showings, make certain that doors and windows are secured when leaving.
- Think safety first — do not enter a vacant home if things do not appear “right.”
- Do not hesitate to contact the local police department. Officers are more than willing to do a walk-through to assure the safety of the home.
There are a variety of resources to learn more about safety. For example, the National Association of REALTORS® has a site dedicated entirely to safety found at www.realtor.org/topics/realtor-safety.
Cori Lamont is Director of Brokerage Regulation and Licensing for the WRA.