The conventional wisdom has been that open houses work better for the listing agent than for the seller. It’s a way to capture buyers for other properties, goes the thinking.
In Manhattan, however, open houses often provide an unencumbered path to an offer that leads to a contract. Sometimes they benefit the listing agent either for the foregoing reason or because the agent snares a direct transaction–one in which the buyer is unrepresented and the agent can collect up to twice the commission otherwise earned.
An unexpected beneficiary could well be a thief dressed in buyer’s clothing.
Brokers tend to be pretty good about warning their sellers about the need to hide expensive items such as jewelry. Some are less diligent than others. Moreover, no one or two agents can be everywhere in an open house all the time.
Don’t underestimate a thief intent on using the pretext of an open house to steal from you, find out personal information about you or even act on impulse to pocket an item that attracts him or her.
To protect yourself from any such thievery, try to think like a thief. Don’t stop at hiding your diamond earrings or studs in a drawer among your underwear – a site that couldn’t be more obvious – or in your fridge.
Consider whether any of your bank, credit card or Social Security information might be easily accessible. That information might be scattered on a desk, left on a sleeping computer screen or otherwise hiding in plain sight. Put it in a safe place.
In addition to paperwork, you should remove any objéts, small works of art and other items of monetary or sentimental value.
And do take note of your medications–some of which can be troublesome and quite costly to replace–where they are (e.g. an arm’s length away in your nightstand or medicine cabinet) and what they say about you: Neighbors who visit open houses are notoriously snoopy and drug addicts are unabashedly needy.
Finally, don’t assume that any visitor won’t be above peeking into likely repositories of anything that might be revealing about your sex life.
Some thieves aren’t professional but, rather, individuals who merely are opportunistic. What could be more prudent than denying them an opportunity to help themselves to your goods and your privacy?
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022