Strangers In Your Home

A regular reader sent a comment about last week's blog post on surveillance cameras. She wrote: "Good info on the cameras, but you also need to address the other side and why sellers feel compelled to have cameras."

She's right. There is another side to the story, and it's a hidden fact of the real estate business: if you're unprepared, selling a home can be a miserable experience. 

I'm not talking about analyzing the market, developing a marketing strategy, handling negotiations, inspections, and managing the contract process. That's your realtor's job, and if they're good at what they do, that part will be painless (why us). I'm talking about the reality of showings and what it means to have complete strangers wandering around your home. 

Prepare for a Home Invasion
When you list your property for sale, prepare to have a parade of random people walking through your home. In theory, they should be qualified to purchase your home, but in practice, it doesn't take much to schedule a showing with a random buyer's agent. 

These people might arrive at your doorstep on short notice. They might arrive before or after their scheduled appointments. If it's wet outside, they might drag muddy boots onto your floors and carpets. Some might use your bathroom and leave the toilet unflushed, look through your drawers and medicine cabinet, comment on your family photos, and in some cases even steal your possessions. 

None of our clients have ever had anything stolen, by the way, but over the years, we've seen damaged drywall and paint (from door knobs), damaged window coverings, scratched floors, doors left unlocked, and pets let out the front door. It's frustrating.   

Whose fault is it? Honestly, it's the buyers' agents. Many have very poor client control, especially inexperienced agents who are too afraid of losing a client to speak up. When I first entered this business, more years ago than I'd like to admit, I too was an inexperienced agent. I get it. When you're new in the business, or if you only do a few deals a year, you feel lucky just to have a client who trusts you to handle such a large financial transaction. Let's face it, a lot of new agents are winging it. 

Today, as a grizzled veteran of this industry, I know better. I've learned some tricks of the trade. As an example, I make it a point to remove my shoes when entering a home, whether or not there are specific instructions to do so. It's a small thing, but it sets an example for my buyers. It signals respect for the seller's home. This simple gesture almost always starts a showing off on the right foot.  The exception is when the sellers haven't cleaned and the home is filthy. The shoes stay on for those homes. 

It's a very strange thing to allow strangers to wander around your home. It's understandable why sellers would want to surveil potential buyers. However, the most likely negative thing you're going to capture on camera is buyers being disrespectful. Even if you catch them walking on your freshly cleaned carpet with their shoes on, what value does that provide? Meanwhile, the price for the footage is a negative emotional experience for the buyers themselves, which damages your marketing. Remember: the last thing you want potential buyers to experience when walking up to a home are negative emotions, which is exactly what they will feel when they see a camera. 

Read Somebody's Watching You for more details. 

What Can Sellers Do?
Before showings begin, discuss privacy and the reality of strangers in your home with your Realtor.  At House Einstein, we advise our clients to remove valuables, including jewelry, prescription drugs, and financial records. If art is irreplaceable or too valuable to risk, we'll help you find some staging art that can easily be replaced.  

It's important to understand the reality of strangers in your home. They will disregard instructions to wear gloves, they may not wear masks, and they will touch your things. The best thing you can do is prepare and plan ahead. 

For certain high end listings, or when it's impractical to remove expensive or fragile items, we can make sure a representative of our company is present at the showing. The representative will turn on and off the lights and explain showing instructions in person but will otherwise stay out of the way of the buyers. In some cases, we've even required proof of funds prior to scheduling the showing, but this is usually reserved for homes where there might be a confidentiality issue or the home belongs to a public figure. 

This solves the problem, but it also creates another one. Many buyer's agents will schedule showings on extremely short notice. Sure, this is a symptom of poor client control and planning, but guess what - those people also buy houses. If we have rigid showing instructions that require us to be present, there is a chance a potential buyer won't see the home. To maximize value and limit time on market, you want every serious buyer possible to see the home. Creating a bottleneck could cost you real money (or time).  

Bottom line: Talk to your Realtor to develop a strategy that addresses your concerns while dealing with the reality of the market.  

Osman Parvez is the Founder and Employing Broker of House Einstein. Originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York, he lives in Boulder with his wife and their Labrador Retriever. He has been a Realtor since 2005.

Osman is the primary author of the House Einstein blog with over 1,200 published articles about Boulder real estate. His work has also appeared in many other blogs about Boulder as well as mainstream newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and Daily Camera. For more information, click HERE.

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The ideas and strategies described in this blog are the opinion of the writer and subject to business, economic, and competitive uncertainties. House Einstein strongly recommends conducting rigorous due diligence and obtaining professional advice before buying or selling real estate.   Image: Yanal Tayyem

Please Note

This document contains forward-looking statements. You are strongly cautioned that investment results are subject to business, economic and other uncertainties. There are no guarantees associated with any forecast and the opinions stated here are subject to change at any time. Always consult your financial advisor before making an investment decision.