Buying or selling a home for the first time can be incredibly stressful and often confusing: offers, counter-offers, inspections, appraisals, real estate agent commissions and broker agency agreements—for those of us who are encountering the whole process for the first time or for whom it’s been long enough to make us forget the headache that accompanies the transaction, it can seem devastating to hear that we have yet another thing to worry about: theft. San Antonio real estate attorneys and agents across the country, however, are warning that open-houses may be exposing owners to the largely unforeseen threat of robbery, this local news article reports.
For some owners thinking of selling their homes, an open house can be uncomfortable simply because it puts their lives on display. “Prospective buyers” don’t need to be working with an agent, or really even be “prospective buyers” at all to get inside—people from the community are allowed to simply walk on in, which can feel unnerving for homeowners. And rightly so, as apparently more instances across the U.S. are popping up with open houses resulting in downright thievery. San Antonio real estate attorneys like Micah F. McBride tasking at least two real estate agents to every open house for monitoring and vigilance, but that may not be possible in every case.
Just how bad is it? One “surveillance video shows one man browsing an open house and walking out with a locked drawer” in Los Angeles, a drawer that was later confirmed by the owners to have contained expensive jewelry. Typically, thieves will canvass open houses for three items, San Antonio real estate attorneys and police officers say: jewelry, handguns, and most recently, prescription medications.
Real estate agents at open houses aren’t insensitive to the problem, but often they are busy answering questions of potential buyers and thieves will capitalize on the agents’ distraction. Sometimes robbers will work in pairs where one partner deliberately distracts a hosting real estate agent and the other sneaks off to another part of the house to pocket valuable items. Handguns, jewelry and prescription meds are all small and can be concealed in pockets or purses, making identification of the theft difficult while it’s in progress.
The incidences of open-house theft are so much on the rise that some police officers in communities all over the U.S. are appointing realtors to special task forces to gather insider tips. But even trusting a realtor can be dangerous, McBride and other San Antonio real estate attorneys warn: in Arizona, a “realtor stole jewelry from a home” recently, “another pilfered prescription drugs in Florida, and one broker in Maryland was caught going to a drawer to steal lingerie.” Police and lawyers strongly encourage sellers to verify real estate agents’ qualifications, since state board-governed regulations ensure that homeowners have legal recourse for any wrongdoing.
It’s no wonder homeowners feel a little sketchy sometimes about hosting an open house, and with all the worry about whether it will sell, it really stinks to worry about what creepers might find and take from your personal belongings in the process.