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If you’ve been worried about all the ways your home sale is exposing your private life to the public—well, let’s just say you wouldn’t be wrong.
Even the basics of marketing your home, like putting your address and property details on the multiple listing service (MLS) and hosting open houses, can increase your risk of falling victim to property and identity theft by drawing attention to your sale.
About every 18 seconds, a burglary happens in the U.S., according to safety research expert Safewise. And most of these crimes happen at home—the FBI reports that residential properties account for nearly 74% of all burglary offenses. On top of that, you’re opening up your house to strangers, and a for-sale sign in the yard is like an invitation for burglars to start plotting their next move.
While your home is on the market protecting your privacy is no joke. You want to be thinking about taking extra precautions as soon as you make your sale public, or you’ll be putting your home and belongings at great risk. Follow these tips and tricks from top real estate agents who know how to secure a property like Fort Knox.
Why Home Staging Matters When Protecting Your Privacy
By now you’ve brushed up on some of the finer details of selling a home— like why you should stage it to sell faster. But staging isn’t just about making the house look pretty for the buyer, it’s also the best way to go through your things and tuck away any items that shouldn’t be left out during an open house.
According to top-selling real estate agent Jill Rooney of Outagamie County, WI, prescription meds, jewelry, and small collectibles should all be put away, and in places buyers aren’t likely to look.
Rooney, who ranks in the top 3% of local agents told us, “My recommendation when working with any seller, is that this is a time to depersonalize your house. We’ve had some open house where prescription meds have been taken. Tucking those small items of value or meds away, and not in cabinets of homes or anything that’s considered attached—because buyers will look in there.”
You might also consider locking up medicine in a lockbox. This way, medications can stay in their cabinets but still be safely stored.
Real estate finance group My Mortgage Insider even recommends putting away temptations like expensive wine, and any items that could grant access to the property later, such as keys and remotes. “We have so much pride in our collectibles and we want to show them off,” says Rooney, “but this isn’t the time to do that.”
Where you choose to store your valuables is also key in keeping them safe. Although buyers have a tendency to open attached storage areas like cabinets, they’re less likely to open furniture and storage bins that don’t come with the property.
Rooney often advises her clients to store small valuables in containers that make noise when opened, and tuck them into personal furniture. Sellers can inform Realtors where these containers are kept, and that way the agent can be alert to any suspicious sounds coming from that area of the house.
- Buy small containers that make noise when opened. You can get 9 containers for less than $20 on Amazon.
- Conceal valuables in containers inside personal furniture, such as armoires or dressers.
- Let your real estate agent know where you plan to store your valuables so they can be on the lookout.
Protect Your Identity While Your Home’s On the Market
Just the same way you wouldn’t leave a shiny gold necklace on the countertop, you also shouldn’t display any personal information for the taking.
Think about all of the information that might be floating around your home and compromise your safety in other ways.
“Don’t forget about bills and statements, and things that get mailed to your house,” says Rooney, “even if you have an office or a place you leave these things out, you’ll want to pack those things so buyers walking in don’t have access to that information.”
Credit card information, passwords, and even bills showing where you shop with your contact information should all be put away. Similarly, any large devices (smaller ones like tablets and phones should be stored) should be password-protected so no one is able to access any of your information.
“Make sure all computers are in a password protection mode, and remove anything that would have their passwords written down,“ advises Rooney. This includes Wi-Fi passwords, too, so take down that ancient sticky note hanging up in your living room with the keys to your network.
- Securely store all mail and paper statements containing personal information. This drawer and cabinet lock on Amazon is easy to install. You could get several, they’re only $4.95 and available on Prime.
- Password protect desktop computers and smart TVs—store all smaller devices securely.
- Make sure to store passwords securely, and keep them out of sight during open houses.
Enlist Your Agent’s Help In Protecting Your Home
You shouldn’t have to protect your house all alone—a good real estate agent will help with that. Most real estate agents encourage homeowners to leave during open houses, which might leave you wondering who will keep an eye on things. The simple answer? The agent should.
“As an agent when I’m doing a showing, I feel that my job is to watch and greet everybody,” says Rooney, “and make sure that they leave.”
The best agencies even use an internal security system to alert other agents about suspicious buyer behavior in the area.
Another tool employed by agents is a clipboard sign-in for guests of the open house. Not only does this help agents later on in recalling who visited, but it lets buyers know the agent is keeping tabs on them.
“Sometimes just asking them to sign in shows that I am watching and listening as they walk through the house,” explains Rooney. “Buyers who aren’t really interested see an agent who has this top of mind awareness and they know they’ve been seen, so they’re less likely to steal.”
Extra Safety Ideas For While Your Home Is on the Market
If you’ve done everything you can to secure your home, but you’re still feeling worried about security, consider installing a camera.
A solid, working camera is always a good idea when you plan to have strangers coming in and out of your home, but it turns out that the illusion of eyes watching alone may do the trick.
According to top security provider Alarms.org, 83% of burglars check for an alarm, and 60% would be deterred if they saw one.
On the digital front, safety concerns can also go way beyond tucking away passwords around the house, especially if your home is considered a high-end listing.
According to leading real estate publication Inman, “80 percent of luxury consumers said their privacy had never been more important and view identity theft as a top cause for concern.”
If your home sale exceeds a certain price point (and even if it doesn’t) consider talking to your real estate agent about the listing services they use, and what information gets shared in these channels.
Putting your home on the market shouldn’t be a vulnerable experience, and hopefully with these tips you can get your home ready to be seen and rest assured that all is secure during the process.
While Your Home Is on the Market Protecting Your Privacy Means:
- Storing all valuables and small items in furniture and containers that buyers aren’t likely to open.
- Getting in the habit of keeping bills and personal information out of sight while your home is on the market.
- Talking with your agent about their plan for keeping your home secure during showings.
- Installing a camera for extra security (check CNET, a world leader in tech-product reviews, for the best security cameras). Or, if you don’t want to spend the money, put out a fake camera to give the illusion of a watchful eye.
- Making sure you’re comfortable with the information your agent is sharing about your property.