Last week, a Realtor had someone pull a gun on her while showing a home. Scary stuff! According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, between 2003 and 2009 there were 75 deaths a year resulting from violence to Realtors, and that number jumped to 89 deaths in 2010. The number of nonfatal assaults among Realtors are also up from 170 cases in 2008 to 940 cases in 2010.
As a Realtor, I’m offered yearly safety courses on how not to become a statistic. But if you are a For Sale By Owner and have decided to go it without a Realtor, please be safe while doing so. I frequently preview FSBO’s listings for my buyers. I have buyers who are busy business people, and some who don’t live in the area who are looking for investment properties, so I’ll often check out FSBO for them since I already know what my buyers are looking for. Lately I’ve seen many mistakes For Sale By Owners are making and want to discuss them so that homeowners stay safe when selling their home.
1. Never tell a potential ‘buyer’ – oh I can’t show it then because I’m at work. I can’t tell you how many times a FSBO has said to me “Oh I can’t show it at 2pm, I’m at work then, how about 5pm?” Never, ever tell a potential buyer – or maybe not even a Realtor – unless you’ve verified their Florida Real Estate License online – that you are at work. You are inviting that would-be buyer to rob your house. I hate to sound dramatic – but thieves prey on FSBOs because they are too trusting and say things like this. You don’t know if the person on the other end of the phone is really a Realtor or a Buyer, or if they are someone with bad intentions. The crook then knows exactly when you’ll be at work until so they can go rob your home. If you work long hours and aren’t often available during the day to show your home, perhaps you should consider listing with a Realtor who is a full-time agent and can screen buyers and show your home anytime. Real, qualified buyers get impatient if a home isn’t available to see on their schedule, and you could be missing out on the right buyer by not being available to show it during the day.
2. Make 100% sure that buyer is pre-approved when you show your home. You want the buyer to email or fax over a copy of their pre-approval letter before any showings. A pre-approval letter is stronger than a pre-qualification letter and means usually that the lender has actually pulled the buyer’s credit and verified their income, whereas a pre-qualification just means the lender has qualified them based on what the buyer told the bank, but it hasn’t yet been verified. Any buyer who is not willing to produce a pre-approval letter is not worth showing your home and is probably what I call a “lookie-lou” rather than a motivated buyer, or unfortunately, again, might even be a thief casing the joint, and wanting to come back when you aren’t home to nab that flat screen TV. If they say they are a cash buyer, ask for a Proof of Funds. This can be a screenshot from a bank account. I’d ask for a copy of a driver’s license so you can make sure the bank account matches, and the person is who they say they are. If they balk at this – tell them they can black out any account numbers but that for safety reasons, this is customary. After all – Realtors ask for this kind of info too before they put a buyer in their car to go look at homes. Gas is too expensive to drive unqualified buyers around, and safety is priceless!
3. Put Your Jewelry/Cash/Valuables out of sight. It should go without saying. But, again – I can’t tell you how many homes I’ve been to with purses lying out, diamond jewelry on the bathroom counter tops, etc. You are inviting a thief to swipe them, or come back for them later. Hide that jewelry box, cash, and anything else of significant value. And that vintage Porsche in the garage? You might think about throwing a car cover on it, too.
4. Take precautions when showing your home. When you list your home as a FSBO, you are playing Realtor and you need to take the same precautions that I take when showing a home. First of all, even if I’ve received a pre-approval and everything seems to check out – I leave all my doors and exit points unlocked when showing a home to a stranger. I also never turn my back to a buyer and walk in front of them. Instead I say “After you”, and direct them to walk in front of me and look around, so I am behind them, not vice versa. Be in control of your surroundings and know where the nearest door or window is at all times.
5. Let someone know you are showing your home alone. As a female Realtor, if I am going to hold an Open House by myself, or going to meet with a client I haven’t met before in a home – I ALWAYS let someone know where I am going to be and ask them to call and check on me. I will either have my husband or my assistant call, and tell them if I don’t answer and give them a secret code word – send the police to that address. Seriously – you can’t be too cautious. When my phone rings while meeting with the new client, I tell them, “I’m so sorry I have to answer this – its my husband just checking on me” – and they always say no problem and think its a smart thing to do!