Staying Safe While Selling Your Home By Owner
Selling your home "By Owner" presents some potential safety risks. How do you keep your family and yourself safe while still showing your home to buyers? Here are some tips that will help keep you safe.
Image the following situation: you are home with your children while your spouse is away when you hear a knock on the door. It’s someone who saw your yard sign while driving by and wishes to take a tour of your home. You are now faced with a situation that many unrepresented sellers are faced with daily – do you turn away a potential buyer or do you let them in and perhaps endanger the safety of your family?
Realtors are often trained in home showing safety techniques and have quite a few tools at their disposal to mitigate these risks. They know the correct questions to ask and the red flags to watch out for. If you haven’t thought of this, here is a quick list of some things you should consider before you answer the door or the phone:
1. Do not show your home by yourself.
This is often difficult to do but is very effective in deterring problems. Your risks are significantly lower if you show your home to visitors with a friend or spouse present. If someone is not available to help you, then ask your visitors to stop by another time when you can arrange for some help.
2. Set appointments
Another tool is to automatically ask all stop-in visitors to come back at another scheduled time for a showing. This is also a great way to weed out the unmotivated who might only be interested in seeing inside your home and have no intention of actually placing an offer.
3. Keep groups of visitors together during a showing
Don’t leave someone downstairs while you show someone the upstairs or allow groups to split up. Thefts have occurred and some criminals are very skilled at getting themselves into this situation, claiming “bad knees” or other medical problems that require that they be “left behind”. If this occurs, have a helper or spouse keep the other party company while you show the home to the rest. If you are alone (hopefully you aren’t), ask them to wait outside while you finish showing the home to the rest of the party.
4. Keep a phone handy
If you have a cell phone or cordless phone, make sure you have it with you during a showing. Also, if you have a car alarm, keep your keys with you in case you need to use the “Panic Button” on your remote. You can also ask your visitors to wait outside while you “prepare the house” and call a friend or family member. Let them know that you will be doing a showing and will call them back when it’s done and if they don’t hear from you in an hour, to call the police.
5. Don’t let visitors box you inside a room
Always keep a clear avenue to an exit. Don’t go first into a room – ask your guests to go first.
6. Ask the right questions.
A few questions will tell you a lot about a potential buyer. Realtors are experts at reading people and you can be too, if you know what to look for. Ask a potential buyer if they have been pre-qualified or pre-approved by a lender. If so, they are probably serious buyers. If not, you might want to ask them to set an appointment for a showing – if they are not willing to do this, they are probably either unmotivated or may be a safety concern. Ask them when they’re looking to move and if they have a home to sell first. This will also give you an indication of motivation as well as warn you if they are unable to answer these questions quickly.Ask how long they have been looking for a home. Again, this is a dual-purpose question. If your answer is “6 months”, you probably have an unmotivated buyer. If the answer is “Ummm…..”, you should watch out.You can always ask to see identification before you let them in. Tell them that you just want to be safe - buyers will understand.Ask them if they are being represented by a Realtor. Nearly 97% of buyers are represented by Realtors and should be accompanied by them when they tour homes. If they are working with a Realtor, ask them to have their Realtor contact you for a showing. If they aren’t working with a Realtor, there are many possibilities, the most innocent being that they have just started looking for a house and don’t yet have representation. However, other possibilities may include a lack of motivation, no desire to buy (I.E. “We’re just looking…..”), or other more dangerous reasons. Just be cautious and stay safe.
7. Be careful of what questions you answer.
Never tell someone when you won’t be home, especially over the phone. A better phrase is, “the house won’t be available for a showing at that time”. Other questions from a visitor/caller that would raise a warning would be, “Do you live alone?”, “Do you work during the day?”, “Will your spouse be home soon so we can meet them?”, “Do you have a security system?”, or similar probing questions.
8. Watch out for Red Flags
There are a few safety concerns that should be kept in mind and if you encounter them, think twice and maybe opt for an appointment instead of an immediate showing.Visitors at night or early morning.Two or more visitors if you are alone.Visitors unwilling to set a scheduled appointment for a showing.The types of probing questions described above.
Always remember that the safety of you and your family is your greatest possession – not your home. Nothing is worth giving up your security. If you are presented with a situation that might compromise this, always opt for another appointment and don’t open the door. The scheduled appointment is your best tool for being prepared for guests and staying safe. Serious buyers will understand and be willing to return at another time.
If many of these precautions are difficult or impossible, you can always seek representation from a Realtor. One of the many benefits of selling your home with professional help is that safety is always a top priority and many issues and concerns can be prevented and eliminated.
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