Protect your valuables when selling your home

Preparing your home sale is more than just deep cleaning, decluttering, and minor repairs. Prepare and plan how to protect your valuables during the sale.

protect your valuables
Protect Your Valuables when Selling Your Home (infographic from Elders Real Estate realestatesevenhillsnews.com.au)

I often write about preparing your home for a sale.  Of course, that preparation is to make your home sell quicker and get the best price.  However, preparing your home is more than just deep cleaning, decluttering, and minor repairs.  Preparing and planning how to protect your valuables will not only keep the prying eyes of nosey home buyers focused on your home’s spaces – it can also thwart would-be criminals.

Homes for sale are prime targets for thieves, and your home is not an exemption.  Don’t make it easy for them.  It may sound obvious – use common sense.  However, you’d be surprised how many home sellers don’t lock up their valuables.  In my many years of selling homes, I have seen how home sellers can be careless by leaving credit cards, cash, medications, and financial statements on counters and desks.  There was one instance where the owner left their gun cabinet open!

And theft doesn’t only occur during open houses.  Your possessions can go missing at any time.  Anyone can have “sticky fingers,” even rogue real estate agents (agents have been arrested for stealing from a listed home).  A Washington State agent was caught stealing prescription medications last year.  Another agent faced criminal charges for stealing jewelry.

Additionally, criminals take the opportunity of an open house (and even virtual tours) to stake out your home; only to strike at a later time. So think about laying out your expensive china just to stage your home.

Yes, thieves are looking for anything of value in your home.  Besides jewelry and cash, they will take anything they think they can personally use or sell.  Medications are a commodity to thieves; and anything with personal identification can be used in ID theft.

I am often asked, “Should I install surveillance cameras?”  A few years ago, a home with surveillance cameras was not typical.  Seeing the cameras often turned off home buyers because they felt “creeped out” and didn’t like the idea of being watched.  However, in today’s cyber-world, where surveillance cameras are nearly everywhere, surveillance cameras have become increasingly commonplace.  Before you go out and install cameras in your home, you need to understand the legal implications by consulting with an attorney or privacy legal expert.

Don’t just put away your jewelry and other items of importance, lock them up!  If you’re not one of the millions of home owners who has a safe or strongbox, there are other options such as storing items in other locations (safe deposit boxes; someone else’s home; and even a rented storage unit).

Burglar alarms are a mixed blessing.  Besides deterring crime, real estate agents often set them off; which can be a nuisance and possibly result in a fine for you (more info on false alarms and fines can be obtained from the Montgomery County Police False Alarm Reduction Section).

If you haven’t already deployed crime deterrents in and around your home, consider using interior and exterior lighting.  Exterior lights can help identify night time visitors, as well as possibly deterring would-be thieves.  Consider using timers or motion sensing lights.   Motion sensing lights will activate the light when people approach your home.

Would-be thieves casing your home look for easy entry points.  Lock up your ladders and secure your shed so as not giving criminals the tools to get inside.

And although you may be told that lockboxes are fool proof, only allowing agents in your home – it’s the user that is the weak link.  Careless agents sometimes leave doors unlocked or open, or do not fully close the lockbox, leaving the key free to be used by any passerby.

Your agent can be part of your protection plan.  Consider having your agent accompany all showings.  Additionally, have more than one person during an open house.  This can not only help protect your valuables, but the direct agent contact may be influential in your home sale.

For more information on protecting your valuables, check out Montgomery County Police’s brochure “Home Security, Safety Tips to Keep Your Home and Valuables Safe.”

Copyright © Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Vacation home preparation

vacation home preparation
Vacation home preparation (infographic from Tower Hill Insurance thig.com)

Summer vacation home preparation is much like preparing it for the winter or severe weather.  Much of the plan is conventional wisdom and incorporates penny pinching advice intended to prevent a potential hazard.  The goal is to anticipate and minimize problems while your away by safeguarding the home’s systems and implementing a security plan.

Many electrical items we use are considered to be “zombie” appliances; meaning they use electricity even when not in use.  Unplugging such items as the toaster, Keurig, and other small appliances that won’t be in use while you’re away will conserve energy (and may save you a few pennies).  More so, shut down (and unplug) your computers and printers to not just conserve energy, but to also thwart hackers while your away.

Some people play with their home’s thermostat to save some money.  The thought is that by setting the thermostat temperature much higher than usual, the air conditioner will not run as much (or at all).  However, if you have a basement or cellar, you might consider setting the thermostat temperature to a more reasonable temperature to prevent mold from growing in your dark and humid basement.

Some shut off the water to the house to prevent a water hazard.  However, shutting off valves at faucets, fixtures, or appliances may be a better plan if your home has a sprinkler system.  And to prevent someone taking advantage of your absence and wash a car or two in your driveway, you might also consider shutting off the valves to the exterior hose bibs.

Besides protecting your home’s systems, think about home security too!  First, refrain from posting your plans on social media.  Although you may want to inform your Facebook friends and Twitter followers of your itinerary, broadcasting vacation plans in such a way could also get the attention of a would be criminal looking for their next break-in.

Although storing your valuables in a safe place could minimize loss, consider implementing crime deterrents as well.  Installing motion activated lights on the home’s exterior may deter activity around the home at night; while electronic devices, such as the camera-doorbell, can notify you if there is any activity around the house during the day.

You may also consider implementing some common tactics to make it seem as if you never went on vacation.  Having a few lights on a timer will appear as if someone is turning lights on and off.  Besides having a neighbor pick up the mail and newspaper (many stop their paper and mail while they’re away), have them park in your driveway to make it seem as if someone is coming and going to and from the home.  Additionally, have a neighbor or friend check in on the home regularly to ensure it is secure.  Depending on the length of your vacation, they may drop in a few times, picking up any packages left at the door and adjusting the thermostat as necessary.

A summer vacation home preparation idea if your home is on the market – consider restricting showings to be by appointment only to ensure the house remains secure.  Talk to your agent about how to contact you in case of an emergency, your agent may check in on the home regularly too.  Don’t worry about missing out on a great offer on your home – if you will have email access, your agent can send you any offers and have you sign them electronically.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Big brother is watching – surveillance cameras in home listings

HouseSurveillance technology is everywhere these days; some are obvious and others covert. A growing awareness of government and law enforcement surveillance has become a major aspect of the growing debate of “reasonable expectation of privacy.” However, in a time when many are pushing back against surveillance, home sellers are increasingly turning to video cameras to protect their homes, valuables, and trust. And as the technology becomes cheaper and easier to use, the trend could become the norm.

The thought of the home seller remotely viewing your activity may seem creepy at some level; however, you might reconsider if you caught the recent ABC’s 20/20 segment “Caught on Tape: Real Estate Agents Gone Wild.”   Highlighted were real estate agents who were caught on camera violating the trust of the seller; including: a Maryland real estate agent who was caught rummaging through a woman’s underwear drawer; the New Jersey agents who used their listing as a rendezvous point for sex; and a number of other agents caught stealing jewelry and prescription medicines from trusting home sellers. Real estate broker and author Brendon DeSimone, who was interviewed about how to protect your home during the listing period, suggested that the video camera can help you keep your agent honest; he stated: “just ‘cause they’ve done a lot of deals, it doesn’t mean they’re trustworthy.”

According to a Supercircuits.com infographic (The History of Video Security Cameras), the idea of “video monitoring” was first widely spread with the 1949 publication of George Orwell’s “1984.” Two years later, the first tape video recorder is operational. Since then, there have been mega leaps in technology making cameras smaller and easier to use. It wasn’t until 1992 when the “nanny cam” was introduced; before then, surveillance cameras were primarily used for law enforcement purposes and commercial applications. The “IP” enabled camera with onboard video analytics was introduced in 2005 as the internet technology and usage greatly expanded. Today, surveillance cameras can be placed almost anywhere and watched from any remote location.

Don’t get carried away with your voyeurism just yet; there are legal implications when using surveillance cameras, as well as possibly interfering with your negotiations. Rather than using the cameras for protection, there are some home sellers who are tempted to use the videos as a way of understanding the buyer by analyzing their gestures.

Does a home buyer have a reasonable expectation of privacy when viewing your home? After all, many sellers vacate the house so the buyer and their agent can view the home on their own; although sometimes they are escorted by the listing agent. Even though there has yet to be some ruling or professional opinion from a real estate board about the matter; an increasing number of home sellers are using obvious and observable cameras to monitor their homes. Aside from the “broker blooper reel” that was put together for 20/20, it seems as if the cameras have helped some home sellers go after rogue real estate agents.

For most people, a notice indicating they are being video recorded is enough to alter their behavior; sometimes a notice is enough to deter theft. However, there are some whose bad behavior is not deterred, even when looking directly at a camera. If you’re considering using surveillance cameras in your home during the listing period, you should consult an attorney about legal implications.

Dan Krell ©
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of May 5, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

How Protected is your home?

by Dan Krell
© 2007

Have you thought about home security lately? According to the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (alarm.org), a Temple University study indicated that homes without a security system are almost three times more likely (2.2 to 3.1 depending on value range of home) to be broken into than homes with a security system.

The study also indicated that 81% of the intrusions into residential properties occurred into the first floor. Of these first floor intrusions, 34% occurred through the front door, 23% occurred through a first floor window, 22% through the back door, 9% through a garage, and 4% through an unlocked entrance. In another study, 41% of homes with alarm systems were burglarized because the system was not activated.

If you haven’t noticed, security systems have changed significantly over the years. What were once unsightly additions of window tape, boxes and other equipment to protect your home are now cleverly designed apparatus that appear part of the décor or at the very least inconspicuous. Older systems needed to be hard wired, meaning that actual wires and connections were installed behind the walls and onto windows to create a circuit throughout your home; when the circuit was broken the alarm was activated to alert the police.

Some newer systems include closed circuit TV. Some systems even have CCTV that is activated by motion sensors and have thermal imaging capability. Some newer technology is being implemented to not only deter burglars, but to identify them for prosecution.

When older systems were activated, police were notified by loud alarms and/or monitoring stations. Monitoring stations were once only notified by alarms through telephone lines, however, internet technology has allowed security monitoring via broadband connections. Additionally, newer systems can not only notify police electronically, but can send you a notification to your work or cell phone.

Many new homes are pre-wired for sophisticated security systems. If your home is not pre-wired, it can be costly to install a hard wired system because technicians need to cut dry wall and feed wire through your home.

If your home is not pre-wired for a security system and/or you don’t want to spend a lot on the installation of the system – don’t worry. Home security systems have many wireless options. In fact, wireless systems offer flexibility that hard wired systems do not, such as mobile panic buttons that you can carry in your pocket.

If you are considering a security system here are some tips to get started: get at least three estimates and compare all the equipment that will be included; get a detailed list of equipment being installed; determine whether the estimate is a purchase or a lease; ask for credentials from the sales representative and the installation technician; find out if the monitoring company notifies you or the police first; get clarification on the warranty and what it actually covers; make sure the alarm system has adequate instructions and support; find out who is responsible for repairs or upgrades; make sure you have a telephone company approved alarm jack if the system is to be connected to line.

Although we are protected by one of the best police organizations in the country, having a home security system can add a layer of protection that gives you peace of mind.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of June 25, 2007. Copyright © 2007 Dan Krell.