Opening your home for public inspection is one of the worst mistakes you can make. It is always a financial mistake, but it can also be your worst emotional mistake.
Do you ever leave your front door open and allow strangers to wander through your home? Of course not. It would be madness. Anyone might come through.
This is exactly what happens when your agent holds your home open for inspection. Anyone is invited to just march up to your front door and wander through your home. They walk through your lounge room, they go into your bedrooms and they open cupboards. Total strangers intruding into the heart of your personal world. This is very dangerous.
All over Australia, anyone can walk into any family home and agents barely notice. Agents will even tell complete strangers how alarm systems operate.
Just because your home is for sale, it doesn’t mean you have to place your safety at risk. It is your home. You have a right to know who enters it.
When selling, the only people who should inspect your home are people who are likely to buy it. You want buyers, not burglars. And the only way to know if a person is a buyer or a burglar is to identify them before they enter your home. It is very hard to do this with a sign on the street saying “Open For Inspection”.
Do not underestimate how serious this is. Neighbourhood Watch advise, “When your home is open for inspection, your valuables, are also open for inspection.”
Ask at your local Police Station or ask your insurance company. They know the dangers, that is why your home is usually not insured when open for inspection.
As with most systems which hurt sellers and help agents, the dangers are publicly ‘played down’ by the real estate industry.
In Queensland, the Real Estate Institute said the dangers posed by Open Inspections is only a “minor problem”. Try telling that to the people whose homes have been burgled. Try telling that to the broadcaster, Derryn Hinch, who lost personal items worth an estimated fifty thousand dollars when thieves visited his agent’s open inspection.
In Victoria, the Real Estate Institute issued a confidential notice to agents saying: “An open for inspection necessarily involves a risk that a person posing as a prospective purchaser may come into the house and steal items.”
The Institute recommends a letter be sent to homesellers which says, “… we cannot be on the spot to detect every incidence of theft.” It advises agents to tell homesellers to remove “anything attractive to a thief.”
The Institute suggests that two salespeople attend an open inspection. For larger homes, it is recommended that “more agents are in attendance to keep the property safe”.
In Western Australia, the Institute issued a warning to agents about thefts during open for inspections.
In South Australia, as early as 1991, the Real Estate Institute, after discussions with the Police Department, told agents to “make it clear that liability for any loss or damage at an open inspection falls upon the homeseller.”
It also stated that a security guard be at all homes which are open for inspection. Neighbourhood Watch goes further – it recommends that sellers have a friend in every room of their home while it is open for inspection.
After the Inspection
The biggest point which agents – and most homesellers – ignore, is the danger after inspections. Some agents say they have been doing open inspections for years and they have “never had a problem.” These agents miss a fairly obvious point: your home will rarely be robbed during the open inspection. Thieves do not load your possessions into a van while the open inspection is taking place. They come back later.
Mr and Mrs Elkington are social workers who are well aware of the dangers from their work with criminals. They wrote: “Open inspections provide chances to ‘case the joint’ for a later return. Violent criminals admit to us that they learn house layouts from open inspections and have subsequently broken in with plans to rob and/or sexually assault the occupants.”
A police officer described harrowing accounts of people finding their homes ransacked in the weeks after open inspections.
He said, “From a woman’s perspective, a burglary is a terrifying experience regardless of the fact that she is not home at the time. The sight of her personal items being violated only escalates the terror.”
This police officer is appalled that most agents have no idea of the consequences of open inspections. One of the worst cases occurred in the Sydney suburb of Eastwood. During an open inspection, a window was unlatched. The criminal returned a few nights later to kidnap a child.
There are two questions to ask before anyone comes into your home: ‘Who are you?’ and ‘What do you want?’ It is better to be blunt now than sorry later. The best agents will qualify all buyers on your behalf. They will sort ‘prospects’ from ‘suspects’. The best agents will respect your privacy and your safety. This is the way it should be.
Open inspections restrict the chances of a sale and greatly reduce the chance of obtaining the best price.
If you are a homebuyer, what would you rather do – meet an estate agent who shows you homes at a time convenient for you, OR, would you prefer to drive around inspecting open-houses at a time set by the agent?
Homebuyers prefer to meet helpful agents. They are fed up with agents who do not return calls, who tell them to “inspect at certain hours” and who have a couldn’t-care-less attitude.
Make it Easy to Buy
One of the Golden Rules of selling anything is: Make it easy for people to buy.
Open inspections make it hard to buy. If the open inspection lasts for one hour, that hour has to suit the buyers. If they have something else to do they cannot inspect the home. The sellers lose the buyers.
Michael and Lesley Johnston visited a home which was open for inspection in East Melbourne. The agent’s first words were, “You’ll have to be quick, I am about to leave.”
Michael said, “But what happens if we want to buy it?”
The reply was, “Well, you’ll have to meet me at the next home. Or you can come back next week, but come earlier.”
This is a common attitude of agents at open inspections. Instead of restricting an inspection time to an hour once or twice a week, a home should be available to inspect at any time to suit a genuine buyer. This is what the best agents do.
Some agents claim that open inspections are more convenient for sellers, but if sellers knew how many buyers were being lost because of open inspections they would never accept this claim.
Open inspections force buyers to look at other homes which are in competition with your home. If your home is similar to others in your area (and this is particularly true with home units) and you allow an open inspection, you are going to be offered a price on par with the lowest price being asked by the sellers of a similar property.
Also, the buyers can make negative comments within earshot of other buyers. One buyer who dislikes your home can influence other buyers.
Buyers love the convenience of seeing properties at a time which suits them. Sellers love the prices they obtain when they avoid open inspections. Both are happy. The agents are happy too because they sell more homes, which normally happens when they do what is best for sellers and buyers.
Do not have anything to do with open inspections.
The important points of…
- Open inspections are an open invitation for criminals.
- Only genuine homebuyers should inspect your home.
- Open inspections are inconvenient for genuine buyers.
- Open inspections can lower the price of your home.
- Open inspections suit agents, not sellers and buyers.
- Never allow your home to be open for public inspection.
The above is an extract from the book Real Estate Mistakes.