Are open house visitors intentionally opening all the doors and windows?

Real Estate Broker Owner with Catarra Real Estate, Inc CA BRE #01191946

Open houseWhen a homeowner puts their house on the market, they should get a stern warning from their REALTOR - protect your valuables, keep all your doors and windows locked at all times.  This, of course, applies to the agents who hold an open house.  When the many visitors come through they'll open all sorts of doors, cabinets, etc while they poke around investigating the home.  Some visitors are not all they seem.  Some of the folks that visit an open house are there for another purpose altogether.

An example of what I'm talking about actually happened at an open house yesterday.  I held open a nice 2-story luxury home in Los Altos that also has a basement.  The house has four patio doors on the lower level, the front door, a door in the basement for emergency access, and doors on two upstairs patios.  When I opened the house, I opened NONE of the patio doors.  The only open door was the front door.  I also didn't open any windows but instead opted to keep the AC running.  I had a total of 8 groups visiting and one was accompanied by a well-know local REALTOR and another guest was a nationally known celebrity.  That means I had 6 others who are suspects in what I consider the biggest threat to an open house - UNLOCKED DOOR SYNDROME.

Thieves like to come through open houses and unlock doors so they can come back later and pilfer whatever they want.  When I went back through the house to close up, EVERY DOOR WAS UNLOCKED!  There was no reason why anyone would open every door in the house.  So, I had someone there who was setting the house up to be burgled.

My advice to agents and home sellers is:

  • Check every window and door when locking up and leaving, especially after an open house
  • Don't assume that a door is locked just because it was when you arrived
  • Check windows too and ensure that each latch is locked
  • Pay attention to who visits your open house and make sure you don't leave valuables out

As agents, we're a line of defense for our clients to protect their home.  Pay attention and stay on top of what's happening in your open house.


Re-Bloggged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Carol Zingone 08/01/2011 05:02 PM
  2. Karen Burket 08/01/2011 09:31 PM
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Comments 47 New Comment

Larry Craven
Realty Direct, Inc
Realty Direct Loudon County

I also check doors and windows even when showing homes to clients because another agent could have gone through the house with a client prior to my arrival.  I have found doors unlocked and I immediately call the listing agent to let them know.     

August 04, 2011 01:15 PM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, Principal Broker/Owner
Buyer Focused ~ Buyer Results | (503) 810-7192 Portland Metro Exclusive Buyers Agent | 100% Buyer Representation ~ 100% of the Time

Absolutely  . . . a stern warning!  Many people don't think about this at all, even homeowners who aren't selling.  All it takes is one little indication that the windown is open and a gateway for thieves and prowlers.  Fortunately, I have my windows open because I have two dogs who would love to sink their teeth into someone's leg . . . protection dogs are great!

August 05, 2011 01:42 PM
Steve Stenros
CREIA MCI, ICC, Home Inspector,San Diego
Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula

Excellent article, Bryan! There is definitely a great deal of liability taken on when doing an open house!

August 06, 2011 12:22 PM
Anonymous #46
Brian Park, Broker

Actually this should be reposted here annually. I used to get a new agent and before their first open I would give them the office open house instruction binder and a open house check list. They used to think I was paranoid and an alarmist but the facts were small things that were appealing or pawn-able would disappear apparently at a open house. Meds were a big item. And casing the house was common.

The point I think someone made is the seller should check after a showing because these prep deals for a future visit can happen anytime. I once had a listing where the sellers were on vacation and since it was near my house I would visit it each evening on the way home and found the side door latch taped so you could just pull it open. I asked my neighbor a police captain to join me at the home and about 10pm the side door opened and three guys came in only to be arrested after they took a few item to carry out, the woman who viewed the home with an agent that day was the wife of one of the thieves.

One of my clients was a famous detective in the Bay Area and every once in awhile he would check out new spy gear and one was one of the early spy cameras, he placed it in one of my listings, and just before Christmas the seller who had done all her shopping left the presents around the Christmas tree with the receipts, about $2,000 in gifts to wrap later. Next day she came home and the gifts were gone along with a few antique ornament's.Well the spy camera, as well as the store cameras that caught the thief returning the gifts, made an open and shut case. It was a real estate agent who came over from his market area to fatten his wallet. He broke a window before he left to divert us and cover up his crime. So who, how, and when is always a lurking possibility with any listing.

The list of stories I've heard over 46 years is endless.

August 06, 2011 05:26 PM
Todd Clark
Broker - Beaverton, Oregon Real Estate Expert - (503) 524-9494
Keller Williams Realty

I agree that it is happening more and more. I caught someone sneaking around one of my listings trying to break in. I called the police with their description, license plate # and within hours they had these two arrested. (It seems they had just got out of jail and were on parole)

August 08, 2011 12:54 PM

Bryan Robertson

Innovator, Writer, Speaker
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Read about news, reviews, and commentary about current events and trends in the real estate industry. I also write about local markets including Silicon Valley and my hometowns - Los Altos and Saratoga.