SCR Legal’s Top Ten Open House Risks/Issues:
1. Safety. Remove all trip/slip/fall hazards. Provide adequate lighting (e.g., windows, electric lights). Park so that you are not blocked in the driveway. Walk so that you are not blocked in a room or basement or upper floor without a clear escape route. Upon arriving quickly alert the neighbors about your open house so they can keep an eye open for trouble and call for help. Alert colleagues/partners to expect timely check in’s from you. Periodically check-in.
2. Phone. Your mobile phone is your lifeline, so keep your charged and connected phone in your hand during showings. Have a panic alert app open or 911 on speed dial. Escape, evade, hide, flee, resist is your mantra…dress for running/fighting. Every extra minute you buy with running/hiding/resisting allows police to be more likely to save you once you call the police on your phone. Use the phone’s camera to record visitors and vehicles/tags and ID’s so others have access to this information. In new neighborhoods, give directions to 911 from a major road since the new roads might not be in the 911 map system yet.
3. Protect. Ensure that you tell the sellers to remove/secure all valuables, weapons, drugs, alcohol, information, pets, children, and sentimental items before the open house. Monitor visitors to the home. Legal/disclosed surveillance systems and alarms can deter crime. Insurance can protect you and the sellers. Don’t give alcohol to visitors unless using insurance and a professional bartender service. Leave your expensive jewelry/watch at home. Keep your wallet and purse and computer in a secure area.
4. List. Have a listing agreement and comply with laws, rules, and ethics. Bring one of your brokerage’s associated licensees. You may need more than one real estate licensee when lots of people want to view the property. Follow ethics/laws. Comply with neighborhood and government sign rules/ordinances.
5. Judge People. Comply with fair housing laws/ethics. Cold read people’s behavior and words. Inquire about them. Record their ID and vehicle/tag so others have access to this information if you are missing. Disclose that you will check and record these items with signage to help deter criminals and prevent people from getting upset. Remember that males and females can be victims and perpetrators so treat everyone equally with these issues in mind.
6. Health. Check the property thoroughly upon arrival. Remember the layout. Have lots of hand sanitizer stations about and while inquiring about potential buyers’ needs, ask about their travel in the past few weeks and their health. Wash your hands periodically.
7. Bluff. Always have a reason to be behind the potential buyer with your phone in your hand. Pretend to take a call as you escape/evade a threat without arousing immediate suspicion. "Oh hi Bob and Dave, you guys just pulled up in the driveway, I am walking towards you."
8. Leaving. Check the property before leaving. Try to leave before dark. Ensure the doors, windows, locks, window locks, sliding door/ locks, hinges, faucets, stove/oven, appliances, lights, and thermostats are secure before leaving.
9. Self Defense. Many things can be used for self-defense, even a cane or umbrella can be used to defend yourself if the situation arises. Get training with your preferred self-defense method/item. Avoid leaving the property with the threat. Resist when running and hiding do not buy you any more time.
10. Report. Immediately report issues to law enforcement and your brokerage and your colleagues/spouse and healthcare. The internet makes reporting fast and easy.
NAR has a Safety Network/Alert for national-level issues and kidnapping. https://www.nar.realtor/safety/realtor-safety-network REALTOR® associations and MLS often have policies that law enforcement alerts are the only specific information that they will broadcast due to legal issues (e.g., erroneous, false, mistaken reports, slander, libel, fair housing). REALTOR® associations and MLS periodically broadcast non-specific alerts such as this article.
Posted by: Byron King on 3/11/20 (This information is only accurate as of 3/11/20. You must contact SCR for updates and changes to this information after 3/11/20 as laws and regulations may change over time. SCR 803-772-5206 or email info at screaltors.org)