Beware of criminals posing as house buyers

A homeowner in Verwoerdburg hoping to sell her home was caught unawares last night when three suspects posing as potential buyers rang her bell asking to see the property.

The unsuspecting homeowner let the suspects in. While she showed the  one around the others quietly ransacked the home stealing three laptops and a wallet. It was only once they had left did the homeowner realise the goods had been stolen.

Security is often an after-thought when selling a home, but in fact should be a priority, says Linda Goodenough, Community Development Manager for Fidelity ADT.

She confirms that it is quite common for criminals to pose as buyers and gain easy access to properties. “If you have a For Sale sign outside your home, be very cautious about letting in announced buyers. “Rather ask them if you can make an appointment at a later date to come and see the house. If they are serious buyers they will come back and then you can ensure you have people in the home to keep an eye on things,” she says.

If you are planning a show day, Goodenough says it is also important for both sellers and agents to take precaution.

Ahead of the show day, she says it’s important to meet with the agent and to be firm about the arrangements you want in place to safeguard your property and to ensure their safety. “If someone will stand-in for your agent on show day, they should also be in the loop on safety arrangements.”

“It’s also a good idea to let your security company know ahead of time that your home will be on show. Ask them to have armed response stop by randomly during the open-house to check that everything is in order. Test your panic buttons,” she says. She adds that it’s also important to let your neighbours know you are having a show day and ask them to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.

On the day of the show day, Goodenough advises homeowners to lock away or take any spare keys and other valuables that are small enough to fit into a pocket or handbag. “Store large, expensive items in a cupboard that locks and make sure rooms are well-lit by keeping the blinds or curtains open and, where necessary, the lights on.”

Agents need to keep the panic button on hand at all times while taking potential buyers around. “If you are alone, never leave the front entrance to the house open while you are showing the home. Ask that your visitors stay with you throughout the viewing to avoid a situation where people wander off unsupervised.”

If possible, she recommends going for a ‘by-appointment’ option only. This way, groups of visitors will be easier to handle. “If this isn’t possible consider having an assistant on the day who can receive prospective buyers while you are taking others around the property.”

Both homeowners and agents may also want to look into hiring a guard for the duration of the show day. “Many security companies offer a casual guarding service. The guard could be stationed at the gate to ensure potential buyers are safely let into the property. It’s also a deterrent for any criminals who may be targeting the house or the visitors.”

“A lot of preparation goes into selling a house. Make sure that security is on the list,” concludes Goodenough.