Putting your house on the market requires some common sense precautions.  There are many crooks out there with clever ways of taking advantage of vacant homes or stealing furniture and valuables from your home. We are fortunate here in Nevada County that we haven’t had anywhere near the problems that are experienced in the Bay Area.

But here are some lessons from our neighbors. 

“These thefts certainly occur in the Bay Area as well. From the New York Times in April, ’09:

…..Professional decorators stage unoccupied homes that are on the market with borrowed furnishings and appointments to help fetch top dollar, especially now that real estate sales have wilted like a week old flower arrangement…..but the same painstaking efforts to attract buyers have also attracted thieves.

In the East Bay, staged houses have been burglarized in Orinda, while in Piedmont, “the discriminating criminals have made off with bath linens, dressers, upholstered chairs and sofas, table lamps, mirrors and end tables (not to mention the flat-screen televisions).”

Police noticed several aspects of these crimes that should be of interest to sellers and agents.

1. In some cases, the thieves “appeared to have cased the homes during open houses and surreptitiously unlocked a window for future access”

2. Other crimes involved the use of cutting tools to remove lockboxes on the doors

3. Thieves can also remove door handles to get the house key out of the lockbox

4. Online advertising can work against the seller: a clearly staged home also clearly announces the home is vacant

The Indio California Police Department, where similar crimes are on the rise, explains the situation thus: Property crimes are going up in the bad economy.

Indeed, going up so much that the Oakland Association of Realtors has developed some tips/warnings for agents and sellers:

1. Use heightened vigilance…..let neighbors know that no one is authorized to take property out of a house

2. Consider an alarm system “to thwart the use of bump keys, a burglary tool illegal in California.”

3. Consider showing homes by appointment only: abolish the Sunday “anyone can come in at all” practice that works so well for thieves

Other common sense tips:

1. Don’t leave patio furniture or expensive plants outside of vacant homes

2. Agents should hold open houses with a team so that one person alone is not trying to watch the whole house

3. Homeowners, you might want to stick around the open house, too.”

Source: SF Gate