Kathryn's Blog


Beware of Squatters - Safety at Vacant Houses

In the past year, there have been a number of stories about real estate agents being attacked during showings.  Unfortunately, some of these have resulted in fatalities, and safety during showings has become a prominent topic.  Most of the articles I have read have warned against having your first meeting with a new customer at a vacant property, and recommended taking a buddy with you if you absolutely can not schedule a meeting in a public setting.

Last week, however, I had a conversation with another agent about a safety topic that I had not yet heard addressed:  squatters in vacant homes.  The agent I spoke with told the story that she had gone to check on one of her vacant listings.  When she went out to the barn that was on the property and unlocked the door, a man yelled, "Hey!"  The agent quickly left the property and called the sellers, who promptly contacted the local police.

Luckily, no harm came to my colleague, but it did get me thinking again of safety issues.  I'd like to share with you my list of tactics when working with vacant properties:

1.  If an unknown buyer insists on seeing a vacant property with short notice, do not go alone.  If you can not find a buddy to accompany you, offer alternative times to meet the buyer...in a public place. 

2.  When you meet a new potential client, write down the license plate on their vehilcle and make certain you have as much contact information as possible.

3.  Always let someone know where you are going when you have appointments.  Have your cell phone on you the whole time, and stay positioned near exits if you feel uneasy.

4.  As a listing agent for property that is vacant, advise your sellers to disconnect water and fuel sources.  Make sure they have a plan for having their mailbox checked on a regular basis, trash barrels put away, newspapers cancelled. 

5.  In a vacant home that is not staged, at the very least hang draperies on the first level and set up several lights on timers.

6.  Arrange with the sellers to have snow removed from the walkways and driveway, and to have the lawn cut on a regular basis.  Introduce yourself to neighbors and ask that they contact you and/or the sellers if they see any strange activity.

7.  If you have a vacant listing that you are going to check on, take a buddy with you.

8.  As a buyer's agent, always ask if a property is vacant, even if the photos on the MLS show the home to be furnished.  As a listing agent, always let buyer's agents know when a house is vacant.

9.  Make safety a topic that you address in your listing appointments, as well as your initial appointments with buyers.  Having it all covered up front will help eliminate grey areas and reduce the potential for incidents.

Be smart and stay safe!

Kathryn Acciari, Safety Lady

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Kathryn Acciari, Brand Ambassador

Century 21 Real Estate LLC
175 Park Avenue
Madison NJ 07940

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Blog: Real Estate Blog
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Comment balloon 5 commentsKathryn Acciari • February 23 2009 01:10PM
Beware of Squatters - Safety at Vacant Houses
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