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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, RSPS, SRS, RESE, CFA

Century 21 MetroWest
45 Lyman Street  Suite 14
Westborough MA 01581

Serving the Route 9/20 Corridors of Central Massachusetts
Sturbridge to Westborough

Cell: (508) 982-0686   
Email:
kasellshomes@gmail.com

Web site: kathrynacciari.com
Blog:
Real Estate Blog
Twitter: @kacciari

Comment balloon 5 commentsKathryn Acciari • February 23 2009 01:10PM

Comments

This is very pertinent & valuable information Kathryn. I sometimes forget that not everyone has good intentions.

Posted by Ellie McIntire, Luxury service in Howard County & Catonsville (Ellicott City Clarksville Howard County Maryland Real Estate) almost 10 years ago

I work with a company call Vacant Property Security. Check out website: www.vacantpropertysecurity.com This security system can help do away with all real estate agent fears of walking into a vacant property.

Posted by John Thomas (Vacant Property Security) almost 10 years ago

Kathryn,  My husband is my real estate partner - he frequently joins me when I meet a new prospect at a vacant house or if the homeowner isn't there,  Karen

Posted by Karen Kruschka, - "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS" (RE/MAX Executives) almost 10 years ago

We work in the UK dealing with the problems of empty property. www.houseguards.co.uk .It may be something that would provide a service in the States and solve the issues of vacant property and squatters.

Posted by Adrienne Boxhall over 9 years ago

Ellie - it is unfortunate that these things happen.

John, Karen, and Adrienne - all  great ideas to help us stay safe.

Posted by Kathryn Acciari, Brand Ambassador and Business Coach (Century 21 Real Estate) over 9 years ago

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