The Real Estate Law Podcast

8 - Open House Safety for Real Estate Agents, Buyers, and Property Owners

May 28, 2019 Jason Muth + Rory Gill Season 1 Episode 8
The Real Estate Law Podcast
8 - Open House Safety for Real Estate Agents, Buyers, and Property Owners
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we're talking about how to keep everything and everyone safe during an Open House.

How often do you open your front door to strangers, let them wander around your home, and check everything out (sometimes without supervision)?  Not often, we would hope!

When you're buying or selling property, though, the rules are a bit different.  While sight-unseen offers are common for investors, the vast majority of residential real estate transactions involve in-person tours, and frequently, Open Houses.

Realtors have many safety concerns when conducting Open Houses.  We offer a number of ways to keep safe, including:

  • Touring with buyers - safety in your car and while alone in houses
  • Safety for agents during showings
  • Safety for guests - what hazards to watch for
  • What agents should do immediately upon arrival
  • Safety for owners and belongings

Learn all of this and more!

Join Jason Muth and Attorney / Broker Rory Gill of NextHome Titletown and UrbanVillage Legal in Boston, Massachusetts for another episode of The Real Estate Law Podcast! 

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Speaker 1:

You found the real estate law podcast because real estate is more than just pretty pictures and La goes well beyond the paperwork and courtroom arguments. If you're a real estate professional or looking to build real estate expertise, then welcome to the conversation and discover more at real estate law,

Speaker 2:

It's the real estate law podcast, episode number eight. Hello Rory. Hi Jason. How are you? Good. Excellent. So today we're talking about a really good topic that I would've never thought would have been a really interesting podcast topic, but you threw it out there and I said, Whoa, what a great idea. It's a serious but often overlooked topic. It is. Uh, today we're talking about open house safety and uh, we're going to talk about safety from the perspective of three different groups of people. Uh, not only yourself as a real estate professional, but the guests who we're inviting into the homes who are looking at the property, kicking the tires, taken a look to see if I want to live there or invest the property. Uh, but also the owners and their belongings. I mean very important that everything remains safe during this whole process. So my name is Jason [inaudible] and I'm one of the hosts of the real estate law podcast. And I'm worry, um, the other host and the broker. Next home's heddled town and the attorney at urban village legal. Excellent. Okay. So let's start with, uh, let's start with real estate professionals, right? So since we're, we're writing this as the perspective of somebody who, uh, is in the business and, uh, is add an open house and is with guests, but before they bring the guests inside the house, before they even a invite somebody into their car, uh, and before they take a client on, what are some of the things that real estate professionals to think about, uh, to remain safe during this whole process? I mean, just think about the position that you're asked by the profession to be in a, you're in charge of a whole house, possibly by herself with strangers coming and going at will. That's a pretty dangerous situation. And occasionally there's the horror story about, um, unfortunate realtor being harmed during an open house. Um, so ultimately the best option is to not do the open house alone. That can be a challenge. Um, uh, really a practical challenge some times, but having a colleague, um, even a friend or an assistant or somebody with you at the open house is the best solution though I know it's not always possible at the very least. Uh, the open houses have a scheduled start time and stop shop time. Right? And you can use that to communicate with somebody else who's offsite, whether it's your broker or your loved one or a friend, just to let them know that you're where you are and that you're okay and that you expect to be done by a certain time. So let's say one of your agents has an open house on Sunday from 11 to one. Um, would it be a good idea for that agent to check in with you right when they get their saying, everything looks great. Uh, I'll let you know how things go. Yeah. So again, the best solution is to have them go there with somebody. But if that's not a possibility to um, let me know that they will send a quick message that they've arrived, that everything's okay, um, and that they've completed the open house and that everything's okay. So with somebody, how, I mean, how often really does an agent have somebody else there with them? Probably not often enough. Um, that's the answer. But the other person does, does not need to be a real estate professional. If their job there is to help keep an eye on the property and help keep an eye on you. Right. So it's, it's not common to have a second person at the open house, uh, if possible. Sure. Invite somebody there. If you're concerned about your safety, maybe you're in a neighborhood that has safety concerns or if you are in a remote area or somewhere that maybe is difficult, that doesn't have good cell service or it's, it's hard to get ahold of that person. Um, a second person might not be a bad idea. Yup. Um, and second persons, I mean the, not a bad idea. The National Association of Realtors. A also has a list of tips that can help you at an open house, uh, as a professional. We'll make sure to link to that in the show notes, but you know, they clearly have lots of great expertise with lots of situations. So, you know, in, in, you know, some things might be a little simple. Um, never, um, never lead, always follow. So if you're working with somebody pointing out the way and have them walk ahead of you, that gives you a little bit better perspective and when somebody else's around, so actually walking through the property, you're saying have them walk in front of you and you pace by the person, right, so that you're always in control of the situation as best can be. Um, recently, um, I was told of it, another agent in Boston, it had working for a different brokerage but, um, uh, friendly with us and she was hosting an open house and one of the visitors kept trying to lure her into the bathroom. And fortunately she had the wherewithal not to follow that in another guests showed up shortly thereafter. But who knows what, um, what, what dangers did open house in situations like that are always a cold reminder of what exactly a real realtors face, right? Because when you're having an open house, I mean, you, you really never know who's going to show up. I mean it's, it's literally an open house. Anyone from the public of walking side, right? Right. So there were a couple of things that you can do to mitigate that risk. Um, we have for this and then also for the safety of the sellers and their belongings. A mandatory Sinan. So if you go to an exome title town open house, we have, um, an electronic sign in sheet and it's mandatory for everybody. Um, and that's not because we mean to be difficult to our guests, but it's really for the security of our agents and for the sellers that we were working with. It's not really atypical from going to a building in downtown Boston. I mean, I've been in many buildings where you have to sign in with security downstairs, provide id, and they will give you a badge for temporary purposes for the day. Uh, there've been times I've had meetings where I was not on the list and they had to call upstairs and ask if I was allowed to be in the building. So, you know, why shouldn't residential open houses be different. Right. And I'm right, even posing a set of security that's that strict, but having something, some sense of accountability and some tracking people who come and go. So these are situations where you're actually in the house that you're showing. Right? And you've opened it up to the public, advertised it and any stranger can come walk through that door. And we, we should, we should be clear though. I mean like obviously it, these are the outlier situations where there is a security risk, uh, for the vast, vast, vast majority of open houses, everything goes that a hitch. Right? Absolutely. Right. Um, but with that said, you know, being, being secure is, is always a safe, safe thing to do. Yes. So what about if that same agent, since we're talking about agents first, uh, is working with a client, a new client, and the first thing that that they're going to do with the client after they meet with them in the office is probably a, if it's a buyer client, take them out on appointments, right? Yes. And frequently you are not meeting the client at the appointment, you are driving that person around. Yes. Okay. So what are some thoughts about that you now have a client but kind of a stranger unless you've known them beforehand in your car, um, to understand who you're driving around to make sure that at that point you've seen some sort of identification about them. Um, and to, to trust your instincts if something feels dangerous, that your safety is more important than the transaction. Right? It's just, it's probably just always a good idea to be checking in with a broker, a coworker, a loved one, as to kind of what you're doing for the day. Right, right. And this transcends this particular profession. When, um, as an attorney, when I did refinance transactions, I would typically text and let people know where I was going. So that way if something bad happened or I didn't meet the schedule, um, there'd be some accountability right, where they're expecting you to be there and you know, where are you? So they might call you up. Yeah. Although I will say sometimes I know kind of where you are driving around, but I don't really know exactly where you are. So I just kind of assume everything's fine. Well, so far it has been. So because we're recording this, all right, so let's talk about guests. So people who are coming to an open house, what are some of the thoughts about security of those walking around this strange property? So that's a slightly different situation here. Now we're not looking at a crime risk. Um, so much we're looking at, um, a structural risks to make sure that there are no hazards in the property. In this case is the, is the host of the open house. I highly recommend for this and other reasons that you arrive early. That'll give you a chance to go into the house, um, calmly and methodically check every room to make sure that there are no dangers, no hidden people in some situations, um, left behind when you go to open up the open house. Um, I mean that, that happens sometimes. I mean, I can think of probably some, some markets that have been a little depressed or challenged where there's a lot of homes in foreclosure where maybe there's squatters in the property or even new construction because those properties tend to be vacant. Um, there's a few people, a homeless people taking refuge in those, those properties. So those are also at risk for, um, unexpected guests before the open house starts. Right. And obviously the risk there is with the agent and then with the potential buyers. Cause if you off the property beforehand, you are securing the property yourself and you're not going to have a surprise as a potential buyer walks into a room and then surprise there's somebody sitting there. Right. But, um, for more mundane issues to getting the early, gives you a chance to take a look, make sure that, um, no deck railing is about to snap off. No stair railings about to break that if it's icy outside the ice has been treated. Um, because if somebody does get hurt, your seller and yourself are likely going to be liable for those kinds of issues. If it's new construction. I mean, do you have to wear a hardhat? Um, depending on the state of the new construction in a new construction situations, you want to take small groups only at a time, right? Cause you know, your head could hit any of the structural two by fours or any that unfinished, um, elements of the building, right? A place like that wouldn't necessarily be in good order for a proper open house because it's too difficult to supervise any unexpected guests. So we've actually walked some properties that I think back to it now saying, what were we thinking when we walked in that property? But, uh, what about a flashlight? That's probably good idea. Using the flashlight on your phone. Like, let's say that you're downstairs or crawl space or basement in an old building where there's a old plumbing, old structures, things might not be to current codes. Probably a good idea for you to be walking around really carefully. Sure. If that's, that sounds to me more like a situation of a showing. If you're showing him doing a private showing of her property and not everything's readily accessible, that's the time to come with the flashlight. If you're hosting an open house in flashlights are required, you might want to rethink having the open house in the first place. If you have, perhaps you could have temporary lighting set up, but in those situations I would either walk people they're individually or I would just seal that part out of the house off in, um, say that that would be available for a home inspection. Right. Any other tips for people who are walking on the property, who are guests on the property? Um, just to, to methodically maybe go with the checklist or just take a calm walk. If you arrive late, you're not going to have the chance to do a thorough and professional job, right. As a, as a broker or an agent, you're going to running through the property and you're going to open up rooms alongside people walking in with a first time and that's not good. And one last thing, you want it to kind of move into safety for the sellers and their belongings. Um, during your walkthrough, you want to take a look around and see if there are any, um, valuables that have been left out. The sellers should have been instructed ahead of time to put away their valuables, to put away their sensitive documents. And if you're doing the walk through, you see that those remain, um, you might need to contact your sellers and ask them to quickly return and put them away. Or if it's really serious, um, omission, you may want to cancel the open house. So people that have open houses, a lot of times the attendees are the next door neighbor's, right? That's, yeah. Neighbors have all sorts. Yeah. I mean it's not just buyers that are showing up. It's a lot of people who are just, they're curious, they're in the neighborhood, they want to see what the property looks like inside. They want to see what they, you know, they know what the price is. They want to see like what it looks like and can they get that for their unit. So now suddenly you have your neighbors walking around your property because you're not there as the owner, right? And it's fine to have the curiosity, curiosity to see how the place has been decorated. But it's another level of curiosity that Tif rifled through your bills on the table. Right? And kinda see what you and your credit cards and you know, where your life insurance policies held, right? It's a bad time to leave your tax return out. So also valuables, I mean, jewelry or laptops or you know, anything that has value. You know, if you're going to be showing up at an open house and the the age of welcomes you and says, have a look around, you're kind of on your own. You're walking upstairs, you're walking down the hall and someone is keeping an eye on you. But what if it's a busy open house, they're not going to look at everything you're doing. No. So small valuables, anything that could be slipped into a purse or pocket, um, they should not be out. Those should be hidden away. They should be locked away. That should be taken away. Um, nobody's going to come in and steal your TV off the wall. That's not the kind of theft that wheel we would expect for an open house. Well, especially cause TVs is days costs like 400 bucks. I mean, they're ridiculously cheap. These big TVS. Can you, I can't believe how inexpensive they are these days. Right? Right. You know, diamonds are diamonds, watches or watches those disappear. So lots of things to think about. I mean, this is, this is the kind of topic that, uh, you know, you may be, maybe you consider it after something bad happens. Uh, and in the, again, I'll say the vast majority of cases, this is a non factor for any of these people, for agents, for buyers, uh, for people that are selling their property. I mean, everything's gonna be fine. Most people are completely fine. Won't get hurt, won't steal anything, but right. So don't pretend that you're immune. So none of our, none of the open houses have ever been involved with have had a problem. Um, have any of these sorts. At the same time, if we thought that we were immune to this threat, then we would let her guard down and we'd be doing a disservice to ourselves, our agents, our clients, and our guests. So if you are attending open houses, uh, today as you're listening to this, just make sure, uh, that you know, you're no the property, no the footing makes sure that you know that all the doors are open. Uh, make sure that somebody is there to greet you. If you are an agent, uh, just, you know, shoot somebody a text, uh, to say that you got there on time and that everything looks good, that you're safe and you'll text them afterwards when it's done. If that text doesn't come through, then that person knows to go looking. And, uh, if you are an owner listening to this, just put your stuff away, really simple and have your phone on you at all times, right? A lot of times you people leave it in the counter and start walking around, have your phone on your person the entire time. Well, a lot to think about and I really appreciate your putting these thoughts together. Rory. This is something I would've never thought would've been an interesting episode and I hope that you as a listener found this interesting. Um, so thanks again Rory. Uh, once again, uh, this is the real estate law podcast and this is episode number eight about open house safety. Uh, Rory Gill has been our expert here today and where can we find your, Rory? I'm easy to find at next home title, Okay, great. And uh, thanks again for listening. We'll look forward to having you listen to a future episode. Please subscribe to the real estate law podcast where ever you're listening to this and please leave us a review. We love reviews and shoot us a message. Also, you know, we do have, um, a website. It is real estate law, all the contact info is there and we love to hear from you, get some feedback. And if you have ideas for future episodes, please let us know. So I'm Jason Knuth. I'm were, Yo, thanks for listening.

Speaker 1:

Thank you. This has been the real estate law podcast because real estate is more than just pretty pictures and log goes well beyond the paperworking courtroom arguments were powered by next home title town, Greater Boston's progressive real estate brokerage more at next home title, and urban village legal Massachusetts Real Estate Council serving savvy property owners, lenders and investors Today's conversation was not legal advice, but we hope you found it entertaining and informative. Discover more at real estate law, Thank you for listening.