• To keep your homesellers secure, inform them not to speak to buyers or agents without you. Have them refer questions back to you.
  • Avoid the words "eager" and "motivated" on marketing materials, especially yard signs.
  • Put away knife blocks, and remove tripping hazards.

The doorbell rang. The homeowner, a woman, opened it. There stood a man and woman. The man said he was there to look at the house, which made sense because it was for sale. But their real estate agent had not yet shown up.

A locked screen door separated the couple from the homeowner. The homeowner said, “OK, you can perhaps take a look outside while you’re waiting for your agent.”

The man replied, “We already did. We now would like to see the inside.”

The homeowner said, “Don’t you think you should wait for your agent? I’m sure she’ll be here any minute.”

The man looked at his watch. “She should’ve been here 10 minutes ago. Could you just let us in for a quick peek? Please?”

What harm could be done, right?

But the homeowner said, “I don’t think so.” She noted that the man’s female companion seemed submissive to him. Something wasn’t quite right.

The man and woman left. Were they legit? Were they really waiting for their agent? Or were they robbers?

We’ll never know. But one thing’s for sure: The homeowner did the right thing and might’ve scared them off.

This could have gone another way. Maybe she lets them in, and they end up buying the house. Or she lets them in, and she ends up a statistic.

Not all sellers have such wits about them, and many would have unthinkingly let the couple in, perhaps assuming that the presence of a female buyer means they’re harmless. But how can a seller know for sure that a man and woman couple aren’t a pair of robbers or murderers.

Homeowners have been robbed, kidnapped and worse because of this exact same scenario.

How to keep your sellers’ home safe while on the market

dourleak / Shutterstock.com

dourleak / Shutterstock.com

As a real estate agent, you must inform your clients that, though it might be difficult to imagine that the kind, well-mannered homeshopper is actually a predator, it should be easy to imagine the predator donning a suit, shaving and acting professionally just to get his foot in your door. Use these tips to keep your sellers safe in their homes:

  1. Inform your sellers not to speak with other buyers or agents and to always refer questions back to you.
  2. Tell them that ads about their property that say “eager” or “motivated” seller can attract criminals. A sign in the front yard with this phrasing can result in a robber knocking on your door who claims to be looking for a family home just like yours.
  3. Tell your sellers you’ll arrange with them any appointments ahead of time and keep them fully informed of any potential buyers showing up to the property.
  4. Suggest they don’t answer the door unless a package is being delivered or they are expecting someone.
  5. As an agent, you can inform your clients that if they arrive at the property first, they are to wait for you instead of ringing the doorbell.
  6. Create a phone call plan. If the doorbell rings, but the seller has not received your phone call, then the seller should not answer the door (unless they can see through the peephole that it’s UPS or a neighbor). This plan eliminates the possibility of the seller letting faux buyers in without the agent present.

Safety tips during a showing:

  1. Sellers should put away valuables — even prescription drugs.
  2. They should check all windows after the showing (a burglar might disable the bathroom window screen for later entry). Make sure all locks still work.
  3. Touchy-feely behavior from buyers should never be acceptable, even if it comes from a woman. She might have a male accomplice (who’s coming a little later) whom she will give feedback to regarding the seller’s reactions. If the seller’s reactions were nil or skittish, this tells the accomplice that the seller is an easy target.
  4. Have pets secured so that they can’t nip at visitors.
  5. Eliminate tripping hazards.
  6. Put away blocks of knives.

All of this is common sense. To put it all in perspective, the chances of a client or an agent ever becoming the victim of a crime is minute. But, as we know — there is a chance.

Explain to your clients that wearing their seat belt when they drive is being safety smart. Exercising these tips and taking basic precautions is being security smart.

Robert Siciliano is CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com and a personal security and identity theft expert.

Email Robert Siciliano.