The doorbell rang. The female homeowner of the townhouse condo opened the door, leaving her screen door closed and locked. There stood a couple; the man said he was there to look at the condo, which was for sale. Their real estate agent had not yet shown up.

The homeowner said, “OK; 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.”

“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. “I called her cell; she didn’t answer. She should’ve been here 10 minutes ago. Just let us in for a quick peek.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Fine. We’ll wait. But tell me — why do you wanna sell this place, anyway?”

In a rather hushed voice, the seller replied, “Well…I guess I should tell you.” She darted her eyes back and forth to make sure nobody else could possibly hear, then continued in a hushed voice, “My home is haunted.” She nodded up and down, eyes wide. “Every night, the ghosts come out. One’s a child, and she giggles. I kind of like her, but the adult ghosts…they’re really annoying. So I decided it’s time to move.”

The man and woman left after that.

Were they legitimate? Were they really waiting for their agent? Or did they have another motive?

We’ll never know. But one thing’s for sure: The homeowner scared them off.

Not all sellers have such wits about them, and many would have 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?

As a real estate agent, you must inform your clients that, while it may be difficult to imagine that the kind, well-mannered home-shopper is actually a predator, it should be easy to imagine the bad guy donning a suit, shaving and acting professionally just to get his foot inside your door.

Inform your sellers not to speak with other buyers or agents and to always refer questions back to you.

Tell them that ads about their property that say “eager” or “motivated” seller can attract criminals.

Tell your sellers you’ll arrange with them when you’ll arrive and when it’s time to answer the door so that the homeowner doesn’t end up with the buyers (or potential predators) standing around, making the seller feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. 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.

If the doorbell rings, but the seller has not received your phone call, then the seller knows not to answer the door (unless they can see through the peephole that it’s UPS or a neighbor). This phone call plan eliminates the possibility of the seller letting “buyers” in without the agent present.

And, of course, whenever a seller opens his or her home up to strangers for a showing, there are additional things to consider:

  • Sellers should put away valuables and even prescription drugs.
  • 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.
  • “Touchy-feely” behavior of buyers should never be acceptable, even if it comes from a woman.
  • Have pets secured so that they can’t nip at visitors.
  • Eliminate tripping hazards.

At this point in your career, you should know the drill.

However, many of us become complacent and think “it can’t happen to me” — which means you let your guard down and put yourself and your clients at risk.

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

Email Robert Siciliano.

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