Huge problem with open houses
PERFUME, earrings - even toys, handbags and shoes - are among the strange items being stolen from open houses across the country every week.
Thieves are also using open for inspections to scope out the security of homes for future robberies. In fact, Julie O'Donohue, founder and CEO of Next Address, said petty theft during open homes was such a problem that the agency discouraged them altogether, preferring to offer private inspections.
"It's personal stuff that is being taken and people may not notice them missing for a few weeks, but it is definitely happening," she told news.com.au
"Our agents discourage them - open houses tend to attract the neighbours who have a sticky beak and see what Jenny and John down the road have done to their kitchen.
"If the vendors do desperately want to have an open house, we can ensure that there are at least two people there from the agency and everyone who enters has to have pre-registered."
That, she says, is real estate 101 - because you can never be too careful.
"That is vital and non negotiable - you have to show something that says this is who I am and this is where I live - our view is you have to provide your driver's license and we write down the number or take a photo of it."
One of her clients, from Geelong in Victoria, was recently broken into three days after holding an open inspection.
"We arrived home after work to find the house had been broken into," said the man, who did not want to be identified.
"They used our suitcases, which had in a storage cupboard to take all the small stuff.
"We felt 90 per cent sure they had been in the house because they took items that you really had to know how to find.
"Plus, they accessed the private back lane to get stuff out, which you would only know about if you had been to the house before."
Ms O'Donohue said the theft was terrifying for the young family.
"It was just horrible - they took the Xbox and the kid's toys - and they put everything in the family's suitcases, which they would have seen at the open house," she said.
"Unfortunately, we know that there are people out there who take advantage of anything and you just have to protect yourself as much as possible."
John McManus, principal of LJ Hooker Willoughby on Sydney's affluent north shore, said open houses often posed a problem for vendors, with agents ensuring they arrive early to put away all valuables.
"It would happen every open home if we didn't take care and check everything before we opened," he said.
He said the types of things that went missing included perfume and small items that weren't easily missed.
"Like toys, hand bags and shoes," he said.
"We advise vendors to stash away anything that can be put in hand bags or pockets.
"Walk around the house before leaving and put everything away that can be carried out in a bag."
Mr McManus advised his clients to let their insurers know they were conducing open homes in case additional coverage was necessary.
"I always mention to my vendors to get the insurance company to cover them for the weeks of the campaign just in case something happens, as in someone falls or if something goes missing, then your covered," he said.
"I make sure my clients are protected as best we can, then the insurance covers the rest if anything happens.
"We haven't had anything for some time now as we have three staff at all our opens and one that guards the door."
TIPS TO PROTECTING YOUR BELONGINGS:
• Remove all valuables: consider taking items with you, or locking them up in a safe or locked cupboard or drawer.
•Remove all prescription medicines
• Don't forget about small electronics such as laptops, iPads, smartphones, and other electronic devices that are easy to tuck into a pocket.
• Remove anything with identifying information - bills, mail, or business documents - which can be photographed or stolen.
• Check your home's security after the inspection - check that windows and doors have not been unlocked to enable access afterwards.
• Don't hide anything in your top dresser drawer or bedside tables - that's a go-to spot for thieves.
• Don't use heirlooms or valuable possessions to stage your rooms. If the images used to sell your home include expensive possessions, they can entice thieves.
• Take pictures of all the rooms before the open house to help identify if things are missing or have been moved.
• Check with your insurer to see if you are covered for theft or damage during an inspection, and if you need to do something extra to stay protected.