Touring an open house recently, I was immediately able to tell the home was occupied by a single individual, living alone. Tell-tale signs were evident throughout the house.
When I stage a home it’s important for me to not only declutter, neutralize and stage the house to sell quickly, but to focus on “de-personalizing” the home as well. It’s important that the Realtor and home stager work together in educating the homeowner on the importance of protecting their privacy before any showings occur, and prior to any open houses.
Most of us are generally trusting in nature, and that’s a good character trait. It’s important to see the goodness in all people. However, the reality is that we live in an age where identity theft is on the rise, and personal protection is imperative.
Once the for sale sign goes up on the front lawn, a seller is at risk.
De-personalizing a home means more than simply taking down Uncle Buck’s photo from the fireplace and removing the finger-painting artwork from the fridge door. Identity theft can occur when private information is left in sight during showings and open houses. How many times have you walked into a house and noticed utility bills on the kitchen counter or cheque books, voter registration cards, pay stubs, and so on? These items are an open invitation to thieves.
De-personalizing the home means moving all of these items from sight and keeping them in a safe, secure location. A locked desk drawer would be good place to house these items until after a firm Agreement of Purchase and Sale is in place.
Below is a list of ways to protect yourself.
9 Tips to Prevent Identity Theft at Your Open House
1. Remove all private or personal photos, diplomas, awards and trophies.
2. Remove all calendars. These often contain a great deal of private information, often noting when you’re not going to be home.
3. Store all valuables.
4. Remove all bills, letters, magazines and library books. Shred papers with personal information that are no longer needed.
5. Password protect your computer to block access to your private files.
6. Turn off your printer and fax machine before each showing. Printers and fax machines often have the capability of printing the last numbers dialed or received.
7. Turn off answering machines. This avoids personal messages being left while strangers are in your home.
8. Unplug phones with caller ID features.
9. Remove or conceal digital devices that contain information about you or your family (cell phones, iPods, USB drives).
Some of these suggestions might seem a bit extreme, but for most of us, our home is a sanctuary. We feel comfortable and safe and don’t realize how exposed we may be when our house is on the market. It’s just good strategy to not only depersonalize so that people can see themselves in your space, but also to safeguard against an unscrupulous visitor taking advantage of you.
Susanne Morrow is the owner and creative eye behind Stiletto Staging, a professional home staging company serving the Burlington, Oakville, Milton, Mississauga and Hamilton areas. As a former real estate sales rep, she understands the challenges that Realtors face when convincing homeowners that they can successfully sell their home. She offers a partnership approach that demonstrates an intelligent home marketing strategy. www.stilettostaging.com. Email email@example.com.
Originally published in REM online.com.