Safety concerns during home sales

Private Property South Africa

To avoid becoming victims of crime, sellers will need to proceed with caution before allowing strangers into their home.

It is a tough economy right now, which means that criminals are getting more and more opportunistic in their attempts to hit their next pay day.

It is all-too-easy for a criminal to pose as an estate agent by using a fake business card to gain entry into your home. For this reason, Susan Watts of RE/MAX Living has offered additional training to her agents to ensure that they are correctly informed to assist in protecting clients who may not be aware of recent criminal trends.

Watts advises that sellers should ask to see an FFC and a form of identification when dealing with any estate agent. “Make sure your family, household staff and your tenants all know the name and identity of your mandated agent and do not deal with anyone else unless your mandated agent is present, or the agent can provide proof that he belongs to the profession. This can become complicated if you have mandated lots of agents to work on the sale of your home, which could pose possible security risks. It is often safer to give a sole mandate and to deal with just one agent rather than many,” Watts advises.

She also recommends sellers not to accept walk-in buyers and to work through their agent only. This way the potential buyers can be vetted beforehand. Sellers should also ask an estate agent if their company offers armed response at show days.

If you do have an alarm system, and this is accidentally set off while you have viewers in your property, Watts warns never to state your alarm password out loud when you receive the call from the armed response company. When answering the call, make a plan so that the viewers cannot hear your conversation. It may seem like such a simple precaution, but in the moment, homeowners often forget this very important safety measure.

However, sellers are reminded that criminal activity extends into cyber reality as well. Watts therefore advises that sellers never share their Wi-Fi password with potential buyers. Sellers should also be mindful that while virtual tours can be a valuable marketing tool, viewers will also be able to see the layout of the property (and everything inside it), placing sellers at higher risk than if pictures were used instead. “Allow your agent to guide you here. They are experienced in managing both your security and the correct marketing for your home. It might be better that your agent only shares this virtual tour with buyers who have been checked and vetted rather than leaving it on the internet for all to view,” says Watts.

Lastly, Watts warns sellers not to rely on banking details sent over text message or email. “When it comes time to transfer any money, I would recommend verifying the banking details either in person or telephonically with your mandated estate agent to ensure you have not received a scam email or text, or that you have not erroneously entered any banking details. Similarly, never allow a tenant or buyer occupation of your property until all monies have reflected correctly or in the case of a sale, until all conditions have been met and the sale is 100% secure. Do not rely on a proof of payment, as these can be easily faked. If a tenant or buyer has moved in and then defaults, you could sit with a nasty eviction process on your hands.”

As a final piece of advice, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett, warns sellers that the risks involved in selling a property only worsens if a seller chooses to sell privately. “Professional real estate companies are aware of the various risks involved in property transactions and will have measures in place that minimize the chance of criminal activity. Working through a professional brand is therefore the safest way to sell a home,” Goslett concludes.


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