Show houses have been a part of life for estate agents for years and are regarded by most as an effective selling tool. Spending a Sunday afternoon showing people around a neat, well presented home is the ideal way to showcase what’s on offer in order to generate interest in the property.
And, serious buyers generally enjoy the freedom of viewing a property in their own time and as such will visit several show homes until they find exactly what they want. All in all, it looks like a win-win situation. But there are concerns – and big ones at that.
Security issues are at the forefront of most South Africans’ minds and the fact that your home could be closely inspected during a show day is something worth considering. While there are thousands of innocent buyers who are genuinely looking for a new home, there are also those who visit show houses for all the wrong reasons. Agents tend to be very aware of this and it is rare to find a female agent willing to show a house on her own.
Savvy agents are also careful as to how many prospective buyers they allow into a home at any given time. The days in which prospective buyers could arrive in their hordes and wander around a property at whim are long gone. Most agents will only allow one couple at a time to view a property and will accompany them while the viewing takes place.
Of course it’s not only on show days that sellers are vulnerable – the mere fact that agents have to show people around a home in order to get it sold can make the property a target for criminals. A recent case in Gauteng highlighted the dangers of allowing strangers into seller’s homes. A man nicknamed “Steve the Shopper” by the press targeted show houses and contacted individual agents to arrange private viewings.
The smooth operator managed to steal jewellery to the value of R25 000 from one home, and money and an expensive watch from another. According to a report in The Star, at least seven other cases have been linked to Steve, who also operated under the name “Bertus”. By the looks of things, however, his days of looting are over. Thanks in part to agents who set up a Facebook page dedicated to exposing criminal elements within the real estate sector, Steve has been arrested.
While it may be easy to point fingers at estate agents (after all, surely buyers should be thoroughly vetted?) it pays to remember that crooks are notoriously sly and there will always be those who manage to slip through the cracks.
With that in mind, you should take extra precautions when your home is on the market:
Lock all jewellery and other valuables away – don’t assume that because something is hidden in a drawer that it will be safe
Do not leave cash lying around
Ask the agent if and how buyers are vetted
Ask the agent to supply contact numbers for everyone viewing the property
Insist that the agent remain with the buyers at all times while they are viewing the home
Alert the agent concerned and the police immediately if you find something is missing
With security in mind, many sellers and agents are opting to add a virtual tour to their online listings. This feature allows potential buyers to “walk around” a home before they decide that they need to view it in person – generally ensuring that only serious buyers enter a property that is for sale.