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How to Protect Your Belongings During an Open House

Take these steps to secure your valuables and remove any temptation from the strangers who’ll be in your house (and looking through your closets, cabinets, and drawers).

Would you allow total strangers to wander through your home when you’re not there? Would you ever put up a sign in your front yard declaring, “We won’t be home from 1 to 3 p.m., so come on in and hang out at our house — and while you’re here, make sure to look in our closets!”

No, you say? Well, that is exactly what happens at an open house.

Once your home is ready to sell, opening it to the public for showings does pose a few risks. While the idea of theft shouldn’t be your main worry come open house day, it can’t hurt to be proactive. Most people aren’t planning to walk off with your family jewels, but I certainly wouldn’t want to tempt potential buyers to help themselves to my stuff.

People are naturally curious. It’s a fact: Buyers open all closets, cabinets, and drawers while they’re touring a home.

Think about the target spots: medicine cabinets, jewelry boxes, and rooms filled with little gadgets. Scan your house room by room and consider removing anything an opportunistic stranger could grab. This includes locking up prescriptions, notes with valuable or personal information, paperwork, checkbooks, and jewelry.

Don’t overlook potential opportunities for identity theft, either. Never leave mail, bills, or bank statements where anyone can have access to them. (And, no, stuffing them in a drawer is not a safe solution.) Instead, lock them up while your home is on the market.

However, I’m not a big proponent of obsessing over the security of each and every item in your house. That only creates a state of fear. No one is going to walk out your front door carrying your plasma TV during an open house — but they just might tuck that expensive bottle of wine or crystal paperweight into their tote bag.

So it’s important to safeguard yourself. With that in mind, consider the following tips.

Open-house safety tips

  • Find a reputable agent and talk to him or her about how to safeguard your possessions.
  • Make sure your agent uses a sign-in sheet for everyone who comes into the house.
  • For multilevel homes, ask your agent to bring an assistant so that all floors are covered at all times.
  • Remove valuables from view and store them in a safe, locked place.
  • Remove all prescription medicines and lock those up too.
  • Don’t forget about small electronics such as laptops, iPads, smartphones, and other electronic devices that are easy to tuck in a pocket.
  • Don’t hide anything in your top dresser drawer (a go-to spot for thieves).
  • Make sure your computers are locked with a pass code.
  • Bills, checks, bank statements, passports, and ID cards should be secured.
  • If possible, don’t use any heirlooms or valuable possessions to stage your rooms.
  • If images of your home are on Trulia or any other online real estate site, don’t display valuables that could entice thieves.
  • After each open house, insist that the real estate agent check and lock all doors and windows, as you wouldn’t want anyone “stopping by” later after they have already been through the house.