My real estate salesperson has suggested we hold an open house. Are there some steps my family can take to protect our privacy and security?

Many salespeople are happy to host open houses for their clients because they can help to market a home to interested buyers, but you should always remember that the decision to go ahead with an open house is entirely yours. If you have concerns about privacy and security, talk them over with your salesperson.

Your first step is to make a list of any items with sentimental or monetary value and then either remove them from the house or lock them in a secure location. These items may include personal photos, jewelry, silverware, antiques, portable electronics, prescription medications and other valuables. Hiding them in the sock drawer or under the bed won’t do.

It’s also important to protect yourself from identity theft. That means securing (or in some cases destroying) bills, bank statements, credit card receipts, passports and other important documents, as well as USB data storage sticks. If you have a desktop computer that isn’t easily transportable, lock it with a password and switch it off before a showing.

When you talk to your salesperson, ask how they will run the open house. The Real Estate Council of Ontario enforces legislation that requires a real estate salesperson be present during the showing, and it’s a best practice to have a salesperson accompany visitors at all times when they tour your home. You could also request that a second registered salesperson help out by greeting visitors at the door, and asking visitors to first provide identification and contact information, and then wait in the hallway until your primary representative is available to show them around.

If anything gets damaged or stolen, the guest registry compiled by your salesperson should be handed over to the police. The list is also a useful aid for your salesperson to follow up with potential buyers.

You should also give some thought to the safety of your visitors. In practice, that may involve clearing any ice or snow from outdoor steps and walkways, removing pets from the premises before a showing, and either fixing, or at least warning your salesperson about, potential hazards around your home, such as rooms or stairways in a state of disrepair. Check your home insurance policy for any exclusions that may limit or deny coverage for public functions.

If you’re still uncomfortable with having an open house, you could ask your salesperson to host an “agents only” open house and restrict admittance to registered real estate salespeople, or show the property to interested buyers only by appointment.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email askjoe@reco.on.ca.

 

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Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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