The day after Christmas, my colleague was scheduled to show one of our vacant listings, and I went over early to prep the house for her.
The lockbox that used to be attached to the hose bib was gone.
I called my colleague to see if she had moved it. She had not.
I tried the front door. It was open.
The owner had been out of town for most of December, and wasn’t due to return for a couple more days.
I pushed through the front door slowly, and called out, “Hellooo! Anybody here?”
No answer. I poked my head through the door.
The placed was trashed.
Every door, box, drawer, closet, cupboard, and cabinet was open. Upended. Rifled through.
I called out again. Louder, and more aggressively. A chill moved up my spine. Pin-pricks of fear crawled over my scalp.
Thankfully, I’ve been on a Jason Statham kick lately, and have been binge-watching his movies in my Amazon Prime account.
“What would Statham do?” I asked myself.
I yanked a nearby closet door wide open. Snatched the long, wooden coatrack from between the walls, as a dozen coats fell to the floor.
I brandished the pole like a weapon and proceeded to march through the house, boldly kicking and stabbing at doors, closets, and shower curtains.
From front to back, I trudged through the house. In every room, the owner’s belongings were strewn about the beds, tables, dressers, and floors. The wide-screen TV was gone.
But nobody was there.
My colleague showed up. We called the owner. Then the cops. Then the locksmith.
Could this have been prevented?
Maybe, maybe not. But we did determine a few ways to deter similar events in the future:
1) Vacant Listings Shouldn’t Look Vacant – Shades and curtains that are always drawn shut is a dead giveaway that nobody is living at the house. Keep blinds, curtains, and window dressings open. Set timers on interior lights to give the illusion of occupancy. Either leave porch lights on, or set up exterior motion-detector lights.
2) Use the Buddy System – If the homeowner has a friend, relative or neighbor in the area, have them come over to cut grass, rake leaves, shovel snow, pick up newspapers, and check in on the house occasionally.
3) Secure the Lockbox – Some homeowners don’t want a lockbox on the front door, so Realtors get creative with its location. I’ve seen lockboxes attached to tree branches, propane tanks, porch railings, and yes, hose bibs. It’s probably safest right on the front door!
Most likely, thieves aren’t going to bash away at a lockbox that’s on the front door. However, if they can get it off the tree (saw), tank (hack saw), or hose bib (pipe wrench), they can take it back to their batcave, where they can bash away all day long to get at that key.
In the recent past, I might have thought taking these precautions would be entertaining paranoia. However, after facing this adrenaline-pumping experience firsthand, I would recommend that absentee homeowners, and Realtors, take extra precautions to prevent break-ins at their vacant listings.
Even Jason Statham would agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
P.S. For 10 additional safety ideas, read 10 Anti-Burglary Tips for Your Sellers by Tracey Hawkins via Realtor Mag.
P.P.S. Click this link for 7 More Anti-Theft Precautions from the C.A.R. website.
Nikolas Allen is a Realtor® in Mt. Shasta, California. He helps people through the complex process of buying and selling their homes. All things considered, he would prefer to avoid squatters, thieves, and burglars.