After a Seattle-area Windermere real estate agent was murdered in a Woodinville home sale this month, Windermere released self-protection and safety tips designed for real estate agents.

However, many of the tips and others like them can also help protect home owners who assist selling their home.

With or without a real estate agent, when you are selling your home you are exposed to a parade of strangers traipsing through your house. The vast majority of them are perfectly safe, honest people -- and possibly home buyers. But security measures are necessary for the rare possibility that just one could see your home as an opportunity for crime.

For-sale-by-owner sellers are particularly vulnerable because they often work alone, conducting open house events and otherwise accepting visitors into their home for a look around when they could be casing the place.

Protecting your home, its valuables and yourself from harm should be a vital component of your marketing plan.

These tips for sellers were gleaned from information provided by "For Sale By Owner in California" (Nolo.com, $24.95), Windermere Real Estate Services Co. and Jerry Fowler, a Columbia, SC real estate broker.

  • Once you list your home for sale, never leave a message on your answering machine informing callers that you are not home. It's better to leave a message that says you are unavailable to answer the phone right now.
  • Never set an appointment with anyone to see your home unless you have their name and number and have called back to verify that number.
  • For security’s sake, before you conduct an open house, remember to remove keys, credit cards, jewelry, crystal, furs and other valuables from the home or lock them away during showings. Also remove prescription drugs. Some seemingly honest people wouldn't mind getting their hands on a bottle of Viagra, uppers or downers.
  • Consider hiring a security guard, especially if you have many valuables you can't remove.
  • Request that all visitors sign in a guest book or roster. You are giving away a lot of information about your house and you have a right to know who is getting that information. Feel free to explain to protesters that it's a security measure. Certainly some visitors will use a false name but at least they will be aware of your organized procedures and might think twice about victimizing you. If possible, jot down license plate numbers and ask for photo identification to verify the information in the guest book or sign-in roster.
  • Request that visitors enter and leave through one door only, except when you escort them to the back yard, garage, etc. You should personally have quick and easy access to all your exits.
  • Without hovering, escort prospective buyers through your home by following them (never leading them) and keeping them within sight at all times. Keep a reasonable distance between you and your visitor. Never enter a bedroom, den or other room with a visitor. You could be trapped inside. Keep your path clear for a speedy exit.
  • If you expect a crowd, draft a few friends and relatives to help out. If simply too many show up, ask some to wait outside for the next "tour". If the market is simply loaded with shoppers, schedule appointments.
  • Never discuss your personal schedule or habits with potential buyers. Statements like "We are so near the work center, I can leave my home at 8:45 and arrive by 9," tell potential criminals when you aren't home. Likewise, don't discuss issues involving your home security including deadlock bolt locks, security systems, alarms etc. Don't divulge information on your flyer or other marketing tools that might breech security.
  • Always let someone who is not at the open house know what hours you are conducting your open house and have them check in on you from time to time. When open house has ended call your friend and let them know all is well.
  • Don't park your car in your garage or driveway. Your exit could be blocked. Also don't allow other cars to use or block your drive way.
  • Carry a cell phone with you at all times with a single button programmed for a 911 call. If a friend is assisting, consider using two way radios to stay in touch.
  • After an open house, check all the windows, doors and other entrances to make sure they are locked.
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