FSBO Security - Part 1: Personal, physical security


This is the first of what will be a 2-part series on the security, or safety, of selling real estate “For Sale By Owner.” It s split because there are 2 different facets of security to be addressed:

Personal, physical safety/security

Legal and financial safety/security

A common and completely reasonable concern among many home owners who embark upon selling their home “By Owner“ is their personal safety and security. And in our increasingly dangerous world, there are many stories, articles - and even a horror novel - to reinforce this concern.

I m not going to say unequivocally that selling your home FSBO is perfectly safe. That s simply not true. However, I will say that neither is it completely safe to walk down the sidewalk in your neighborhood, or even to sit at home behind locked doors.

That said, recently there s been a large amount of "scare tactic" propoganda from some real estate agents and the media that cannot go unanswered. Honestly speaking, any risks associated with selling your home “By Owner” are NOT unique to selling “By Owner” – the same risks are true even if you sell with an agent. In fact, as I ll discuss near the end, bringing an agent into the equation actually adds another element of risk to the selling process.

The primary risks people bring up regarding selling a home are

“Opening your house to complete strangers allows criminals to “case” your house from the inside, and increases the likelihood of theft”

“By hosting an open house you may be inviting wackos and serial killers who see an easy target”

“Showing interior pictures of your house online allows crooks to see what you have inside and increases the likelihood of theft”

Concerning all of the above risks: they seem logically reasonable at first glance. However, just because something is POSSIBLE does not make it LIKELY. There are some isolated cases around the country showing each of those concerns becoming reality. However, the cases are just that – isolated.

Considering the number of homes for sale at any given point (1-2% of all homes, or 1-2 million out of 100 million - from Census Bureau 2001 Housing Survey), it is perfectly natural that about 1-2% of crimes would be committed against homes for sale. There are no statistics indicating that owners of homes for sale are more likely to experience a violent crime or burglary.

Over time I ll try to address each of the individual concerns more in depth.

You should ALWAYS take precautions with any activity in which you participate, including selling your home. As the saying goes, “chance favors the prepared mind.” There are simple measures you can take which will significantly decrease your vulnerability while selling your home. When you open up your home to strangers, you should prepare just as you would for a party.

Some tips

Put away all valuables, from jewelry to loose change

Put away all financial papers or anything containing personal information, such as credit card numbers

Any open houses should be hosted during the day, and more than one person should be present – use the buddy system. There is safety in numbers

Use a sign-in sheet / guest register for all visitors to your home (such as this one from FSBOzone.com)

These tips and more are discussed in detail in this article by the Louisville, KY Courier-Journal.

I promised to discuss the additional risk of adding a real estate agent to the equation. Contrary to popular opinion, not all agents are reputable and honest. This recent example shows how there are even predators carrying a real estate license. Most real estate agents do have integrity and it s only a very small number you should be concerned about, but the risk is real.

Nobody cares about your home and your safety more than you. If you hire a real estate agent to sell your home, you cannot guarantee that they will take the same precautions you would – such as having all visitors sign a guest register.

In summary, selling your home "By Owner" really poses no additional risk over using an agent to sell your home. And in both cases, the personal risk is minimal. Just take precautions