Buying or selling a home? Here are the security questions to ask and things to remember

Hosting an open house or ‘Show Day’ is a valuable way of introducing your home to prospective buyers. But unfortunately, this also means that you could be unknowingly opening your doors to potential burglars who look to take advantage of the situation.

“It is important to remember that there is safety in numbers and a good place to start is to have someone on duty with you to manage events on Show Day.

It gives you the ease of knowing that no visitors or prospective buyers are wandering through the home unmonitored, and that there is someone who can assist if something goes wrong,” says Charnel Hattingh, Head of Marketing and Communications at Fidelity ADT.

Estate agents need to be security conscious and need to discuss the option of putting security systems in place before a Show Day, she adds.

“This is not only to protect the sellers’ valuables and property, but to ensure the agents are safe as well.

We advise sellers to lock all their valuables away and to ensure that your agent understands your concerns regarding the safety and the security of your property on the day. Posting a guard on the premises and giving the agent access to a panic button is also a good idea.”

While you cannot plan for every eventuality, the following pointers will help to discourage thieves from taking advantage of the situation:

  • If someone stands in for your agent on the Show Day, insist on meeting them and explaining arrangements for your home.
  • If there is a panic button, ensure that the agent has access to it, along with your private security provider’s emergency number.
  • Alert your private security service provider that your home will be on show and ask them to stop by during the afternoon to check that everything is in order.
  • Do not leave spare keys for the home (for back, garage or patio doors) hanging on hooks that can be reached.
  • Always lock away valuables that can easily fit into a handbag or pocket. Remember that drawers and bathroom cabinets can be opened and rifled through quickly, so remember to check that they do not contain valuable items.
  • Put away larger items of equipment that are not instrumental in showing off your home to stop criminals thinking they might have to return later when no one is home.
  • Open curtains and blinds or switch on lights in each room to discourage would-be thieves from untoward activity.

There are also precautions for agents or owners who supervise on Show Day:

  • If possible, position yourself where you can see prospective buyers’ vehicles as they arrive and make a note of their registration numbers, the make and model of the car.
  • Don’t be shy to ask your visitors to stay with you while you walk through the home together. This will avoid a situation where one person wanders off unsupervised during the viewing.
  • While you are conducting a viewing, do not leave the front entrance of the home open. It is important to check that intercoms, buzzers and doorbells are in good working order.
  • Consider a Show Day where you encourage “by appointment” viewings. This will avoid overlap between groups of visitors.
    If visitors do arrive while you are talking to someone, encourage them to fill in the visitor’s book or take a look at the garden and outdoor facilities to buy some time.
  • Ask your security company if they offer any special mobile panic button service, which you can keep with you when on duty at a show house.

Looking for a new house can be an exciting time but it’s important to keep a level head especially when it comes to security issues. Hattingh says there are crucial security questions you should ask before handing over that offer to purchase.

“You are well within your rights to ask about crime in the area, what kinds of incidents have happened and whether there are security providers operating in the surrounds. While you might pose these questions to the estate agent it is also good to speak to people living in the community to get a perspective,” she says.

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She recommends speaking to the home owner, neighbours, residents’ associations, domestic workers and even security officers that may be manning booms in the area, for example.

“It’s worth asking whether there are monthly contributions that will need to be made to a security scheme in the area.”

It’s also key to assess security aspects such as booms, road enclosures, guards, officers on patrol and access points to the suburb.

“If you are thinking about buying in a complex take note of the security procedures when you enter and exit the complex. Also have a look at how easy it is for pedestrians to get into the complex,” she adds.

Moving on to the actual house, have a look around and evaluate items such as burglar bars, security gates, electric fences, alarm panels, beams and so on.

“Check what condition these items are in and whether you will need to upgrade or replace any. These costs should be factored into the price you are paying for the property. Another aspect is your perimeter security. Is the wall or fence, access gate and intercom system in a good state? This is an important question as perimeter security is your first line of defence.”

She recommends getting a professional in to evaluate the property and identify security risks that may be an issue.

“Calling on an expert will give you a good idea of any weak areas in your security and the costs involved to correct these. It’s best to know up front so not only can you budget for any security purchases but also put a plan in place prior to moving in,” she says.

“Buying a house is a big investment and commitment. Make sure you take security and the associated costs seriously,” concludes Hattingh.