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Open house events can open up theft danger, agent warns

Sun 27 Apr 2014

Open house events can open up theft danger, agent warns

Agents in and around London are holding US-style open house events in a bid to make more sales, but sellers should be aware of the risk of thieves striking, says an online agent. With the UK seeing more North American-style open house events, one agent is warning sellers of the risk of thieves striking.

Open house events can generate strong interest and asking prices above the asking price and while most buyers will be genuine, there are security dangers that sellers need to be aware of, says Russell Bennett, co-founder of online agent, www.Houses.co.uk .

With house prices surging and large numbers of buyers competing for each property, open house viewings are becoming increasingly common, particularly in London and parts of the South-East where such events sometimes attract 150-or-so hopeful buyers. "There are obvious security risks when you're opening your home to a load of strangers. If a large number of people turn up, a thief could easily sneak into one of your rooms and steal something or they could use it as an opportunity to check out the security of your property and find out when it's unoccupied," warns Mr Bennett.

"You should therefore always have at least two people conducting the viewing - not only does this help with answering questions when it's busy, but it also makes sense from a security point of view. It's also advisable to tidy away personal possessions and items such as laptops and jewellery, although you should do this for any type of viewing."

Mr Bennett provides five tips for smooth and safe open house viewings:

Don't be alone - have at least one other person on hand to keep an eye on viewers when you are answering questions or showing people around

Put your small valuables - jewellery, tech etc. out of site in places that aren't easy to access

Make sure that your estate agent has captured people's details - this is for follow-up as well as a low level of security

Don't offer any personal information to viewers such as when the property is empty and keep any bank statements or personal correspondence out of sight

The vast majority of viewers will be genuine - so get your home in the best state for viewing as possible.

Declutter, clean, don't have children or pets around - think about presenting your property as a show home

In a bid to increase sales, some London estate agents are giving up on traditional in favour of weekend open house events, when up to 150 people get 15 minutes each to view a property before deciding on whether to buy. The tactic, imported from the US and Australia, has proved a hit with buyers, sellers and agents, especially in the south-east, where the property market is in overdrive, the Observer newspaper reports.

There are currently thousands of open-house events across London and the south-east and the early May bank holiday is expected to be a bumper weekend, although the rest of the UK has so far largely resisted the trend, says independent property expert, Henry Pryor.

Owen Miles, a partner at Curchods estate agent in Shepperton, Middlesex, says his office has doubled the number of mass viewings over the past year. "It's proving advantageous to our clients, with properties often going for higher than the guide price. We recently sold a three-bed semi priced at 400,000 for 465,000."

Peter Rollings, head of London agency Marsh & Parsons, says unprecedented demand and record sales mean that 48 buyers are registered for each available property in south-west London. "It is not uncommon to be able to show a property to upwards of 30 potential buyers within the first week of marketing and providing it is not totally out of step with the market, we would expect to achieve asking price (and often more) within 10 days of launching the marketing campaign.

"In London, a shortage of available property in the face of growing demand has been pushing prices higher and creating a strong seller's market. A two-bedroom flat in Fulham which we recently sold received 72 viewings and 14 offers within the space of two weeks."

Meanwhile, in the United States in the California city of San Diego, thieves have been targeting prescription drugs at open house events. San Diego County law enforcement, drug treatment centers and real estate agents have launched the Safe Homes Coalition to fight the growing trend after cases involving prescription drugs rose 84% in the last five years.

The coalition, which includes the San Diego Association of Realtors, recommends putting prescription drugs inside the trunk/boot of a car during an open house event.

* Almost one in five buyers pays over the asking price for UK property, says the National Association of Estate

Agents (NAEA).

With supply of housing for each agent falling from an average of 57 properties in September 2013 to 42 in March 2014, almost a 10 year low, prices are rising strongly in many areas. "Current conditions mean that in just a few months we've seen a large increase in the amount of people willing to offer over market price" says NAEA President, Jan Htch.

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