Active Rain March 31, 2009

Open House Theft

Typically, we celebrate our “firsts” in this business- our first listing, our first cash buyer, or our first high priced transaction. My “first” this past Sunday was not a happy one. Thieves attended and stole some irreplaceable jewelry. My clients are crushed. I am mortified as well. It happened on my watch. 

It was brazen, bold, fast, and undetected. There was absolutely nothing in the way these people acted that made me suspicious. My clients saw them arrive as they left the house, and they felt suspicious. However, they didn’t tell me this, and it was only after the open when we spoke that they asked about these two ladies. They just had a feeling- they had a nice car, but they had a bad feeling. I told them I had no reason to be suspicious. In 13 years, I said, conscious of the possible irony, I have never had a theft. Besides, I reassured them, you told me your valuables are locked up. On I went to my next appointment.

Less than an hour later, I got the call. My client was utterly distraught. They got her jewelry- the good stuff was gone and the fake pieces were left. They were pros- they knew exactly what to take and what to leave, and they must have done it in under a minute.

Naturally, the question was asked if I showed them around the house. I showed them parts, but when hosting an open house alone with 3800 square feet to show and the prospect of someone new arriving anytime, as well as the fact that some people don’t want to be “trailed” you have to make some snap judgments. If I am upstairs waxing about the bathroom fan and someone arrives with no agent in sight, they might leave. So I remained on the main floor while they were in earshot upstairs. We chatted briefly at the door as they left, and one of them thought she might take a gummy-bear from the candy jar. Then she decided not to. I didn’t view that as significant. 

Evidently, my client kept all of her valuables under lock and key except for some sentimental pieces that she wore almost daily. That was was in an unlocked drawer. Those were the things the thieves took. There is a police report filed, and the MLS has sent out a warning.


Theft Warning


Of course, the sign-in sheet information is bogus. What isn’t bogus, however, is the fingerprints we expect to detect on the candy jar, sign-in sheet, and pen, which have been given to the police. They are even testing the jar for DNA. People that operate like this may already have a record and be in the system. We also know that the same pair we suspect stole from a nearby open house the same day. I spoke with the other agent and these two were the only attendees in common. Agents are now forewarned. 

It goes without saying that valuables must be locked away for open houses. We can’t keep our eyes on multiple people 100% of the time at opens, especially since you cannot be suspicious and sell at the same time. Naturally, I have replayed those 10 minutes over and over. There is no reasonable way I think I could have done anything differently. It is natural for people to open closet doors, for instance. Even if I had trailed those people, it is clear that they were pros and would have stolen somehow, especially if more people arrived. The best way to deal with thieves is to not give them an opportunity. 

Warn your clients, especially the ones who want open houses, that valuables have to be secured. Our job is to sell and certainly to watch out to the degree we can, but we aren’t equipped for the pros. I have a feeling that these particular people will get caught because they are so bold. If so, I hope that my client will get her stuff back. Going forward I’ll be on guard, but no amount of suspicion will replace smart security measures taken by home owners.