Consumer safety for real estate

Whether buying or selling real estate, be proactive to protect your property – and yourself.

Story by Ellen Linnemann

Although a low inventory of homes continues to be an issue in real estate both in the Lowcountry and nationwide, Realtors today are busier than ever helping homeowners navigate the complex and ever-changing housing market. September is the National Association of Realtors’  Realtor Safety Month — when Realtors here in the Lowcountry and nationwide are reminded to empower themselves with precautions and preparations to avoid risky situations. 

Realtor Safety Month is also a good time to remind sellers that it is important to secure their homes for the selling process — as well as advise buyers of important safety tips to keep in mind during the transaction process. Typically when selling a house, sellers know to clean closets, declutter rooms and freshen paint. However, there is more to keep in mind when selling a house when it comes to safety. Not only does the seller prepare it for strangers walking through it, but there are important things for buyers to watch out for to avoid hackers and scams as well. 

“When you are buying or selling real estate, it may not even cross your mind that safety to your home and personal information may be at risk during the transaction process,” said Jean Beck, CEO of Hilton Head Area Realtors Association, which is celebrating its 50th year as the voice for real estate in the Lowcountry. “Although most people know about the importance of removing clutter and doing minor home repairs before selling a house, there are a number of important safety measures that people should take throughout the entire home buying and selling processes to protect themselves, their families and their homes.” 

A Safe Book to Hide Your Valuables

Safety tips for sellers

Alleviate temptation. Although Realtors do everything possible to interview prospects and take precautions, sellers can help to alleviate temptation. Hide or remove any valuables from the property, including jewelry, crystal, art and credit cards. Prescription drugs also should be removed or locked up.

Put away your personal information. Don’t leave personal information like mail or bills out in the open where anyone can see them. Be sure to lock down your computer, laptop and/or tablets, and remove easy-to-pocket electronics.

Safety in numbers. Sellers should not show their home by themselves.

Prepare all family members. Talk with your children about safety when your house is on the market, and remind them not to talk to strangers. Also keep in mind that the selling process can be stressful for your pets too, as people come in and out of their “territory.” If possible, animals should be removed during showings.

Shocked stressed young woman reading bad online news looking at broken laptop screen, confused teen girl in panic frustrated with stuck computer problem mistake virus, negative social media message

Safety tips for buyers

Don’t open links in emails without verifying the email. For buyers, once you have identified a property, there will be a lot of communication in the transaction process, much of which is done via email. Work closely with your Realtor to identify exactly who will be contacting you during the closing process, and don’t open links without verifying the email first. This one extra step could save you from computer viruses and other malicious spyware.

Beware of scams. The real estate industry has seen a rise in sophisticated criminal hackers sending what appear to be legitimate emails to buyers with fraudulent wire transfer instructions, often saying there has been a last-minute change in the instructions. Buyers need to be aware of these scams and should never transfer money without calling their attorney to verify the wiring instructions. 

Safety after closing. Once your transaction has been closed, your attorney will provide you with all the necessary documents, including closing documents, deed and title. It can be overwhelming with the paperwork involved in a closing. If you receive follow-up letters in the mail saying you need to send in money to get a copy of your documents, immediately contact your Realtor or attorney to verify the legitimacy of the correspondence.

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