Though property theft may not be a serious issue when a buyer’s agent brings a client to your house, the risk is potentially greater during a busy open house when some visitors may not be potential buyers. Agents are aware of this risk and will do their best to ensure that your property remains in its place.
There is a related issue, however, that your agent cannot do much about other than to point out the problem to you and hope you will deal with it. This issue, which should receive more attention, is maintaining your personal privacy when potential buyers are viewing your home. Most people want to keep their personal affairs and information private rather than sharing it with strangers.
Expectations of privacy
1. Is it ok for a visitor to read documents you have put on the wall, such as diplomas and awards? How about personal photos that show family and friends?
2. Is it ok for a visitor to look in your refrigerator, pantry, clothes closets, or dresser drawers? How about in your medicine cabinet?
3. Is it ok for a visitor to read your personal notes on the fridge or bulletin board, look through your mail, look at the papers on your desk, open your file cabinet, check your email?
The interest of the buyer
You should be aware that there are nosy people who will intrusively seek to learn about the homeowners, either because they are merely curious or because they hope to gain an advantage in negotiating a price for your house.
On the other hand, prospective buyers need to know how spacious your house is and how well maintained it is. This justifies their checking the size of closets, and checking out kitchen appliances, built-in cabinets and drawers.
Do you leave your mail around? Is one of those letters from your friendly tax department, a collecton agency, or your mortgage holder — something that might indicate your motivation to sell? How about the comparative market analysis prepared by your listing agent to help price your house? It would be particularly unhelpful to you if a prospective buyer were to read such material.
How to protect your privacy
Here are some suggestions relating to your privacy:
1. Those sellers most concerned about maintaining their privacy should remove and pack away all personal photos and documents on the walls. They are distractions in any case.
2. If your dresser is built in, then opening the drawers is reasonable. With just a small stretch, the same could be said for your medicine cabinet. Clean your refrigerator, pantry and closets to make them look more spacious and to eliminate odors that will turn a buyer off. Put away, lock up or pack anything you don’t want a visitor to see.
3. It is unreasonable for a visitor to read your notes or your mail or to open your desk, file cabinets or computer. But that doesn’t mean they won’t do it. Lock away personal and business papers and turn off your computer. Clean all surfaces of clutter.
Selling a house is never convenient. Maintaining your privacy makes sense, to protect your property, your identity and your ability to negotiate. A professional stager will point out potential privacy issues during his evaluation — another reason that it’s smart to hire a staging expert before you list your house for sale and open it to strangers.