An Important Turn Off When Your House Is For Sale

Real Estate Agent with RLAH Real Estate AB95346


"Hello.  This is Pat Kennedy and I'm an agent with Evers & Company Realtors.  I'm planning to drop by your house between 2 and 2:30 this afternoon to set of your burglar alarm.  If that's not convenient, please call me on my cell phone at 202-555-5567.  Thanks!"

Seriously, folks, if you have a listing or if you're a seller and you have an alarm system, agents who come by will set it off.  I can promise you that.  And when we do, it isn't pretty.

First, there is a gawdawful noise that can wake the dead.  It's an impossible challenge for buyers who are trying to fall in love with your house.  With the blaring in the background, it won't happen.  They'll just want to get out and back into my nice, quiet Lexus.

 Then there is the agent showing the place. Is the alarm hooked up to the police station?  How long will it take to get here?  Do I have a copy of my real estate license with me or will they think that I'm breaking and entering?  Rats!  If I can't find my real estate license, I am breaking and entering!

All the agent or the buyers will want is to get out of your house and lock up before the Officer Friendly shows up. They won't have a chance to appreciate the amazing job you've done staging your home, or the beautifully refinished hardwood floors.  They won't notice the lovely cherry kitchen cabinets or granite counters, and they probably won't even make it to the second floor to see the new baths with Carrera marble and giant Jacuzzi.

Having your alarm activated while the house is for sale is right up there with having a serious Realtor eating guard dog.  Most of the time, it might be a good idea, especially if you live in a neighborhood where you might need both an alarm system and a dog.

But while the place is for sale, get a safe deposit box for your valuables, and turn off the alarm.

 Today, I did a market analysis for a house I hope to list this weekend.  And the main competition has been on the market for four months at a way below market price.  And as I was puzzling over why it hadn't sold, I looked at the showing instructions.  No guard dog - it's an empty house.  But for some reason, the owners are insisting that the alarm remain activated.  And they want the listing agent present for all showings in case someone like me shows up and sets the thing off - which I would surely do.

There is nothing to steal!  The house is empty!   And this house is not in or anywhere near a high crime area!

Having the alarm on and the complicated showing instructions that result are costing these sellers a lot more than dealing with a burglary attempt on a vacant house.  Geez Louise! 



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Carol Culkin
Reece & Nichols - Leawood, KS
Overland Park
I totally agree. I have one right now that I can't wait until it sells. The sellers moved out of state to a furnished temp housing situation and left their Victorian furnished with antiques in the historic section of an "urban" setting...let's say the neighborhood is spotty. They are not happy all the other agents don't get it about how to properly re-set an alarm. Uh....not everybody is tech savvy, maybe???    
Feb 06, 2008 02:03 PM #9
Marci Toliver
438-4642 - Mauldin, SC
Anderson SC, Spartanburg,Greenville SC, Home Staging
Patricia, this is so true!   I went with a friend of mine when they went house hunting.  The alarm was blaring the minute we walked in the door! We ran for the agent's nice cool Lexus (it was summer at the time)!
Feb 06, 2008 02:11 PM #10
Prudential Preferred Realty Butler PA
Prudential Preferred Realty - Butler, PA

Each alarm system is different!  I have one on my house, my neighbors have a different one, and one of my listings has a third kind.  We are all secured by the same company, with the same terminal on the wall, but you can't disarm them all the same way.  Makes me nuts!!

Alarms really upset kids.  You would think that would keep a certain 6 year old from pushing random buttons, but it doesn't.  He actually gets a stomachache, the noise is so upsetting to him...

Feb 06, 2008 02:12 PM #11
Karen Monsour
Coldwell Banker Fort Lauderdale Beach - Fort Lauderdale, FL
REALTOR, SSRS - Sells FL Waterfront, Short Sale Expert!

Hey, Perhaps when we call for listing instructions since this is an issue, we should add to our showing instructions..."Is there an alarm at the property, and what is the code!"  Just a thought!  We can outsmart the listing agents...I'm sure!

There is a fine for setting off the alarm to the seller...I have had seller's refer future customers to me rather than their listing agent b/c I was more professional in the it doesn't hurt to be proactive...JMO! Good selling! Karen

Feb 06, 2008 02:57 PM #12
Michael Eisenberg
eXp Realty - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham Real Estate Guy
I once went to a listing and had the alarm go off and a recording saying the police will be there soon in English and Spanish
Feb 06, 2008 03:02 PM #13
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Richard, it's one of the few things I really hate to run into!

Gregory, I once set on off by punching in the code when it was already off and Yikes!

June, one policeman in my neighborhood would show up and say, "Oh, it's you!"

And Joan, that happened to me once at an open house when I leaned up against the panic button on the kitchen wall.  It was pretty embarrassing. 

Feb 06, 2008 03:29 PM #14
Thesa Chambers
Fred Real Estate Group - Bend, OR
Principal Broker - Licensed in Oregon
oh my I died laughing at this one - I have set off an alarm or two too - what is worse is when they forget to put that there is an alarm in the showing instructions
Feb 06, 2008 04:33 PM #15
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services
Patricia-Ah, when I used to show houses, I was the queen of setting off the alarms! Then the seller gets mad and wants me to pay the fee for setting off the alarm I knew nothing about! 
Feb 06, 2008 04:47 PM #16
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate
I hate it when you have a listing and the showing agents tell you, now after you open the door run to the back kitchen door and push in 1234 clear, OK, like I know where the kitchen is having never been in their house. urrr
Feb 06, 2008 10:07 PM #17
Brian Block
RE/MAX Allegiance, Managing Broker/Branch Vice President - McLean, VA
Northern Virginia & D.C. Real Estate
Patricia, fortunately I've never set off an alarm.  However in one of my listings the other year, my client did have an alarm system.  She asked to have agents call first in order to see the home.  If she knew someone would be coming on a particular day she shut off the alarm system, of course.  However, I made the mistake of granting permission for an agent to come see the place during normal working hours one day, without checking with my client.  Guess what?  She hadn't disabled the alarm b/c she didn't expect any visitors.  KABOOM!  The police came, she had to reset the alarm, and it was total mayhem.  I quickly apologized to my client and sent her a $25 Amazon gift card.  I'll never make that mistake again.
Feb 06, 2008 10:22 PM #18
Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News
Alarms are an absolute pain.  I understand why people may want them but when your house is for sale you want to make it easy for prospective buyers to see it.   Thanks for the reminder to let our clients know to turn it off!
Feb 06, 2008 10:39 PM #19
Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities
Charlemagne International Properties - Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A.
Patricia - My best alarm story--The seller had an alarm system and a parrot.  After hearing the alarm set off so many times the parrot sounded more like the alarm than the alarm.  This parrot really loved to mess with agents---the minute the front door opened he sounded his alarm.  I added the following showing instructions to the MLS:  The alarm is off; the parrot is on!
Feb 06, 2008 10:40 PM #20
James Downing - Metro DC Houses Team REALTORS®, CRS, GRI, ABR,MRP, MilRes
Real Living | At Home - Washington, DC
When Looking to Buy or Sell - Make the Right Move

Hehe - I had an alarm set off in my home when I was selling it.  The funny thing was - I of course had it clearly marked in the MLS to call me for the code.  The alarm company called me and told me; then 2 minutes later the agent called and asked if he could show the property?

I said "Oh are you the one who set off my alarm?"  He DENIED it and said "NOPE, not me".

Of course when I checked the lockbox access times; it showed he opened the lockbox 4 minutes BEFORE the Alarm company called me and 10 minutes before he called me.  Yeah - I believe him!

On the other hand - I do HATE - going into a home you have never been in for and "Following the Beeeeeep"; looking for the Alarm Panel !

Feb 07, 2008 06:04 AM #21
Maria Couto
RE/MAX Premier - Berkeley Heights, NJ
Realtor with "Results That "MOVE" You'
Patricia, I know ithis is a serious informational blog but the visuals are funny. I myself have not come across alarm problems. My biggest dificulty in showing have been pets, BIG PETS.
Feb 07, 2008 09:28 AM #22
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation
I always just take a deep breath and go on in, hoping the alarm doesn't go off.  I only set off one alarm - pretty early on a Sunday morning, when the whole neighborhood was probably asleep.
Feb 07, 2008 10:30 AM #23
Teri Deane
RE/MAX 100 - Columbia, MD
Realtor, ABR, CRS, SFR - The Deane Team
I love nothing more than running through a house frantically searching for the alarm panel to disarm one!  Great aerobic exercise, specially in heels on slippery, freshly polished hw floors. . .
Feb 07, 2008 11:21 AM #24
Desiree Daniels
RE/MAX Tri County - Robbinsville, NJ
Oh I've had more than my fair share of bad experiences with alarms ....    I am pretty insistent now that the seller turn it off if I am going to show the home.  All the drama that comes with setting it off can really be a mood killer
Feb 08, 2008 08:45 AM #25
Cris Burlew
Beach & Luxury Realty, Inc. - Saint Pete Beach, FL
Broker ~ St Pete Beach FL Real Estate

I've set my own alarm was not in the most convenient location. So when selling the home, I had it turned off - it just made sense. How could I expect anyone to run and turn it off within 20 seconds not knowing where it was, especially when I couldn't do it on a few occasions and I KNEW where it was!

I think it is a reasonable request to ask the seller to have their alarm turned off while selling their home. Nothing will kill a deal faster than subjecting your prospective buyer to such a deafening sound.

Feb 09, 2008 12:48 PM #26
Birmingham Alabama Real Estate, Stephen Wolfe - Birmingham, AL
Patricia.... GUILTY! Right here, as I speak (ok type) I am guilty of this. I set off the alarm. However, I must come to my own defense and say it wasn't my fault. While I know we all say this, let me add to the article by saying if there is an alarm system, please give out the right code! (This is what happened to me)
Feb 11, 2008 06:56 AM #27
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor
Patricia - I have also walked into homes and had the alarm go off - it is really unnerving!
Feb 11, 2008 12:32 PM #28
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Patricia Kennedy

Home in the Capital
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