I've had the "deer in the headlights" look from clients so many times when I explain to them the need for privacy in their home when it is on the market. I don't want to scare them, but it is really important to de-personalize the house. Not just for helping a potential buyer see the home as one they could move into, but for the safety of those who live there. This is a scary and sensitive subject, but very real in this day and age.
1. Leaving your bills or other mail laying around invites someone to walk off with them, or at the very least, see your name and how many credit cards you have or . This just asks for identity theft. I don't know about you, but I sure don't want a stranger to walk off with a paper that may have my credit card number or social security number on it. Or making assumptions about my financial position based on what is left out (past due notices?).
2. Leaving your prescription medication in visible sight, even in a cupboard, is asking for trouble. Not only do you run the risk of someone taking it (a kid?), you also are giving away information to a buyer & their realtor about you and your health. You may not think anything of the fact that you take an anti-depressant or a cancer treatment drug, but I will tell you now, that any agent worth their salt will take this into consideration when making an offer. If your cabinet is full of anxiety & depression related pills, that tells a story - and not necessarily the one you want.
3. Leaving your children's photos, names on the walls, sports trophies and school papers out is a bad idea. We are all proud of our children, but really - do you know who is coming to look at your home? And do you want them seeing pictures of your beautiful children? And being able to tell from what you've left visible can let a predator know where they go to school, how old they are, what their name is, what kinds of sports they play (and where), and more. This is all someone would need to strike up an acquaintanceship with your child, which is NOT a good thing.
4. Leaving your diplomas, gold records, memorabilia, or awards on the walls can negatively impact an offer. Think about it, not only are you giving away personal information about who you are, you are giving an impression of whether you NEED a decent offer or not. I've worked in homes where famous musicians have lived. Do you really want prospective buyers knowing this is their house? How about Vanderbilt University medical diplomas on the wall? Or memorabilia of a sports figure? This just says, I don't need the money. You don't want people googling you for info, or knowing that you are famous or apparently well off. People assume that lawyers, doctors, professional athletes, musicians and others are set financially. On the flip side, if a professionals dirty laundry has been aired in public, this can invite lowball offers because the public knows that the person is in financial trouble.
It's about making the home appealing for a buyer and helping them see themselves in the home. But it's also about keeping the seller and their family safe. Things that give personal information affect both of these and can lead to a serious situation. It's not likely, nor is it common, but it could happen. My job is to bring up these concerns and put them front and center. Many home sellers just don't consider this aspect until I point it out - then it just seems like common sense.
Think before you list - think about the tiny percentage of people out there who would even consider any of the above factors. Most of those who look at your home is like you - considerate, honest and thoughtful. But not everyone is - and these precautions can be the difference between danger and safety.