Are open house visitors intentionally opening all the doors and windows?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Intero Real Estate CA BRE #01191946

Open houseWhen a homeowner puts their house on the market, they should get a stern warning from their REALTOR - protect your valuables, keep all your doors and windows locked at all times.  This, of course, applies to the agents who hold an open house.  When the many visitors come through they'll open all sorts of doors, cabinets, etc while they poke around investigating the home.  Some visitors are not all they seem.  Some of the folks that visit an open house are there for another purpose altogether.

An example of what I'm talking about actually happened at an open house yesterday.  I held open a nice 2-story luxury home in Los Altos that also has a basement.  The house has four patio doors on the lower level, the front door, a door in the basement for emergency access, and doors on two upstairs patios.  When I opened the house, I opened NONE of the patio doors.  The only open door was the front door.  I also didn't open any windows but instead opted to keep the AC running.  I had a total of 8 groups visiting and one was accompanied by a well-know local REALTOR and another guest was a nationally known celebrity.  That means I had 6 others who are suspects in what I consider the biggest threat to an open house - UNLOCKED DOOR SYNDROME.

Thieves like to come through open houses and unlock doors so they can come back later and pilfer whatever they want.  When I went back through the house to close up, EVERY DOOR WAS UNLOCKED!  There was no reason why anyone would open every door in the house.  So, I had someone there who was setting the house up to be burgled.

My advice to agents and home sellers is:

  • Check every window and door when locking up and leaving, especially after an open house
  • Don't assume that a door is locked just because it was when you arrived
  • Check windows too and ensure that each latch is locked
  • Pay attention to who visits your open house and make sure you don't leave valuables out

As agents, we're a line of defense for our clients to protect their home.  Pay attention and stay on top of what's happening in your open house.


Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Carol Zingone 08/01/2011 10:02 AM
  2. Karen Burket 08/01/2011 02:31 PM
Home Selling
California Santa Clara County
Cosmic Cow Pie...The Rome Way
Bartender, Make it a Double
HyperLocal Neighborhood and Community Posts
open house
silicon valley
open door
open window
close door
close window

Spam prevention
Show All Comments
Julie Ferenzi
john greene Realtor - Plainfield, IL
Julie Ferenzi

Absolutley!  I have had buyers that I have been suspicious about doing this too!  I ALWAYS check doors and windows after a showing for both my listings and the homes I show.  I get suspicious when the family tries to split up during a showing too.  I always try to get them to stay together.


Aug 01, 2011 04:23 PM #28
Mark Delgado
houses for rent, Solano County & Glen Cove - Benicia, CA
Benicia and Vallejo, Property Management, rental h
Same warning applies to showing rental properties.
Aug 01, 2011 04:30 PM #29
Cathy Criado
Criado Realty - San Antonio, TX
Making Real Estate Profitable

It's so easy to be naive and believe nothing bad could happen to us. Thanks for the post Bryan!


Thinking of you in Costa Rica!

Aug 01, 2011 04:34 PM #30
Bob Souza (925) 513-3400 & Leilani Souza (916) 408-5500 Souza Realty - Real Estate Broker in Placer County, California
Souza Realty - Roseville, Rocklin, Granite Bay, Loomis, Penryn, Newcastle, Lincoln, Auburn, Meadow Vista (Placer Coun... - Roseville, CA
Homes & Land, Real Estate Investments and Rentals

Bryan, this doesn't only apply to open houses, but even during property showings I always check all the doors before I leave. I can't tell you how many times even when previewing a vacant home that I found a door unlocked. Great advice! :)


Aug 01, 2011 04:41 PM #31
Rosalie Evans
Meritus Group Real Estate - Sioux Falls, SD
The Evans Group, Sioux Falls, SD Homes For Sale

I heard tell of a agent that had an open house and a open house attendant unlatched a basement window and crawled right in after dark and helped himself to alot of stuff. It wasn't here in my market but it sure made me paraniod about open houses! Its a darn shame that we have to check every door and sill because of dishonest people!

Aug 01, 2011 05:02 PM #32
Marilyn Boudreaux
Marilyn Boudreaux, Century 21 Mike D. Bono & Co.'s - Lake Charles, LA
Lake Charles LA Century 21 Realtor

I am not a big fan of Open Houses and when I share with my sellers exactly why I am an agent that does not conduct Open Houses I explain one big reason why...SAFETY!  By the time I explain to them that this a public open house and I do not have control over who comes through, or if they are pre approved, and if they want me to do one I suggest they lock up their guns, medication, breakables and valueables they agree they would be better off not Opening their home!

Aug 01, 2011 05:03 PM #33
Diane Grady
Endless Summer Realty - Saint Augustine, FL

Great post Bryan. Thank you for sharing this info. I only do open houses in pairs anymore. There are so many safety issues for both the agents and the homeowners!

Aug 01, 2011 05:21 PM #34
Elise Groves

I just sat an Open House yesterday for a Realtor I work with and only had four groups of people thru it.  At the end however, I did notice that two of the windows were open that I certainly did not open, nor could I remember them being open when I got there.   Your post is very timely and I knew that there was something nagging me about those windows, so next time I will certainly be on guard.  Thanks for the great reminder!

Aug 01, 2011 05:39 PM #35
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

There is a lot of good information here, and  scary too. I'm rethinking Open Houses. Is it worth taking the chance?

Aug 01, 2011 08:07 PM #36
Carolyn Nelson
REALTYONE 247 - Burlington, NC
The Best Broker in Alamance County!

There should always be at least two people a the open house protecting each other and the seller's home. One could be a reliable agent,  assistant, or friend. The second person should be walking the entire parameter of the house at all times letting his or her presence be knowm to all that is there. For larger homes, additional help may be needed. If the home has an alarm system, set it to beep, not alrm if a door or window is open.

Aug 02, 2011 12:14 AM #37
Keith Lawrence
RE/MAX Properties - Mahwah, NJ
ABR, CDPE, SFR, 203K Specialist

Good blog;


I will have to check the windows and doors at my next Open House.

Aug 02, 2011 01:45 AM #38
Margie Kopp Sorrell
Coldwell Banker Lake Oconee Realty and Lake Country - Greensboro, GA
Lake Oconee Real Estate

Thanks for the great tips. I saw somewhere recently, can't exactly remember where, a video of an open house and the Realtor set up a video camera to see what they'd catch. A woman came who was "interested" in the home but turns out, after watching the tape, she was only "interested" in the home owner's medicine cabinet. Stole all their prescriptions! Whew some folks have got a lot of nerve!

Aug 02, 2011 02:03 AM #39
Deb McNeill
Flying M Team Small World Realty Fort Worth, Tx - Fort Worth, TX
Fort Worth Real Estate

Safety is one of the reasons I do open houses with a partner. My husband is also an agent so when his 'real' job permits, he attends. My young adult son lives nearby and is usually willing to help out if I give him enough notice and pay him for his time. (Which also includes a bonus when the house eventually sells. Incentive.) Having a team helps us keep an eye on people and do a better job of protecting our client's homes.

I don't see anything terribly suspicious in the open/unlocked doors. I'm a girl who loves the outdoors. When I view a home I'm the one that goes out on every porch, balconey, or deck. If there is a door, I'm like a cat...I want to be on the other side of it. Some people just forget to relock.

Windows unlocked. Yes, very suspicious. We also check every door and window before leaving.

Good tips also about watching my purse/valuables and other people's purses.

What a world we live in.

Aug 02, 2011 04:03 AM #40
Sussie Sutton
UTR Texas Realtors - Pearland, TX
UTR TEXAS Realtors - Rep for buyers and sellers.

Normally I don't do open houses. I know... don't scold me....but when I did do them I always had my co-pilot double check all the doors and windows.

Aug 02, 2011 04:20 AM #41
Robert Bob Gilbert
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties - Katy, TX
Your Katy TX ( West of Houston) Real Estate Expert


Great advice all the awy around. I always check everything before we start and after we finish an open house. I have found owners who leave things open when they should not and I have to fix before visitors arrive. Thanks for the post.., Congrats on the Featured part..

Aug 02, 2011 06:19 AM #42
Larry Craven
Realty Direct Loudon County - Arlington, VA
Realty Direct, Inc

I also check doors and windows even when showing homes to clients because another agent could have gone through the house with a client prior to my arrival.  I have found doors unlocked and I immediately call the listing agent to let them know.     

Aug 04, 2011 06:15 AM #43
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

Absolutely  . . . a stern warning!  Many people don't think about this at all, even homeowners who aren't selling.  All it takes is one little indication that the windown is open and a gateway for thieves and prowlers.  Fortunately, I have my windows open because I have two dogs who would love to sink their teeth into someone's leg . . . protection dogs are great!

Aug 05, 2011 06:42 AM #44
Steve Stenros
Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula - San Diego, CA
CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego

Excellent article, Bryan! There is definitely a great deal of liability taken on when doing an open house!

Aug 06, 2011 05:22 AM #45
Brian Park, Broker

Actually this should be reposted here annually. I used to get a new agent and before their first open I would give them the office open house instruction binder and a open house check list. They used to think I was paranoid and an alarmist but the facts were small things that were appealing or pawn-able would disappear apparently at a open house. Meds were a big item. And casing the house was common.

The point I think someone made is the seller should check after a showing because these prep deals for a future visit can happen anytime. I once had a listing where the sellers were on vacation and since it was near my house I would visit it each evening on the way home and found the side door latch taped so you could just pull it open. I asked my neighbor a police captain to join me at the home and about 10pm the side door opened and three guys came in only to be arrested after they took a few item to carry out, the woman who viewed the home with an agent that day was the wife of one of the thieves.

One of my clients was a famous detective in the Bay Area and every once in awhile he would check out new spy gear and one was one of the early spy cameras, he placed it in one of my listings, and just before Christmas the seller who had done all her shopping left the presents around the Christmas tree with the receipts, about $2,000 in gifts to wrap later. Next day she came home and the gifts were gone along with a few antique ornament's.Well the spy camera, as well as the store cameras that caught the thief returning the gifts, made an open and shut case. It was a real estate agent who came over from his market area to fatten his wallet. He broke a window before he left to divert us and cover up his crime. So who, how, and when is always a lurking possibility with any listing.

The list of stories I've heard over 46 years is endless.

Aug 06, 2011 10:26 AM #46
Respect Realty LLC
Respect Realty LLC - Milwaukie, OR
Brokers - Oregon / SW Washington Real Estate

I agree that it is happening more and more. I caught someone sneaking around one of my listings trying to break in. I called the police with their description, license plate # and within hours they had these two arrested. (It seems they had just got out of jail and were on parole)

Aug 08, 2011 05:54 AM #47
Show All Comments

What's the reason you're reporting this blog entry?

Are you sure you want to report this blog entry as spam?


Bryan Robertson

Broker, Author, Speaker
How may I help you?
Spam prevention

Additional Information