Open House Burglaries: Who Is To Blame?

by Mark Wellborn

Back in October 2009, two men, posing as father and son, were visiting open houses in the DC area and burglarizing the homes. One of the men would distract the real estate agent while the other would go in search of jewelry and cash.

The duo was eventually caught, but the incident did bring to light an unfortunate (albeit rare) consequence that can result from having your home held open.

The issue of open house burglaries was recently revisited by WSJ’s June Fletcher who looked at the question of who should be held responsible if valuables are stolen from a property during an open house. In short, she says blame the criminals, not your real estate agent.

“[A real estate agent’s] job is to sell your home, not act as a security guard. Douglas Trokie, a White Plains, N.Y., attorney, says listing agreements typically contain clauses that protect agents holding open homes from liability in the case of theft, and that a court would likely only find an agent responsible if she actually saw someone pilfering your purses and did nothing to stop them.”

While most owners would likely not blame the agent, a simple precaution can be taken to avoid this situation: lock up your valuables. UrbanTurf has been surprised by the number of small items (iPods, jewelry) that are left in rooms at some of the open houses we have visited.

See other articles related to: the wall street journal, open houses

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/open_house_burglaries_who_is_to_blame/2259


  1. Janson said at 9:32 pm on Tuesday July 13, 2010:

    I recently visited an open house in a brownstone with a rented basement. The two agents were talking and relaxing in the vacant and beautiful main space and left the renter’s unit open. The renter’s unit was unlocked, separate street entrance, and was fully resided in with the stuff of life everywhere including audio video, jewelry, ipod etc. It was so inappropriate for it to have been left that unoccupied that I didn’t want to be there for more than a minute because I was sure something would eventually be stolen and I didn’t want to be accused. Although agents are not there to provide security, with a rental unit like this, a little supervision seems like a minimum requirement.

  1. Steve Campot said at 12:08 pm on Wednesday July 14, 2010:

    I think your correct Janson, agents do need to use a little common sense.  Agents also need to be careful about their own personal safety.  Many agents have been assaulted and even murdered at open houses and client meetings at empty houses.  Sick-os know many agents are female and alone in an empty house!

    Be Careful,

    Steve Campot
    VA Broker

  1. Broker Mike said at 12:36 pm on Wednesday July 28, 2010:

    Open Houses are to mine buyers for OTHER properties.  Factoring in there is only a 3-4% chance of an Open House producing a buyer that actually buys that property, maybe the agent and his/her company should be held more responsible since they are the ones to benefit most from an Open House and not the seller.

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