Safety at Open Houses

We’re heading into the weekend and after an insane week being bombarded by the media and providing no further comment than what has already been described on my blog, I’m spent.  Having said that, here are some tips and some links to sites with tips about increasing security at open houses so that you aren’t victimized:

  • Sellers should not just hide valuables but lock them up.  At our open house, my sellers had hidden all of their valuables and these crooks were able to discover some of them anyway.  In 16 years, I have never had or heard of this happening before.
  • Officer Solomon from the 24th Precinct suggests that agents or sellers call 911 immediately if you witness suspicious persons or activity.
  • Consider asking open house attendees for photo ID.  It may not please some but if they are real buyers, they won’t have an issue with producing identification.
  • Consider having multiple agents at an open house so that each person in attendance can be watched diligently.
  • Consider allowing one visitor or pair of visitors at a time to view the property.
  • Consider asking visitors to kindly leave handbags (containers) in a closet while they view the property.
  • Be sure that your cell phone is charged and that you have someone to call with a code word to alert them to call 911.  Also have your cell programmed to 911.
  • Don’t let people wander unattended through a property.
  • Check all rooms before leaving a property.

If other agents/brokers out there would like to add to this list before we go into this weekend, please do so and I will publish it ASAP.

I think perhaps the most important thought to leave everyone with is that this seems to be an isolated series of events perpetrated by the same duo.  This was not meant to create hysteria or anxiety but rather an awareness in the real estate community and the public so that no one else is victimized by these people.  That said, as a matter of safety going forward, all of us in the real estate industry as well as the sellers we represent need to be more diligent about safety and security at our open houses as they remain the most effective way to sell a home in Manhattan.

Here are some additonal links to sites about Open House Safety:

Workplace Safety (

Open House Safety (pdf from much of which is not relative to apartments but some is very helpful)

More Tips (from Alder Nagy)

UPDATE:  This particular duo was apprehended and charged on Saturday, November 24th.

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10 Responses to Safety at Open Houses

  1. avatar rudy says:

    hi doug!
    from my post:
    Open question to the real estate community: Besides having people sign in at our open houses, should we take photos or video of everyone who attends our open houses or even check for valid driver license ID? Is that even legal? Does that cross the privacy line? I’m not so sure. Personally, I think we should give it a try. Our clients homes and contents are too valuable to just let anyone in off the streets. Maybe it’s time for a serious open house shakedown?
    – rudy

  2. I think checking a valid photo ID is an excellent idea. Perhaps even suggesting that a doorman do that at those types of buildings. Video and/or photos are an interesting idea but not sure of legality or practicality.

  3. avatar rudy says:

    hi doug!
    some commercial buildings not only ask to see a valid ID but they take your photo as well each time you enter. it may be a bit extreme in a residential building but the residents and co-op board may see the value of this added security measure especially considering the recent incident which occurred at your open house.
    even if the managing agent, board or tenants shoot down the idea maybe individual agents can do a test run themselves – with their clients approval of course. maybe the sellers will appreciate this extra level of added security for their home and their belongings. it could be another way to add value to the broker-client relationship or even help you secure more listings. as an agent implementing this new security measure, you would most certainly stand out from your peers. the ultimate question is how buyers would feel about this.
    lawyers and buyers please chime in with your thoughts.

  4. avatar mikal says:

    i hope this doesn’t turn into a racial thing; I can see it coming in the future.
    Unfortunately, the only black people that will be allowed to view apartments will be pop musicians & idiot sports players.
    Remember, you read it here first.
    Reality cheque.

  5. I’m not even going there…I don’t see this turning into any such thing.
    Ultimately, this incident won’t change very much except that maybe some will ask for photo ID. I think anyone with photo ID will be allowed to view property.

  6. avatar Christiane says:

    It saddens me to think that we have to think about these types of safety issues. Thank you for your suggestions. They are quite valid.

  7. I see NO problems with this at all. As a filmmaker, I have a simple solution. Put a flyer at the entry which states that by entering the premises you agree to have your photo taken for security purposes. (Along with any other requirements you have decided to use, such as the Photo ID.) Any potential criminals would turn around right there. Everyone else should be FINE with it. For those that still don’t feel this would be okay, try laminating a copy of an article representing WHY it is being done (such as the recent incident with the two ladies). People who use their brains in the proper manner will not see a problem with this. If any type of “racial profiling” starts to take place because of this security measure, that is the problem of the person doing it, and it will not take long for others to figure it out & put an end to it. Thanks for listening.

  8. Great suggestions Jennifer. Thanks!

  9. Nice article. And I do agree with Jennifer – it’s for the safety.

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