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Sellers responsible for home contents on show days

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Agents cannot be held responsible for the contents of a home during show days, says the Institute of Estate Agents Western Cape (IESA Western Cape). The agent has only a responsibility of care to walk through the property and double check that the seller has put away all valuables.

While every estate agent has its own mandate covering this eventuality, explains IESA Western Cape general manager Annette Evans, the onus is on the homeowner to prove to the police and their insurance company that they did everything in their power to protect their valuables in case any items go missing. Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International chairman Lew Geffen concurs that the owner is responsible.

Evans says when putting a home on the market the reality is that sellers and agents are inviting people in to view it in order to facilitate the marketing and sales process. Whether the owner allows the agent to hold show days or one-on-one viewings with the estate agent, the seller has to assume some responsibility for ensuring that all the valuables in the home are either locked away or removed from the property altogether.

An agent has a responsibility of care to walk through a property on a show day and double check that the seller has put away all valuables, and frequently will find laptops, phones, iPods, watches or even jewellery, which have been forgotten in the rush to vacate the house for a viewing or show day, she says.

Sometimes people are a little more lax when they are in the home while buyers are visiting the property and leave items lying around because they might feel no one will take anything if they are there, but the reality is that little items are a temptation and it is better to be safe, than sorry, Evans warns.

“Agents cannot be held responsible for the contents of a home. While they will exercise all due diligence and keep an eye on potential buyers and visitors to the home, frequently families or groups of people do split up while viewing a house and it is impossible for the agent to follow everybody,” Evans points out.

“The purchase of a property is a big decision for a buyer and it sometimes takes multiple viewings before the property is purchased. Statistically, 85% of buyers are generated from show days as it a time when people can view the property in a relaxed manner, with busy husbands and wives being able to view the home together, and these days should not be excluded as a tool for selling a home,” she says. “Instead of avoiding a show day, rather do all that is possible to reduce the risk of items going missing and reduce the temptation by locking items of value away.

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