More than 60% of prospective buyers and tenants begin their property search online, while less than 5% of homes listed include actual street addresses. Potential buyers and tenants deserve to know exactly where they will be laying their roots before they visit a property.
The response to this opinion piece, published in November 2016, varied from consumers and industry experts recognising that the request for all property listings to include a street address is a valid point; while other agents and sellers were concerned about the safety aspect, and still other agents expressing their concern about possible commission losses due to disclosing their stock.
“I often disclose the address to my clients. There is one snag though when you do this to which I have fallen prey. How do you know when you are dealing with an unethical seller or buyer, especially in today’s world? So is it a good idea? I don’t think so.” – Colin Michael
“Easy for someone to say disclose the address when they are not the ones relying on a commission-only work. This makes it possible for the couch potato agent to sit on his/her bum and source your hard-earned listings, as well as opening the door wide for private sales. If a buyer makes an appointment to view a property, we show a minimum of three properties with the appointment. And if the buyer wants to know the addresses prior to the appointments, I will happily disclose it to them directly. I have a fundamental problem with property portals in South Africa forcing us to disclose our stock, in order to get a better marketing rating on their site. Would you open your client book to your competitors? No. So why are you forcing us to do this?” – Claudie
The fact is that property portals are asking agents to provide the street addresses of their listings because their market demands it. What’s more, as a seller or landlord, that same market is your market.
With homes spending an average of 13 weeks and 4 days on the market, and it becoming increasingly difficult for potential buyers to get bond approval, you need to be sure that you and your agent are removing all obstacles for the small pool of qualifying buyers, or risk losing money as your home sits on the market for too long.
Your, and your agent’s primary concern should be that your property is marketed using the right channels and technologies to reach the right buyers before the house down the street is snapped up by YOUR buyer. And chances are, that buyer is using online resources to search and will stop looking at your property if it is not clear where it is exactly.
You might feel that instructing your agent to disclose the street address still leaves you potentially exposed to nefarious elements. The argument here is that a “For Sale” sign pitched in front of your home is not much different than a disclosed address on a property portal. In fact I would argue that a sale board in front of your home requires less legwork and is therefore more prone to abuse by opportunistic criminals.
Whatever your opinion might be on this issue there are specific precautions you and your agent can take to ensure that you and your belongings are safe while your property is open to the public.
“Sellers need to set boundaries from the start,” says Gerhard Kotzé, managing director of the RealNet estate agency group. “They should also enlist the help of their agents to enforce these.” He adds that there are some basic safety precautions that will go far in protecting your safety as an owner, regardless of how you decide to market your property.
It is never in order for a stranger to just turn up and try to enter your home unannounced, on the pretext that while looking for a property in your area they saw your sign or found your property in an online search and decided this might be the perfect home for them.
It is best to ask these potential buyers to make contact with your agent to arrange an appointment, explain that all interested parties are asked to make viewing appointments and will only gain access to the property if accompanied by the agent.
Set clear boundaries from first contact
Ask your agent to use their advertising and signage as your first line of defence and include phrases like “view by appointment only”. There should not be a concern about this affecting show days, as your agent can put up direction boards on the day, or flag the event on online advertising in the week leading up to the show day.
Ask your agents to run basic identity, credit and employment checks on interested individuals before bringing them to view your home. Anyone with opportunistic criminal intent will not want to go through this process.
Be smart about viewings
The first prize is always arranging viewings during the day with your agent present. Should this not be possible you should ask a partner or a friend to be there at the same time. Keep your phone and a remote panic button on your person and try to avoid wearing flashy clothes or expensive jewellery.
Up your home security
If you don’t already have one now would be a good time to install a home security system with video surveillance cameras, and advertise this fact at your entrances. “This not only increases your security, deterring criminals from trying their luck, but will also boost the resale value of your property,” explains Kotzé.
Prepare for show days by removing all valuables, private papers and medicines from cupboards or drawers and putting them in a safe or in a hidden lockbox. Do not leave laptops, cell phones or other expensive equipment lying around either.
Often criminals attend show days to learn where the valuables are kept, and decide if it is “worth it”. However, should you catch an opportunistic criminal taking something from your home it is prudent to not confront the thief, rather protect your personal safety and phone the police.
- Equally important is to take all reasonable steps to protect the “real” buyers who are viewing your property.
- Put away anything that might be hazardous to children who get bored while their parents view the property.
- If your property has a pool, or any water feature for that matter, make sure that it is properly secured.
- Make sure that all potential slip or trip hazards are removed or cleaned before opening your home to viewers.
- If you have dogs you should make sure that they are securely contained before anyone starts to arrive, or better still, taken to a friend or family member for the day.
Some of these precautions might seem a little paranoid, but the fact is that the way buyers are searching for properties is changing. To avoid losing buyers before they’ve even made contact with your agent, and your property becoming stale as it sits on the market for too long, you need to demand the kind of marketing consumers want – security fears aside.