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CautionReal estate professionals are becoming increasingly aware of the need for caution in their line of work.  It is good for our Silicon Valley buyers and sellers to be aware of some of these issues, since it may not be obvious to everyone:

    1. Don’t have your first meeting with a stranger at a home for sale, especially if it’s vacant.  It is best for consumers and Realtors to initially meet in a public place, such as the realty office or a coffee house, and for others to know where you are during that meeting.


    1. For sellers who are marketing their home for sale without professional representation, be very careful about showing your property to people who call you from an ad or otherwise learn that your home is for sale. A few years back, an elderly woman showing her condo as a “for sale by owner” was attacked and killed in her northwest home by a pretend buyer.  (Real estate licensees know that agents are murdered around the country when alone or sometimes even in pairs, but home buyers and sellers are not usually aware of this risk to our safety.)  Homes which are shown by real estate licensees will usually be on a lock box – you can be gone when the home is shown, and each agent who accesses the key using the box will have his or her information recorded.  Safety is greatly increased. (I have looked but cannot find the link to that story about the older home seller. If any of my readers remember the city or town and can share that info, I’d be most grateful. I think it was in the greater Seattle area where that crime happened.)


    1. Similarly, if you have listed your San Jose area home for sale with a broker or agent, buyers should come to view your house through the proper channels (i.e., during an open house or with their agent, who called ahead of time).  Do not open your door and allow entry in by people who simply “pop by” when they saw the sign, whether they are buyers or agents.  If agents, they can pull up your property’s information on the MLS, call and make an appointment.  If you have a lock box, you can perhaps let them enter if the agent is willing to use his or her display key to open the lock box – officially recording the visit with the agent’s ID now known.


    1. For buyers who see signs on properties: do not presume that the house is empty and that you can peer into windows or walk around into the back yard of the house. (I have seen people do this and it is creepy at best.)  You don’t know the situation – the house could be for sale but not viewable.  Some homes are offered with the instructions that the home can only be seen once an offer is accepted (“write offer subject to inspection”).  The home could be tenant occupied.  A resident could be ill.  Children could be in the house and if they look up and see a stranger at the window it will scare them badly. Don’t do it.  (Most buyers won’t do this, but I have seen it often enough that it warrants saying.) If you need more information, call your own agent to pull it up.  If you aren’t working with a Realtor, call the listing agent. In all cases, don’t go onto the property except to grab a flier from the box on the sign post.


    1. When entering a home that you have scheduled to see, be cautious and enter slowly to avoid surprising anyone or being surprised yourself.  Sometimes sellers forget that you’re coming, have the time mixed up, or someone in the house failed to tell someone else about the appointment.  When I go into a property with my clients or alone, while previewing, I do so slowly.  First I knock and/or ring the doorbell.  I wait. Sometimes people are in the bathroom, have stepped into the yard or can’t respond fast.  Give it a minute.  Then I’ll use the lockbox, and while opening the door and stepping in I’ll call out loudly, “hello! Real estate!” so that anyone in the far reaches of the house can hear me.This is where you’re most likely to encounter a surprise – when you first enter the home.  I’ve seen just about everything, including unclothed people running for cover, couples who were occupied with each other (they knew we were coming right at that moment!), all kinds of things.  Once I had a small child with a baby snake come running at me, pushing his pet into my face.  (Good thing I like animals and didn’t freak out.)   Sometimes sellers are home but don’t answer the door, so as you go through the house you may find them. (I hate that!  They should at least holler for us to use the lock box.)  I’ve stumbled onto sellers sleeping on a couch, showering (we leave fast) etc.  It’s not good to either surprise sellers or to have them surprise you!


  1. Be cautious when trying to locate the correct house, especially in the foothills or mountains where it can be hard to find some addresses due to private roads, unmarked houses etc.  Once I went down the wrong driveway and had a man emerge from his house holding a rifle.  Another time I went down a wrong driveway – should have been the one next door – and the owner drove up behind me and blocked me in such that I had no exit, came over and started hollering at me in  a very threatening way.  Turns out I needed to be at his sister’s house next door, but the homes were not well marked and I simply had the wrong leg of the road.  He apologized but it was harrowing.  Both of those experiences have made me appreciate cell phones and GPS (both happened in the early to mid 90s). (The listings agents for these homes should have directional arrows and alert the neighbors about properties for sale nearby.)

It’s very important, when buying or selling homes, to keep your wits about you.  Crazy things can happen so pay attention and follow some basic rules of caution for your safety and that of those around you.