When you are buying or selling real estate, it might not even cross your mind that the safety of your home and personal information could be at risk during the transaction process. Typically, sellers know to clean closets, declutter rooms and freshen paint. But it is also important that you secure your home — after all, strangers will be walking through your home during showings. Realtors do their best to to interview prospective buyers and take all precautions when showing your home, but you can help by alleviating temptation.
Sellers should hide or remove any valuables, including jewelry, crystal, art and credit cards. Prescription drugs should also be removed or put into a locked location. Don’t leave personal information like mail or bills out in the open where anyone can see it. Be sure to lock down your computer, laptop and tablet and remove easy-to-pocket electronics. Sellers should not show their homes by themselves, and remind your children not to talk to strangers.
And for buyers, the decision to purchase a property leads to a lot of communication during the transaction process, mostly done over email. Working closely with a Realtor buyers identify exactly who will be contacting them during the closing process. Do not open links in emails without verifying the email. This one extra step could save you from computer viruses and other malicious spyware. The real estate industry has seen a rise in sophisticated criminal hackers sending what appear to be very legitimate emails to buyers with fraudulent wire transfer instructions, often saying there has been a last-minute change in the instructions. Buyers need to be aware of these scams and report any activity to the local police.
Once your transaction has closed, your attorney will provide you all the necessary documents, including closing documents, deed and title — all the paperwork involved can be overwhelming. If you receive follow-up letters in the mail saying you need to send money to get a copy of your documents, immediately contact your Realtor or attorney to verify the legitimacy of the correspondence.
If you are buying or selling real estate, ask if your agent is a Realtor and a member of the Hilton Head Area Association of Realtors.
Jean Beck is the executive vice president of the Hilton Head Area Association of Realtors.