by Peter Mericka B.A., LL.B
Real Estate Lawyer
Qualified Practising Conveyancer Victoria
Director Lawyers Real Estate Pty Ltd
When unknown visitors rummage through children’s clothes during a property inspection it can give rise to all sorts of fears and concerns. It is now well known that theft and “snooping trauma” are common occurrences during real estate inspections conducted by real estate agents. Real estate vendors are advised that they should never allow a real estate agent to conduct property inspections. The only person qualified to protect valuables, privacy and safety during a property inspection is the vendor.
We regularly receive reports of theft and snooping during real estate inspections, and the following is just one more:
“We had heard the horror stories about valuables being stolen during open for inspections, breaks ins etc. so we did our best to minimize the risk by hiding our valuables away and taking all keys with us during our open for inspections. What we hadn’t anticipated was that it would be our real estate agent who would expose our family to a higher risk.
At the beginning of our contract we specified that photo id must be provided for all people who came to open for inspections. However, one of the representatives from our agency not only managed to advertise the wrong time on the internet not once but two weekends in a row without notifying us. Because the agent and those people that saw our house on the internet (the only place the house was advertised at the time) turned up one hour early, when our family was swimming in the pool, we knew that 9 groups of people (mostly groups of 2-3) had attended that day.
At the end of the open for inspection, the agent showed us a loose piece of paper (not even the proper record) with just 5 names on it. When we queried this, we were told it was “a new strategy”. The agent let around 20 people into our house and only asked them on the way OUT if they were interested, if they said yes, he would take their name and contact number. So the other 15 of so people who went through our home, searched through our children’s wardrobes etc.. we have no idea who there were.
This is only one of our shocking experiences with this very prominent agent. Do we have any recourse?”
What advice can we offer to a vendor who is concerned about the safety of their property and valuables during inspections? The only responsible advice we can offer is to ensure that the inspection is carried out by, or under the strict supervision of, the vendor. All visitors must be accompanied through the property by the vendor. The reasons for this advice are set out in full in a Consumer Alert titled “Open House Inspections – Warning on Estate Agent Property Inspections“.