Open Houses Could Draw Out More Thieves

September 1, 2023

- By NAR Contributing Article

This is a contributing article from REALTOR® Magazine

At open houses, thieves disguised as home buyers may swipe jewelry, prescription drugs, and other valuables from homes, real estate pros warn in a recent article in The New York Times. Some experts are predicting open house thefts could get worse this spring, too.

“People tend to pick up little things: frames, silver pieces, Limoges boxes,” said Harriet Norris, a real estate pro with Douglass Elliman in New York. “They go easily from the table to the pocket.”

Read Hayes, a research scientist and criminologist at the University of Florida, also told The New York Times that he expects thefts to worsen at open houses and return to pre-pandemic levels. “Being confined to our homes during COVID weakened our ability to self-regulate and have self-control,” he says. “That’s increased our risk-taking behavior. People are also angry, pent up, and irritable. They feel owed.”

Allowing strangers to enter homes always comes with risks. Rachel DiSalvo, a real estate pro with Keller Williams Park Views Realty in New Jersey, said she once was assisting an agent at an open house when a samurai sword the size of a machete went missing. “It was on the wall when we started, and not when we ended,’’ she said. ‘“People feel a thrill and a sense of entitlement to take something, whether it’s a candle or a decorative item. They think, ‘Hey, I like this. I want it.’ ”

Some real estate pros are posting notices of visual recording displays and signs that say “camera in use” throughout the house to try to deter thieves. They’re also warning their clients to pack up valuables prior to open houses. Read more: The Safety Talk You Need to Have With Clients

Real estate pros are encouraged not to confront thieves during open houses for their own safety. Access REALTOR® safety tips at