When selling a property, many people are uncomfortable with the idea of strangers looking through their house when they're not present.

However, holding an open home is often the best way to show off the place to potential buyers.

Welcoming house hunters (and let's be honest, a few nosy neighbours) to a property does come with privacy and security risks that vendors should be aware of — and plan for.

"It's natural for sellers to have concerns about privacy and security," says Real Estate Authority (REA) CEO Kevin Lampen-Smith.


He suggests sellers prepare by taking note of any items of sentimental or monetary value that should be removed from the property.

"Think about items that could easily be slipped into a pocket or handbag, such as jewellery, silverware, small electronics or even the prescription medication stored in your bathroom cabinet."

Something often overlooked by sellers opening their house is the risk of identity theft. It might sound far-fetched, but sellers who leave important documents like passports, bank statements or credit card receipts lying around are leaving themselves vulnerable.

Next, do a digital sweep of the property. The family PC or office desktop should be switched off and password protected. USB sticks or hard drives should also be stored securely.

"I've heard of a seller leaving a post-it note with the house alarm code right next to the alarm, for anyone to come back and deactivate later," Lampen-Smith says.

Sellers should talk to their real estate agent about how the actual open home will be conducted.

"Ask if there will be a sign-in register, where visitors provide their name and contact information," says Lampen-Smith.

"This is a helpful tool for the agent when it comes to following up with potential buyers, and, in the case that something is damaged or stolen during the open home, the information can be passed on to police."


Sellers who still feel uneasy about having an open home could ask the agent to show the property "by appointment only".

• settled.govt.nz