Washington Sees Spate of Open House Thefts

October 17, 2017

Police in Western Washington say that the hot housing market is prompting more thefts at open houses, warning real estate professionals and homeowners to stay on alert.

On Oct. 6, Arlington, Wash., police say a man and woman attended a brokers-only open house and posed as real estate professionals. When an agent asked them for identification, they responded that they were out of business cards. A surveillance camera in the home’s bedroom caught the woman standing watch outside the door as the man looked through a jewelry box on a dresser and placed several necklaces in his pocket. They stole more than $800 worth of jewelry from the home. The man is in custody; police are still looking for the female accomplice.

Police say the man could be behind other recent open house thefts in Mercer Island, Poulsbo, Port Orchard, and King County.

“Unfortunately, it’s all too common,” Sam DeBord, president of the Seattle/King County Association of REALTORS® told NBC KING 5 news. “We hear about these happening more and more.”

On Oct. 1, at a home in Covington, Wash., a man and women posed as potential buyers and were caught stealing items from a home on camera. They provided fake names, addresses, and phone numbers on an open house sign-in sheet.

DeBord says real estate pros must remain vigilant.

“I think the most important thing is identifying people who are coming into a home,” DeBord says. Verifying who those folks are. Whether that’s getting a picture of their ID and emailing it into the office, whether that’s getting people to sign in at an open house. Just letting folks know an open house is not a free-for-all.”

Real estate pros should also help homeowners identify items that should be removed prior to an open house, such as valuables or prescription drugs and medications. Some real estate agents bring a second agent or assistant with them to be safe and help keep watch at open houses.

A lot of agents are also notifying neighbors when theyre having an open house and saying keep an eye out if you see anything strange, DeBord says.

Source: “Police Warn of Open House Thefts Amidst Booming Housing Market,” NBC KING 5 News (Oct. 11, 2017)