Selling your home is a stressful endeavor no matter who you are, but when you’re a cop, it can be a little more so. You’re inviting strangers into your home when you aren’t there. Pictures of your family adorn the walls, your weapons are easily available, and your home could be open to criminals you’ve locked up in the past.
Make your home more secure by following these easy steps:
1. Take Down Family Photos
This has multiple benefits, the least of which isn’t protecting your family from anyone who may recognize you in the photos and then have your address, the layout of your home, and a good idea of what your family looks like.
Additionally, it allows any non-nefarious potential buyer to see their own family inside your home, to picture their family hanging on the walls, and really envision themselves living there.
Most good real estate agents will tell you to do this anyway, but it’s especially important for LE families.
2. Park the Patrol Car Elsewhere
Your squad is a beacon to criminals, and criminals buy houses, too. If you have a take-home you can significantly lower the chances of being burned at home by parking at the precinct or other off-site location and driving in. I know it’s a hassle, but it’s only briefly while you sell.
3. Secure Your Weapons
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked into a law enforcement officer’s home when it was listed and seen guns lying out unsecured. This is a huge liability risk for you. Parents bring children to see homes all the time, and one careless moment from a parent or an inattentive agent can mean disaster for not only the family involved but also you, the homeowner. That is definitely one “Dear Chief…’ letter you don’t want to write.
Now that was an absolute worst-case scenario, but theft is also a possibility. Securing your weapons in a gun safe is ideal. If you don’t have one, check with a buddy who does to see if you can store some stuff in his, or maybe check with your department to see if you can secure them at work. Whatever you do, don’t leave them lying out on a bedside table, loaded, with one in the pipe. That’s just asking for trouble.
4. Take Down the Hero Wall
Police love to put awards, plaques, blue line flags, and memorabilia on the walls of their home. Go ahead and strip that down. It will help keep you from being identified as LE, and it will also help the potential buyers with the visualization stuff I mentioned above.
5. Hide or Remove Your Uniforms
Keep your uniforms at work and dress in the locker room if possible. If it’s not, have them ready to grab and go and put them in the car while you vacate the premises for a showing. Your uniform is a plethora of intel for any potential scumbags who enter your home. First, it alerts them to your career, which might trigger them to look for things like weapons, badges, ID cards, etc. It also gives them information like your name, your department, and even the hours you work if your department has differing uniforms of the day based on shift. Another possibility is hanging them in the owner’s closet I mention below.
6. Make Sure Your Badge, Holsters, Duty Belt, and Any ID cards are Secured
There are a lot of ways to out yourself and these all count, but these items also represent a dangerous opportunity for theft of extremely sensitive pieces. You definitely don’t want to find yourself tracking down a badge after a day full of house showings. Chalk this one under “Dear Chief…” letters you don’t want to write, too. This one is another candidate for that owner’s closet, which brings me to…
7. Consider an Owner’s Closet
Have you ever stayed at a condo rental on the beach? Ever notice that one closet with a lockable doorknob on it? That’s what is traditionally called an owner’s closet. It’s where the owners of the condo store their personal effects so that when they come to stay in their own condo, they don’t have to lug tons of stuff with them.
You can make one in your own home quickly and easily by grabbing a lockable doorknob from Home Depot or Lowes. Swap it out for the doorknob on a small coat closet somewhere in your home. Make sure the key is different than the key that opens your exterior doors.
Once that is done, you can simply load everything you don’t want out in the open like gear and uniforms into that closet, lock it, and you won’t have to worry about it nearly as much.
8. Insist on an Electronic Lockbox
An electronic lockbox is accessed by an app on a real estate agent’s phone. Access to the app is tightly controlled by their association or board. It’s not like a mechanical lockbox where a lazy agent can give the code to clients to let themselves in. For this one, the agent has to physically open the box his or herself.
I use a Supra iBox. This particular system connects to the agent’s phone or an electronic key and emails the listing agent the moment it is accessed with the contact information of the person who opened it. This gives us valuable data to know who is going in and out of your home and a pretty solid way to track down any troublemakers should something go wrong.
The iBox also has a feature called a Call Before Showing (CBS) Code that requires a specific code the agent accessing the box must get from your listing agent. It adds another step to the process and makes things more difficult, so agents who lack understanding of your security concerns will often disable it, allowing anyone with the app to access your home unannounced. I employ the use of the CBS code on all my occupied listings and I take special care to ensure it’s active on those iBoxes attached to my highly sensitive clients.
Additionally, mechanical lockboxes are very easily defeated, whereas a Supra iBox is not. In fact, the iBox is designed so that attempts to pry it open result in the carrier inside, which holds the key, folding in on itself and entombing the key.
Agents who do not utilize the electronic lockbox system make that choice for many reasons, but the most common I hear is the expense. The Supra iBox isn’t cheap, but it’s a worthwhile investment to protect my clients, in my opinion. Stay away from cheap agents.
9. Make Sure Your Realtor Understands Your Security Concerns
Most real estate agents have little or no background in personal security. They do not understand the dangers you and your family face as a law enforcement professional. Many would dismiss you as paranoid for asking that these extra security precautions be put in place. Some might even innocently out you by putting into publicly viewable remarks that the house belongs to a law enforcement officer, hoping to attract people who realize that you probably take really good care of your stuff and having no idea how much of a target that makes your home.
I highly recommend you hire a real estate agent like me, who comes from your world. I spent 12 years on the job, so I get it. I would love to interview for the role as your real estate agent in the Valley, and if we aren’t a good fit, I know several other realtors in the area with law enforcement experience I can introduce you to. Please reach out if I can help you in any way.