The privilege of owning a home comes with the challenge of problems you can't always avoid, like damage from fire, water, or winds. Besides these "acts of God," as the insurance companies refer to them, a home can be broken into or vandalized.  

When a home is on the market, whether it is occupied or not, the possibility of trouble increases. But when you stage your home, you'll reduce the risk of being a victim of crime. Here's how.

Curb appeal does double duty

Thieves target properties that look neglected. In the same way that bullies seek out people who appear defenseless, a robber seeing a home that looks vulnerable sees it as a possibility. 

Make your home for sale look tended and occupied. Curb appeal now becomes even more important! Sweep the entrance so cobwebs don't form and debris doesn't blow in. Don't let mail sit outside. Have some potted real plants (or fake plants and flowers that look convincingly real) by your exterior entrance. Keep a clean welcome at that newly painted front door. Nothing outside should look like it is in poor repair.  

Most buglars will avoid a home that shows visible devices such as security cameras, smart locks, and a doorbell camera. If you install a home security system, let it be known with stickers, placards, and obvious motion sensors. Today's security cameras can be economical, reliable, easy to install, and wireless. And you can take them with you when you move. Motion-activated exterior lights and a beware-of-dog sign are also low-cost, effective additions. Smart motion sensors can notify you of strange activity on your property via your phone.

A privacy fence won't help you, but gates and fences like this
will discourage prowlers. Photo: American Fence Company 
Lockboxes can be tampered with and thieves pretending to be serious buyers can watch how a Realtor punches in the numbers so they can return later and gain access. Your agent should have a list of people who have viewed your home and their contact information. 

Make sure your exterior door and window locks are of good quality. And be sure you lock those doors and windows! My dad always said, "It doesn't cost anything to lock up." If you have property stolen from inside your home and there is no evidence of forced entry, your homeowner's insurance may not help you.  

A clean sweep helps

Any good staging begins with decluttering and a deep clean. The rule of thumb is to first get rid of or put into storage what you don't absolutely need or want in your home, then do your cleaning, and then bring in the photographer.

For homestaging advice and ready access to a guidebook that gives you easy solutions to all the common DIY home staging problems, be sure to download my homestaging eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar.  Why go it alone when I share with you my years of experience buying, staging, and selling homes? 

Burglars steal small things that have good resale value. That's why staging your home can make it less prone to thievery. Good home staging calls for the removal or hiding of all those little distractions -- the small figurines and vases, compact electronics, tools, remote controls and key fobs, handheld appliances. Thieves aren't known for their work ethic. They don't want to carry off bulky items. So, don't stage with anything that can be stuffed into someone's pocket.  

Keeping all the furnishing in a room overscaled makes for
both safe and effective home staging. Photo: Lindsey Black Interiors.

Nothing too precious here

The list of property stolen from homes includes not just money and jewelry. Thieves will target anything that has quick monetary value. If you've ever visited a pawn shop you have an idea of what people convert to easy cash -- musical instruments, televisions, electronics, tools, guns, and jewelry. 

Today it's easy for anyone to sell stuff from the comfort of home. It's not just pawn shops and black market "fences" where crook can go to unload stolen goods. Online listings like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist make it simple.  Any criminal can browse MLS listing photos, and see what's worth stealing.

It's a good idea to take photos of serial numbers and models on appliances and electronics. It could help you recover stolen property or file an insurance claim.

Remember that artwork, antiques, alcohol, clothing, shoes, and even pets are candidates for becoming stolen goods. That's why smart home stagers remove things like heirlooms, valuable antiques, and collections worth money. 

Other items of value 

Because people whom you don't know will be visiting your home, it's wise to hide medications that might have street value. Most thieves are looking for narcotic drugs or money for drugs. If you can't lock up these things, keep them safely hidden. Even though some thefts can result in a $2,000 fine, people looking for money to support a drug habit are willing to risk it. 

Many crooks know tricks such as keeping money in the freezer and in the back of a dresser drawer, which is why burglarized homes are ransacked from top to bottom.  I love these DIY projects for creating hiding places for valuables in the home

If you have expensive designer clothing, shoes, or handbags, please do not display them. One piece of advice from anti-crime experts is that you can mix them in with ordinary closet items so they don't stand out. But if you are decluttering your closet, these would be items to put in temporary off-site storage. 

Also, don't let just anyone into your home. Don't show the property without an appointment through an agent. Check with your own listing agent if anyone calls or knocks on your door claiming to be a Realtor.  

"Nothing worth stealing here, folks. Move along." 
It's easy to create attractive place settings for home staging
using oversized, simple, inexpensive household items.  

Protect your personal info

We all know identity theft is on the rise. And that it can have devasting consequences. 

Here's a list of what gives thieves information about you and your family: calendars, invitations, checkbooks, tax returns, social security cards, birth certificates, debit and credit cards, diplomas, any mail, especially financially revealing mail like credit card statements, bank statements, or mail offers for new credit cards. 

Update passwords in case anyone gains access to your computer when you're not home.

Even people who are honest buyers touring with a Realtor might be tempted to take something they take a fancy to. Sometimes children or extended families accompany buyers.  Agents can't be expected to keep everyone in one room during a walk-through.   

Keep your health safe, too 

The covid-19 pandemic is still happening, so it's important to continue taking precautionary efforts. Despite being double vaccinated, my husband was hospitalized for two days last month with a breakthrough infection and is still feeling weak and tired. Believe me, it's not something you want to go through!   

Make sure your Realtor is onboard with asking people to wear masks. Provide hand sanitizer for people who come to tour your home. Masks help to prevent the spread of covid-19. They also help to reduce the risk of spreading the flu and common cold, which affects about 1 billion Americans every year. Don't host any open house days.

You should also remove or secure anything that could cause a trip or fall, such as small area rugs (which are bad for home staging anyway!) and stairs or handrails that need repairs. There are people who make a living off of personal injury lawsuits. 

Staging a home makes it safer in numerous ways. If you are selling a home, don't wait to make it the one buyers want and the one that protects you, your property, and other people. 

Top photo: This Old House