A revolution is underway in armchair house hunting. Gone are the days when searching for a new home meant trudging through several real estate agents and discovering, during the viewing, that the property did not meet expectations.
And the trend continues, with most potential buyers now starting to search for their perfect home on the Internet.
It is also beneficial for the supplier. Access to potential buyers is much broader. Therefore, if you are marketing your property online, you will want to offer as much visual detail and information as possible.
But while multi-angle photos of your newly decorated sunroom can get things moving, unfortunately there’s also a darker side to offering such forensic details of your home.
Detailed: Astute criminals can use simple online tools and easily accessible intelligence to help plan a robbery
Mainly because it offers astute criminals simple online tools and easily accessible intelligence to help plan a robbery.
“This type of information gives the thief time to plan their crime, giving them those vital minutes to break in, burglarize your home and make a clean getaway,” says Mark Hall, of rubbish removal company divert.co.uk.
“And together with Google Street View, they probably already have a good idea of CCTV hotspots and blind spots.”
A floor plan, for example, could offer detailed instructions on how a criminal should proceed once he or she has broken into the home. A walk-through video can unknowingly offer guidance as to whether the thief could be seen from the street.
Burglaries are on the rise: new data from Statista reveals that there were more than 279,000 burglaries in England and Wales last year alone.
Furthermore, recent analysis revealed that burglaries went unsolved in 48.2 per cent of neighborhoods in England and Wales in the three years to March 2023.
And with the majority of home searches now taking place online (either through individual agencies or specialist websites such as Zoopla), the prospect of the clever thief making a big profit is huge.
Of course, a robbery is a horrible and traumatic experience, as it represents a violation of the only place where one should feel safe. But a theft can also have a catastrophic impact on the sale of the property.
Potential buyers may back out as it appears they will be living in a high crime location.
Or suppliers may not be able to continue with your next purchase if expensive repairs are needed after the theft.
So how can you market your home effectively without offering its contents to an opportunistic thief?
Remember, says Mark Hall, that you are in complete control of what the public sees when you sell your home online, no matter what pushy real estate agents tell you.
So make sure, he says, that any photos showing the layout of a room are viewed as generic.
“If you have a problem with any of the images they produce, reject them,” says Mr Hall. “It’s your home, your privacy, your security and totally your decision.”
Real estate fraud expert Colum Smith, of the law firm Taylor Rose MW, points out that empty houses are especially susceptible to burglary.
He says: “I would avoid posting photographs online of a property where you can clearly see that it is not lived in. Criminals search the internet for details of empty properties that are on the market and then try to use those details to carry out fraud .
“By signing up to the Land Registry’s free property alert service, you will receive an email if anyone attempts to manage your property title.”
I would avoid posting photos online of a property where you can clearly see that it is not lived in. Criminals search the Internet for details of empty properties that are on the market and then attempt to use those details to carry out fraud.
Colum Smith – Taylor Rose MW
He adds that 3D tours should also be carefully considered.
‘These can be a great tool for criminals. It allows them to download and play frames from the tour. They may also approach specific areas of your home that might be vulnerable or of interest to them.
However, if you want to go ahead with a virtual tour, Javvad Malik, chief security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, suggests vetting any video before posting it online.
‘Look at what personal information is available to view and move or darken it before posting it online.
‘Many times, letters containing details of the owner are visible. Family photographs, the location of house keys and car registration details can provide information that can be used by criminals seeking to profile the house or its occupants.
This even means making sure that keys are not photographed. “With high-resolution images, it is even possible to duplicate keys from a single photo,” she adds.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using generic images that give a broad idea of the dimensions of your home. But Sumier Foster-Shah, product support manager at ERA locksmiths, says it’s vital to keep anything worth stealing out of sight.
‘Valuables such as electronics, wallets, jewelery and other expensive items should be stored in closed cupboards or drawers, rather than out in the open where they can be easily seen.
“When dealing with especially expensive items and other important personal possessions, a small safe is recommended for the highest levels of security.”
The Internet is still an effective way to sell your home. Just make sure the invitation to see her isn’t more welcoming than you’d like it to be.