How a home sale can be ruined by uninvited ‘house guests’

Question: We are waiting to put our house up for sale. However, we need help. Squatters took over a rental property within eyesight of our home. The house was vacant. It was for rent. The squatters moved in and changed the locks. This turn of events has the neighborhood in disarray. Evidently, the owner of the property has hired an attorney. Now we are waiting for the court system to evict squatters almost directly across the street. It makes no sense. Police moderated confrontations between the owners and the squatters.

Our house will be vacant and on the market when the squatters are gone. We must sell our home. We have a deposit on an out-of-state house under construction. Timing is critical. We will lease a house while our new home is under construction. Finances will be tight. A legal drama with squatters is unthinkable. How can our seller’s agent protect our house from being taken over by squatters?

Answer: Congratulations on thorough, proactive thinking while entering the real estate market. A vacant property requires nothing less. Take charge. Install a video doorbell, monitoring devices and video cameras. Your security system should work together like you, your seller’s agent and the police.

Calling 911 during the commission of a crime, such as breaking and entering, can produce results. That is a criminal matter. Conversely, it is problematic for property owners when squatters have occupied vacant properties for days or weeks.

The money you spend on security secures your future. Consider other strategies to protect a vacant property, such as:

  • A seller’s agent should “service the listing.” That means visiting the property frequently and parking in the driveway. They turn on different lights and ensure doors and windows are closed and locked.
  • A neighbor or seller’s agent should remove mail, deliveries and newspapers.
  • Hire a gardener to make sure the yards are well-maintained.
  • Ask neighbors to park in your driveway.
  • Home sellers can forgo the traditional For Sale yard sign. Homebuyers today know what homes are for sale and where to find them.
  • Put padlocks on the side fence gates.
  • Install Beware of Dog signs. Add dog dishes and leashes to the back and side yards.
  • Put padlocks on the side fence gates.

Real estate contracts have a time-is-of-the-essence condition. That is understandable. What is not understood is what amount of time must elapse when a burglar/trespasser, breaking and entering, transforms into a squatter with squatter’s rights.

For Housing Market Data in your area, visit my webpage for trends. Do you have questions about home buying or selling? Full-service Realtor Pat Kapowich is a Certified Trust and Probate Specialist, Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager and career-long consumer protection advocate. He is based in his hometown of Sunnyvale, California. Office: 408-245-7700; Broker# 00979413



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