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Real Estate Institute watching home thefts closely


The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (Inc) employed private investigators who had identified those thought responsible for the theft of jewelry from recent Open Homes, conducted by members of the Institute, National President, Graeme Woodley confirmed today.

The Institute had also, in another South Island case, circulated photographs of people “about whom we had some concern” to members, 10 days ago, as a warning in relation to Open Home thefts.

Mr Woodley said the question of thefts during open homes was of considerable importance to the Institute, and the decision to employ private investigators, illustrated the Institute’s level of concern.

“These thefts are not, however, particularly prevalent but we believe that some groups have been developing a strategy for Open Homes involving the theft of property from them. We have been aware of the activities of these groups for some time and acted quickly to identify those responsible and also to protect our agents.”

Mr Woodley said a couple had been charged following the Institute’s investigations, “ We carried this investigation out discretely since, while these type of thefts are far from commonplace, it is nevertheless a problem which could affect the credibility of the Open Home system.”

Mr Woodley said the Institute would be circulating information to members to identify a broad framework for operating Open Homes, which would involve the following advice:

-Ensure that the agent and one other person are at the Open Home at all Times -Ensure that there is only one unlocked (front) door -Ensure that Vendors are advised to check their insurance policies as to coverage. -Report any suspicious behavior to either the police, or the Institute, in order to allow follow-up investigation.

Mr Woodley said a recent Fair Go programme had highlighted a problem, especially as to insurance cover in the event of a theft.

“There is no doubt that some vendors are covered by their insurance and others aren’t. The point is that the agent is conducting an Open Home on a ‘best endeavors’ basis but can’t be expected to be liable, given the fact that there are around 100,000 residential properties sold on an annual basis and the majority of those would involve Open Homes. We would need a small private army if we had to take responsibility for security as well. Alternatively if every agent had to take additional insurance cover to protect themselves, the cost would be considerable, and would render Open Homes unviable”.

Open Homes are a vital tool in the marketing of real estate,” if Institute members were put in a punitive position by hosting Open Homes, many would cease doing so which would be a great shame, losing homeowners one of the more effective means of marketing their homes”.

Mr Woodley said he believed the incidents identified by Fair Go were relatively isolated, but the publicity was not necessarily helpful, since it would give all those criminals without the imagination to have previously thought of Open Homes as a target, a new incentive.

“Suffice to say our agents will be increasingly vigilant since this matter has been brought to the fore, although we have been warning agents of this danger for some time and our initiative in employing private investigators shows we are accepting our responsibility and taking this matter seriously”.

Mr Woodley said the Institute would look forward to working with the Insurance Council to develop better guidelines for vendor insurance coverage in relation to Open Homes.

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