According to Las Vegas Metro police, a lot of times the answer is NO! Whether you are selling a vacant home or in between tenants on a rental property, the home you think is vacant may not be unoccupied after all.
This is an incident that actually happened to one of our Las Vegas real estate agents, Ed Orasi, just last week. Fortunately for this seller, Ed is extremely conscientious and personally inspects his listings on a regular basis. But we have seen numerous instances over the years where the listing agent or property manager hasn't been to a property in literally months!
Here is Ed's story:
"I received a call a couple of days ago that a lockbox was missing from one of my listings. I found this to be odd, since the property was shown 2 days prior using the Electronic Lockbox and I had just been there myself a few days before that.
So I went out to the property and found that the lockbox AND the sign were both missing. I always keep a spare key to my vacant homes, but when I tried to unlock the door, the key wasn't working anymore. Then I opened the garage, but the door from the garage into the home was also locked and my key wouldn't work there either. I even tried knocking in case the seller had a guest staying over, but there was no answer.
My seller is elderly and out of state. I got in touch with her to see if she had given permission to someone to be in the property. I also called the HOA to see if money was owed and if they had taken possession of the property. As a last resort, I called the property manager that was overseeing the property prior to my listing to see if they had made an error and inadvertently rekeyed the house.
The answer was NO from each person I spoke to. There was no legitimate reason why my key wouldn't work and why the sign and the lockbox were missing.
Now I needed to get access to the house again. First I got the documentation I would need to show I was authorized to enter the house, and called a locksmith and advised them of the situation. (All reputable locksmiths will require the proper authorization.) Then I called the Metro police department to arrange an appointment for them to dispatch an officer to meet the locksmith and me at the house.
When we all showed up at the property, to my surprise there was a mini-van in the garage and a man came out. The police officer questioned the man, who claimed to have rented the property off of an ad in Craigslis. He said he had gotten the keys 3 days ago, and he was living there with his wife and 2 children. But "coincidentally" he couldn't remember the number he had called on Craigslist or the name of the person was he had spoken to. And of course he had no lease agreement.
It took this family only 20 minutes to pack up the mini-van and leave, which they did with no arguments whatsoever. The police officer said this happens quite often - much more often than most people realize. He said the best thing to do is call the police and make sure they know when a property is vacant so that patrol officers can keep an eye on it."
As Ed said later, "Thank goodness I visit my listings every week and follow up on showings to see how often someone is in the property."
Homeowners: Make sure that If you are listing your property for rental or sale that the agent uses an electronic lockbox which shows who comes and goes from the property.
Also make sure that your agent visits the property regularly so you don't have squatters or find your house being rented without your knowledge. Or, if you live in another state but have a vacation home in Las Vegasthat you only visit periodically, you can hire a property manager that will visit regularly and take pictures that are date and time stamped for you.
Team Leader, The Tonnesen Team
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Nevada
3185 St Rose Pkwy #100 Henderson, NV 89052
With over 30 years of experience helping families call Las Vegas "home!"