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Real estate open houses can bring premises liability risks

The open house has long been a favorite tactic of real estate agents to sell a home. An open house involves inviting members of the public into a home for the purpose of enticing them to make a purchase.

But sometimes New Jersey homeowners fail to consider their liability in bringing strangers into their home. The possibility of a lawsuit resulting from a slip and fall or some other accident is a real possibility. Such lawsuits can not only be inconvenient, but can result in expensive judgments, not to mention negative publicity for the homeowner and the real estate company.

Many homeowners question whether an open house will improve the chances of a home sale since an open house invites everyone into the home, whether or not they are qualified or even interested in buying. Some people who come through an open house may simply be interested in decorating ideas. Others may be looking at the home for potential criminal activity later on. These are all possibilities.

All things considered, the real estate firm is the clear winner in an open house. They make the real estate firm appear to be involved with the community and an open house presents a great training opportunity for new agents.

Homeowners do not always fare well in the process. In addition to all the work involved in getting the property ready for an open house, there is the matter of having to trust the house to your agent for an afternoon. There is also the chance that the open house will not produce a sale in addition to some other potential consequences.

When pondering an open house, homeowners need to carefully weigh the benefits against potential risks.

Source: northjersey.com, "Open houses: Weighing risks versus rewards," Warren Frerichs, Oct 2011.

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