Is it okay to access property just because it has a For Sale sign on it?  The answer is NO of course, but this question recently came to my attention because of a tragic accident that happened in an empty subdivision recently.   Several naïve youth were just fooling around, but really should not have been on the cordoned off property where the fatal accident occurred.  (I offer my condolences to the families affected by this awful tragedy!)

      People often have the mistaken notion that the presence of a For-Sale-Sign allows free rein access to listed property.  I’m not talking about slowly driving down a street and taking a look through the car window!  Often people will roam around on vacant land or even peek through the windows of residential listings without obtaining permission first.   The subdivision in the example above does not have any houses built there yet so people think they can trespass and some of them even use the property for nefarious activities.  The listing broker continually replaces barriers and even goes beyond the mark by picking up trash and needles, condoms and beer bottles in order to make the lots seem presentable. 

     I have a question for such people, “If your house was listed for sale, do you think it would be okay for anyone to enter your home any time without permission”?   That seems silly when you put it that way doesn’t it? Yet many people don’t think it a crime to walk around on vacant land without permission.  Just for the record, a For Sale Sign is NOT permission for access.  That permission must be a formal process, either through a real estate broker (who should usually be present at the showing) or from the For Sale By Owner. 

     The Realtor® code of ethics and Multiple Listing rules are very clear and strict on the topic of property access.  Did you know they have to be fingerprinted to even get a license?  Realtors® must strictly follow the posted showing instructions or face censure by colleagues’.  When they allow buyers to walk around a property without their presence or without first getting permission, they risk discipline.  When members of the general public access property without permission they often get a pass, either because the owner is unaware of the trespass or they forgive the lack of permission in their eagerness to sell.  The legal and courteous thing to do is to obtain permission prior to accessing anyone else’s property!