Walking away from the closing table with a set of shiny new house keys is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment for home buyers. However, have you ever thought about who else may also have a set of keys to your house?
The Previous Owner
This one is pretty obvious to be sure, but new owners should remember that every member of the previous owner’s family most likely had a key to the house. Where are all those keys now?
The Previous Owner’s Ex-Spouse or Lover
If the previous owner divorced or had a live-in partner during their ownership of the home, chances are good that keys to your home are still out there floating around. It isn’t very likely that these keys would be retrieved and given to you at closing, is it?
The Previous Owner’s Neighbor
A lot of home owners leave a key with a neighbor in case of an emergency or for those times when the neighbor will be watering the plants or feeding the cat while the owner vacations. Did the previous owner retrieve that key when the house was listed for sale?
The Previous Owner’s Babysitter, Housekeeper, Furnace Repair Person, Dog Walker, Etc.
Most home owners are busy people and cannot take off work to meet the furnace repair person or let the housekeeper in to clean each week. How many keys were given out in this manner through the years and where are all those keys now?
The Real Estate Brokerage
Most real estate brokerages keep a copy of all the homes they have listed for sale and these keys are usually accessible to all agents and office personnel. In addition, if a key safe was installed on the property to enable other agents to show the home, duplicate keys were probably cut for this use. Did the real estate brokerage give you, the buyer, every copy they had for the house you just bought?
The Home Inspector, Carpet Cleaner, Plumber, Electrician, Etc.
Did you have a home inspection performed before you closed on your home? If so, and the seller was not present at the time of the inspection, the home inspector probably had access to either the key in the key safe or a duplicate key provided by the listing brokerage. This also applies to any service person who may have needed access to the home to clean or make repairs prior to closing. Can you be sure that all those keys were given to you at closing?
What New Homeowners Should Do to Protect Themselves
More than likely, there are several keys in existence that fit the home you just bought. The only way you can be absolutely sure that your family is safe and secure in the new home is to contact a reputable locksmith and have every exterior door rekeyed. If there are gates or outbuildings that lock, make sure these are also rekeyed. Then you can sleep peacefully instead of laying awake and wondering who might someday let themselves into your home with an old key.