By Marlee Ginter

SOUTH SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Once you put the ‘For Sale’ sign in the front yard, you may have just posted an invitation for squatters and burglars. Local realtors are fed up with the crime targeting their properties and they’re taking up an old tactic again – they’re hiring house sitters.

Samantha Tov sees the desperate and ugly in the real estate industry. The listing agent with Portfolio Real Estate has seen an uptick in people breaking into homes that she’s trying to sell.

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“It shocked me that it got broken into two times, three times, and that’s when we hired a house sitter,” Tov told CBS13. “Newer appliances will get stolen. They’ll remove the doors and go through the garage.”

Tov got so frustrated chasing out squatters and filing police reports on burglaries, she’s now hiring people to live in the vacant homes on the market. House sitters deter people from breaking in.

“House sitters are usually a single person that doesn’t really have a house and they live in a backpack and they’ll have a makeshift hammock,” said Tov.

Realtor Jonathan Lee says it’s kept him busy.

“It’s rough for buyers, right? They see the house and they want to make sure the neighborhood is good, make sure the house is in good condition, and if they see that stuff, they can get scared,” said Lee.

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In a market that’s already hot with back-to-back showings, he’s now dealing with break-ins in between.

“The frustration that we’re having is that we do have to hire house sitters.  So that’s a pretty long service because escrows usually take about 20 to 30 days,” said Lee.

It all comes at a cost, from the pricey locks they’re breaking that run $120 bucks each to all the damage and now the cost of hiring a house sitter.

“We have the sellers pay for it and it’s not just the house sitter. We drop off food and water for them. In the morning, we drop off breakfast and lunch for them,” said Tov.

It could be a good gig. House sitters make about $75 a day. They go from house to house with just a backpack and they don’t have to pay rent.

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It’s a last-ditch effort by realtors to deter crime.