According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 39 percent of real estate professionals surveyed have been in a work-related situation that made them fear for either their personal safety or for the safety of their personal information. Unsecured properties, open houses and properties located in remote areas can all put agents in uncertain or even perilous situations.
While most people would never meet a stranger alone, real estate agents do this every day. Here’s how you and your colleagues can stay safe both in the office and out in the field.
Get to Know Your Clients
The more information you have, the safer you ultimately are, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Schedule your initial new-client meetings in a public place. Your office is an ideal spot for obvious reasons, but a restaurant or coffee shop works too.
- Make it your policy to photocopy client IDs at the start of a home search.
- Flesh out the clients’ profiles with other relevant data like general contact and employment information and the make and license plate number for their cars.
Trust Your Gut
From settling on a pricing strategy to deciding how to stage a property for sale, following your instincts plays a huge role in being a successful real estate agent. Safety considerations should be similarly gut-driven. If something feels off, there is no shame in calling in backup, rescheduling an appointment or canceling it altogether. If you’re already mid-showing and your “spidey sense” starts tingling, call the office or phone home and make an excuse — and your way out — while someone is on the other line.
Preview the Property
There may not be any way to avoid meeting with unfamiliar home buyers, but you can certainly take the time to familiarize yourself with the home itself. Make nighttime showings safer by visiting earlier in the day and turning on indoor and outdoor lights (and replacing bulbs as needed), checking entry points for any sign of damage or tampering, and getting a feel for the lay of the land. Knowing your surroundings bolsters your confidence and helps you escape quickly should the need arise.
Don’t Go It Alone
Whenever possible, bring along a buddy so you’re never showing a house on your own. An assistant or colleague is a great idea, but in a pinch a friend, significant other or even a loyal dog work nicely.
If you do have to show a home by yourself, take precautions:
- Let the buyers lead the way as they tour the home so you always have them in your sights.
- Offer buyers the option to explore an attic, basement or walk-in closet, but stay behind while they check it out.
- When entering a room, stay near the door. Never let the buyer block your exit.
- Always keep your phone in your hand.
- Be sure that someone trustworthy knows where you are and what time you’re expected to finish up. Better yet, have them call and check in on you at a predetermined time and know what the next step is if you don’t or can’t answer.
Some real estate pros choose to carry personal safety equipment (pepper spray, for example) or take self-defense classes. There’s also an app called Trust Stamp that gives members of the National Association of Realtors access to comprehensive information regarding a potential client’s criminal history, identity and even social media activity.
Take these steps to protect yourself, and you’ll be better able to concentrate on your primary goal — making a sale.