September is Realtor Safety Month, but just as every day should be a day of Thanksgiving, every month should be Realtor Safety Month.
Real estate agents are in a unique position among service providers, because you so often work alone, going into unoccupied places with people you don’t know, meeting strangers in their homes, or inviting anyone and everyone to join you at open houses.
That’s the downside to telling homeowners that they must be absent for showings.
But don’t forget – someone who calls you to a house to do a listing presentation may also be a threat to your safety.
Most people are good. You may sell real estate for 40 years and never come across someone with evil intent, but do you want to ignore precautions and take that chance with your safety – and possibly your life?
Between 2003 and 2012, an average of 17 real estate agents were murdered each year. Others were beaten, robbed, or sexually assaulted. A Google search will bring you more horror stories than you want to read.
It’s better to take precautions than to become a sad statistic. No potential commission is worth your life.
If you’re a big strong man you may think cautions don’t apply to you – but think twice. This article about a 2018 attack might change your mind.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Short of hiring an armed bodyguard to accompany you all day, you can and should take some sensible precautions.
Start with how you present yourself: Remember that there are those who think you are extremely wealthy because you’re a real estate agent, making you a good target for assault and robbery. Don’t encourage that idea by wearing expensive jewelry when meeting with clients.
Going on listing presentations:
First, do a little research about the house and the homeowner. Is the person who called you really the homeowner? If there are photos on line, look at them, so you’ll know when you get there. Is the house and the neighborhood really what he or she described in the call?
Tell someone responsible where you’re going and how long you expect to be gone. After you get there, excuse yourself for a moment to check in with that someone. Let the homeowner hear you say where you are and when they should expect you back.
Take someone with you if you can. Your mentor, someone you are mentoring, or even your spouse.
If you sense something amiss when the door opens, leave. Female agents have related being greeted by naked men, or men wearing nothing but underwear. If the homeowner appears to be drunk or under the influence of drugs, it’s another good time to leave.
Meeting new buyer clients:
Interview first time clients before showing them homes. You can invite them to the office or meet in a coffee shop or café, but don’t just run out to meet them at a vacant house!
Take time to get acquainted and learn their wants and needs. Then do the home search and set appointments for another day. Take good notes and leave a copy on your desk before you go out to meet them. Include your itinerary and when you expect to visit each home.
Meeting ahead of time isn’t always enough. Use of a code word on a call to the office probably saved one agent’s life. Here’s her story.
Be consistent in where you leave your notes. If you’re missing, you don’t want people using valuable time hunting for information on where you might be or who you might have been meeting.
Make sure your new client knows that others have been informed of your schedule and their identity.
Some agencies have a policy that requires agents to take a copy of the buyers’ drivers’ licenses before leaving the office with them. More than one agent has reported that the clients suddenly decided they had to be somewhere else at that point. It’s a bit creepy to know that probably saved the agents from bodily harm.
Sitting at open houses:
Don’t do it alone!
Make sure visitors know you are not alone.
When you’re in the house with a client…
Whether you’re showing the house or being given a tour, be aware of your surroundings and be careful not to get put in a position where you can’t get away from an attacker. Pay attention to what your clients are doing – you don’t want to be taken by surprise.
- Take note of where the doors are, so you can get out in a hurry.
- Don’t go into small rooms with the clients.
- Always let them precede you down a hallway or up and down the stairs.
- Keep your cell phone in your hand, or in a handy pocket.
- Stay out of high crime areas. You don’t need that listing or that sale enough to go where you KNOW going in that it’s apt to be unsafe.
- Arm yourself. Some agents carry a firearm – if you choose that, be sure you know how to use it, get a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and don’t reveal that you have it unless you actually need to use it.
You can also carry pepper spray or an inexpensive stun gun. But if you have them, keep them in a handy pocket. They’ll do you no good if you have to stop and dig through a purse or briefcase for them!
Once when another agent and I went to meet a decidedly creepy guy at a mountain cabin, I carried a sledge hammer. We were putting up a sign on a neighboring property and we walked from there to his cabin, so I had a perfect excuse. (But the darn thing sure was heavy while we were walking around 5 acres!)
If you’re at all nervous about going there alone (because sometimes you get those vibes), take someone with you. If you’re on your way to a showing all you have to do is say something like “Joe hasn’t seen this listing yet, so he’s going with us.” If it’s a potential listing, just act like you and other person are partners.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.”
“Every human being has, like Socrates, an attendant spirit; and wise are they who obey its signals. If it does not always tell us what to do, it always cautions us what not to do.”
“Have faith in your intuition and listen to your gut feeling.”
About your car:
- Make sure it’s always tuned up and filled with fuel.
- Take your own car. Getting into a car with a stranger is never a good idea.
- Always park where you can get out easily – where you can’t be blocked in. If you’re out at night, avoid parking in dark areas.
- Always lock your doors as soon as you get into the car.
Do you have more suggestions for staying safe?
If so, please add them to the comments.
Caution Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Business colleagues courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net