Safety tips for real estate professionals

Best practices to ensure safety in your day-to-day business activities

Often, people do not start to think about safety until something devastating happens to trigger an awareness. We don’t think about safety unless we “feel” unsafe.

Most people are unaware of the high risk that comes with working in the real estate industry. Too often, real estate professionals fail to incorporate safety strategies into their day-to-day real estate practice.

Real estate agents are very vulnerable during the course of their day. Often, you meet a potential client/buyer over the phone and agree to meet at a listing they wish to view. This is usually someone you’ve never met or known prior to the encounter. With the excitement of potentially procuring a new client, some agents act impulsively and assume that the caller is a bonafide buyer.

Another scenario: Open houses, where potential buyers preview homes during hours established by the local industry… usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Strangers come in and out at will. The agent is especially vulnerable in vacant homes, and homes in remote, woodsy or secluded areas.

Listings are gold so, any time you get a potential listing opportunity, safety can be furthest from your mind. Precautions should be taken when going on what you assume is a legitimate listing appointment.

Establish best safety practices in your day-to-day business activities

Most large corporate real estate offices have protocols and safety practices for their agents. Since most licensed real estate agents are independent contractors, they typically run their own businesses within the corporate environment and structure. The company typically does not dictate how an agents manage their business practices as long as real estate code of ethics or real estate laws are followed in the course of their business dealings. That being said, licensees should establish their own personal safety protocol.

Some common Safety Commandments published in REALTOR® Magazine include:

  1. Don’t meet a stranger at any property Set up appointments at your office so others in your office can see the potential buyer. You can take another agent or family member with you. Agents often work in partnerships so, this would not be unusual.
  2. Drive your own car Have the buyer follow you, or, you drive them in your car. An exception: You personally know the buyers or sellers, or, they are referred by a credible source. It is still a better practice to drive your own car.
  3. Limit your showings to daylight hours, and avoid working after dark. If necessary to work after dark, take a partner.
  4. Dress for safety Dress professionally and do not wear flashy jewelry or anything that would attract undo attention to yourself. Avoid carrying a large amount of cash.
  5. Arrange a showing itinerary Use a standard office form, or, create a form that shows the properties being shown. Make sure the buyer is aware that the list exists. Leave a copy at your office with someone, or, with a family member.
  6. Prior to showing a property, verify who you are meeting Complete a “prospect ID form,” a printed office or custom form that requests the buyer’s name, address, auto make and model, auto tag, driver’s license and references. This is not a step practiced in our local market but is a great idea. Only show properties to persons who are willing to provide this info. A loss of a client is better than the risk of losing your life!
  7. Use an agent ID form Make sure your office knows your car’s make and model, vehicle license tag number and your cell number.
  8. Set a coded distress signal Establish a coded message that appears to be a harmless routine call that you can make to your office or home that serves as an alert to someone if you are in a situation that appears to be unsafe.
  9. If you pick up on something suspicious, stop working immediately If you pick up on anything suspicious such as: inconsistent answers from the potential client, or any abnormal behavior or anything that sends a signal that something is not right. Stop working and trust your gut. Make an excuse to leave immediately. Like, “OMG, I forgot I have to pick up my [son/daughter from school, a friend’s house, the day care, etc.]”
  10. Notify your Broker immediately Your broker (if they are available) should decide what action to take if you feel threatened. I would rely on my instincts depending on the situation take the necessary course of action, which could be to notify the police.

Source: “The 10 Commandments of Real Estate Agent Safety”

My personal additions to the above are:

  1. Be proactive and think through your strategies in the event of a threat.
  2. Pre-approve all buyers with a lender prior to showing them property. This is also a way to confirm they are who they claim to be.
  3. Preview properties before showing, so that you know what areas to avoid that might put you in harm’s way. Let the clients view those areas alone while you stay near an exit.
  4. Let the potential clients walk in front of you as you approach various rooms in a home, especially in vacant homes. Keep them in your range of sight whenever possible without putting yourself in a compromised situation i.e. basements, remote areas, detached garages, etc.
  5. If the potential clients are whispering regularly and not openly discussing the property being shown, be on alert or interrupt and ask if they have questions you can answer.
  6. Leave your business card at the property for the seller to know who has shown their home. This will make it easier to trace your steps if foul play occurs.
  7. While you are showing the property, take pictures of the house interior as though it’s routine, capturing the buyers in at least one of the photos.
  8. Buyers who insist on a rushed visit without allowing you time to do a thorough, professional job of showing the property rarely buy the property they are so anxious to see.

Safety at the touch of a button

A variety of safety applications designed for real estate professionals are now available to install on your phone. I suggest trying out all of them, until you find one an app that works with your particular cell phone type and service. When you have to make quick safety judgements or take action to prevent being a victim, a phone app may be the answer, and could save your life. While an app might be convenient, nothing takes the place of common sense, preventative precautions and measures. One can never be too careful.

There are professional criminals who bank on an agent’s eagerness to make a commission, hoping safety is not in the forefront of the agent’s mind.  Put your safety first! Be aware and be extra cautious. You have only one life! Protect it by using good sound judgement and wisdom in all your real estate dealings.

Feel free to contact me for help with reviewing your personal strategies, to  speak with your group.

READ ALSO: Planning Your Safety Strategy

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