For years, real estate agents had to be independent trailblazers, making their individual mark on the business world. But lately, even though the market continues to strengthen, setbacks in real estate agent safety have been a growing cause for concern.
For years, real estate agents have made their living from meeting clients to show properties and presenting the most glamorous image of themselves as possible in advertising materials.
But things aren't like they used to be.
Most people would never walk into a secluded house with a stranger, but real estate licensees do it every day. According to the National Association of Realtors, 57% of all REALTORS© are women. In a 2011 study done by agbeat on violent attacks of real estate licensees, the victims are most often women, but men are attacked as well.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) along with individual brokerage offices all over the country are reevaluating techniques and business strategies that have been used in the business for years to try to see what might need to change moving forward. It is important that the notion and practices in offices change, but even more crucial are the small steps that every licensee can take to protect themselves.
Take the time to examine your mannerisms and routine as you go through these small steps that could mean the difference in an awkward or even dangerous situation.
Meet first-time clients in the office rather than in the field. This puts forth a professional tone on which to base the relationship, and also provides an opportunity for you to make a copy of your client's driver's license and have them fill out a Prospect Identification Form.
Many brokers are starting to require this to provide a safer working environment for licensees. Sometimes that extra step is all that is needed to put a stop to a criminal's plan.
If meeting in the office proves impossible, take a picture of your client's driver's license and car license tag and send it in by email or text to your broker or office manager. Technological advances make it much easier to take advantage of providing yourself with a digital paper trail.
Do not use glamorous pictures of yourself wearing expensive jewelry for advertising. Criminals pay attention to pictures like this more than we would like to admit.
Limit the personal information that you share. Your client does not need to know that your son has a game tonight and is the school's soccer star. You can get to know your client and still build a quality business relationship without providing too much information about yourself, your family, or where you live.
Do not share your home address or phone number on any advertisement. In order to provide as much anonymity as possible, a business email address is also a good idea.
Introduce your prospect to someone in the office when you meet them for the first time. A would-be assailant wants to stay inconspicuous so that they cannot be detected.
Always let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. Leave the name and phone number, plus any additional information you have been able to collect, of the client you are meeting.
It is a good idea for brokerage offices to have an employee check-out board on a website or at work to list your name, destination, customer name, the date, and expected return time.
Don't list properties as "vacant." This is an open invitation to criminals.
Do not park in the driveway. Park at the curb in front of the property. It allows more visibility to people in the neighborhood if there is a conflict, and it is much easier to escape in your vehicle if you don't have to back out of a driveway. Also, when parked in a driveway, the perpetrator could park behind you, making it more difficult to leave.
Show properties before dark. Do not lower any shades, or draw any curtains or blinds.
Establish a distress code with a friend or someone in the office. A secret word or phrase that is not commonly used but can be worked into any conversation for cases where you may feel threatened. Example: "Hi, this is Jane. I am at [address]. Could you send me the red file?"
Do not bring any type of purse or briefcase into a property. Lock it in the car trunk before you arrive.
Take your cell phone with you at all times and do not wear expensive jewelry or watches.
Have a panic button and/or security app on your phone.
While showing a house, always walk behind the prospect. Direct them, don't lead them. For example: "The kitchen is on your left."
Avoid attics and basements and getting trapped in small rooms. If they want to view those areas, you don't need to go with them.
When you are getting into your car alone, look in the backseat and underneath the car. Lock the doors immediately when you get inside.
Dress for the weather. If your car breaks down, or you need to escape a dangerous situation on foot, you will need to be dressed appropriately.
Take a self-defense class. A good course will help not only teach you proper maneuvers to physically fend off an attack, but it will cover critical thinking skills in regards to defense strategies, assertiveness, and powerful communication tactics.
Do not hesitate to call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
Trust your instincts. If you don't feel comfortable about a situation, figure out an alternative or ask someone to go with you.
Agents know that Open Houses are done primarily to please the seller. They are just not productive as far as business tactics go with attracting buyers and can pose a genuine risk to you, the licensee. Many brokerage offices are re-evaluating using Open Houses as sales tools and are trying to promote sales in other ways. If you do have an Open House, always take someone with you.
Remember that the biggest asset to your business is you. You can't serve your customers if you don't protect yourself.