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Are You Safe as a Realtor®?

Are You Safe as a Realtor®?

September is Realtor® Safety Month, so I want to ask you – are you safe as a Realtor®? There are a lot of areas where safety plays into real estate work. You can help your sellers stay safe, you can keep yourself safe during showings, and most of all, you can keep yourself from being a target.

How to Avoid Becoming a Target

You survive 100% of the attacks that don’t happen, so focus first on preventing yourself from being a target. Criminals are generally focused on opportunity, and go after victims that give them the best opportunities. With that in mind, here are some steps you can take to avoid being a target:

  • Pay Attention to How You Appear. Criminals target Realtors® who work alone and who appear to be wealthy. They often focus on women, as women are seen to be weaker than men and less likey to be able to defend themselves. When working as a Realtor®, avoid working alone and avoid ostentatious displays of jewelry or other wealth.
  • Limit Vulnerability. If someone stands too close to you, immediately make eye contact and establish personal boundaries. Don’t be easily intimidated. In addition, be wary of someone who asks a lot of questions about a showing that involve how alone you’ll be. Questions like “Are other buyers going to be there” and “Is the property vacant” and “Will you be alone” are all red flags.
  • Never Work Alone, Especially on Secluded Properties. The more secluded a property, the higher the opportunity for a criminal. Neighbors, foot traffic, and great lighting are all deterrents to criminal activity. The biggest deterrent, of course, is simply not working alone. Don’t allow yourself to be isolated.

How to Protect Your Sellers

Real estate safety is certainly about your personal safety, but it’s also about those you work with. You want to ensure that those who list with you are safe as well, especially as it concerns their personal property. Not only that, when you focus on the seller’s safety, it will help you stand out from other agents who aren’t talking about it.

Here are some important tips to share with sellers:

  • Prescription Drugs. Not only is your seller’s health no one’s business, but prescription drugs are a major temptation for criminals. If a criminal doesn’t use them personally, they can sell them on the black market. Prescription drugs should be locked up or removed before showings and open houses. Unlocked medicine cabinets are no safer than leaving them out in the open.
  • Remind your clients that you aren’t responsible for valuables during showings. They should carefully lock up or put away valuables during showings. This isn’t limited to jewelry – it can also include cell phones, mail that contains personal information, artwork, gaming equipment, and valuable collections. Do your part as well, and avoid posting photographs or videos of the home that contain shots of valuable technology, gaming items, or collections.
  • Beware of Strangers at the Door. Just because someone shows up saying they’re interested in the home doesn’t mean your sellers should let them in. Be sure they know that only a real estate professional using the lockbox should be able to access the home.
  • Put in Extra Locks and Security. When a home is listed for sale, criminals see it as being more vulnerable simply because people go in and out a great deal. Advise your sellers to put in deadbolts, put extra locks and sticks on sliding doors, and take other security measures.

Keep Yourself Safe

Finally, it’s vital to keep yourself safe during a showing and open house. It’s not hard to avoid being a target, but it can be inconvenient. Remember that a few extra minutes, a delayed appointment, and the buddy system are worth the trouble when it comes to your safety.

  • Never Meet Someone for the First Time at a Property. Yes, the home is on the way, they just called, and you don’t want to miss a buyer. But it’s not worth your safety. Firmly tell interested parties that they must have a meeting with you at your office before they see a property. Don’t let them intimidate or badger you into anything else.
  • Keep People in Front of You. A criminal will have a much harder time surprising you from the front. If you’re doing a showing, keep everyone in front of you. Don’t allow yourself to be trapped in a room without a way out.
  • Make Sure Others Know Where You Are. Your brokerage, your friends, and your family should always know where you are, the address of the property, and who you’re meeting. There are also cell phone apps that can enhance safety by tracking your location, such as StaySafe, bSafe, or Bugle.
  • Have a Buddy. When you’re doing a showing or an open house, don’t do it alone. It may be inconvenient, but if you set up a swap system with someone else, it doesn’t have to be a hassle. Remember, having two people makes you less vulnerable. It’s worth your safety to have a buddy.

In the end, remember that it’s worth the time and effort it takes to stay safe. When you start getting careless, you unfortunately open yourself up to being a target for an opportunistic criminal. It’s not just children who need to be careful around those they don’t know – we all do.

What do you do to stay safe? Share in the comments!

How to Stay Safe – Know Before You Show

Know Before You Show

The news has continued to highlight terrifying stories of Realtors® who become the target of thieves and criminals while showing a home. Because prospect and the Realtor® are often the only ones in the home, criminals can, and have, taken advantage of the situation. This issue is not confined to female agents, either – men have also been the victims of violence.

Keeping yourself safe is of utmost importance in any situation, especially during an open house when the public at large is welcome to enter the home. Two brokers in central Iowa created a Realtor® Safety Pledge after two separate murders of young agents. The pledge highlights important safety steps that all Realtors® can take to minimize risk to their personal wellbeing.

  • Meet at the Office. Set an office policy that all buyers should meet agents at the real estate office, and get a copy of a photo ID before going to the property. This will help discourage dishonest ‘buyers’ (who won’t want to risk being seen by someone else at the office) from setting up a showing to commit a crime. If you can’t set the office policy yourself, advocate for it with your broker.
  • Have Self Defense Training. While this training won’t make you perfectly safe, it will definitely make a difference in how you react if someone attacks you. Some Realtors® take this a step further and choose to train with and carry a gun. The only caveat I would offer to that is to make sure you are very comfortable using it. A criminal can take a gun from a shaken or uncertain Realtor® and use it against you.
  • Consider Limiting Open Houses or Use a Buddy System. Open houses are one of the most dangerous arrangements for agents, because they are alone in a private house that is open to the public. If a stranger comes in and wants to see the basement, they are suddenly out of view and a crime can easily occur. If you want to continue using open houses as a marketing strategy, arrange with another Realtor® or two that all of you will be present at each other’s open houses.
  • Listen to Your Intuition. People have an odd but strangely accurate “sixth sense” about dangerous situations. Trust that uneasy feeling and decline to show a home alone if you feel unsafe. You can reschedule for a time that someone will be able to go with you, or you can simply decline the showing. Remember that a single showing will not make or break your listing, and even a big sale isn’t worth your safety or your life.
  • Prequalify Your Prospects. Before you meet someone at a home, prequalify them. This involves gathering information from them to make sure they are a serious buyer. Not only is this helpful in not wasting your time or the seller’s, it will also keep people away who don’t want you to know exactly who they are or what their situation is. The people you discourage will be the ones you wouldn’t have sold to anyway – and you’ll be much safer in the process.
  • Retrain Your Customers and Influence Public Expectations. You can’t change how everyone thinks, but you have a lot more influence than you think. Retrain your prospects that they cannot expect you to meet them, sight unseen, at an empty house. Tell your friends, family, and anyone who will listen that this practice is unsafe and that agents need to prequalify clients and meet at their office before going to a home. With enough Realtors® saying it, eventually public opinion and expectations will shift.

Making a major change in an industry can seem difficult. However, in real estate it boils down to thousands of agents making a change in their individual behavior and educating people about why. I hope you do it. If I read about you in the paper, I want you to be winning an award, not being the victim of a crime.

Will you join us? Make the pledge to stay safe, and encourage others to do so as well!