Most people you come in contact with as a real estate agent present no danger. They’re looking to buy a home or condo and appreciate the time and effort you take to walk them through the property. But, any professional whose work requires them to meet frequently with people they don’t know — usually unaccompanied — needs to take precautions to ensure their safety.
Here are some tips to protect you and your clients from the unexpected.
Staying safe during showings and open houses
- Protect yourself by protecting your own information. Use your office address and phone number on business cards or include no address at all. If possible, use a separate cell phone for your work.
- Arrange to meet new clients at your office before a showing. Make a copy of their driver’s license and have them complete a detailed prospect identification form
- Don’t share your personal information.
- Follow your intuition. If you’ve scheduled a showing with someone who you just don’t feel comfortable with, ask another agent to go with you
- Always be sure that someone knows where you are. Whether you work in an office or work on your own from home, it’s important to share your schedule. Let a colleague or family member know exactly where you are and when you plan to return
- Check locations in advance to ensure you have cell coverage.
- Make sure you know where you’re going. Using a GPS is a good idea, but also be observant. Taking note of landmarks and other points of interest will help you avoid getting lost.
- Be sure you have quick access to important phone numbers including home, office, AAA and 911.
- Keep your phone charged at all times.
- Carry only essential items along with your cell phone into the house. Leave purses, wallets, laptops, etc. locked in your trunk.
- Always lock your car.
- Be observant. When you first arrive, look for anything or anyone that may appear to be out of place or unexpected.
- If you find yourself alone in a threatening situation give yourself an out. Tell the person you’re showing that you’re needed back at the office or you have an emergency at home.
- Avoid scheduling showings at night. Most properties are shown to their best advantage during the day. If someone simply can’t meet during daylight hours it’s probably best to ask someone to accompany you. If you must show at night arrive early, turn on the lights throughout the house, and be sure that all shades, blinds, or curtains are open
- Be sure your clients have all requests for showings go through you. Under no circumstances should they show the property to other prospect or agents.
- Client house keys should be kept in a safe or lockbox.
- Be sure that your clients have removed any mail, bills, or other documents that include personal information.
- All valuables that may easily be pocketed should be put away, including jewelry and electronics.
- Be sure no house or car keys are left out.
- Hide any prescription drugs.
- Ask all visitors to register in an open house guest book with their full name, address, phone number, email and vehicle information. (Not only is this good for safety purposes, it also give you a list of prospects to follow up with.)
- Keep an eye out for individuals or groups that look like they don’t belong. While you want to be courteous, avoid being distracted and allowing others to move through the house unaccompanied.
- If at all possible, avoid saying in advance that a property is vacant.
- Be sure all rooms are empty at the end of an open house.
- Make a phone call to friend or family member if your car is not close by. An attacker is less likely to attempt something if they see you’re mid-conversation.
Being prepared by keeping safety top-of-mind will help you avoid uncomfortable situations where you might otherwise be caught off-guard. All real estate agents should take a course in self-defense. Men should not assume that they are better prepared to deal with a threatening situation. Don’t be a hero. Get yourself to safety and call for help.