By Rebecca Bradshaw
If you are a Realtor®, routines such as showing vacant homes, meeting new clients, and allowing strangers into your car are regular parts of the job. Unfortunately, so is the potential risk to your personal safety. So, what can you do to stay safe while making a sale?
Be smart when marketing yourself. Don’t use head shots that include expensive jewelry or that might be considered provocative. Personal information such as home addresses or phone numbers should never be included on websites or business cards, and to be extra cautious, limit who can see your personal social media accounts by setting them to private access only.
Meet new clients at the office or in a public place, and don’t assume that a referred client isn’t potentially dangerous. Have clients fill out information forms and get copies of driver’s licenses. Leave the copies with another person, as well as an itinerary of properties you’ll be showing, and let the client know that you’ve done so. If you must meet away from the office or after dark, take along an associate or family member.
When showing properties to clients, your safest bet is to travel in separate cars, but it that’s not possible, stay safe by staying hyper-alert. Don’t set yourself up to be robbed by leaving your purse or wallet out in the open. Keep 911 just a speed dial away, and have a coded message to let others know you are in danger without alerting your passenger. Only show properties in daylight, and always park on a street rather than in a driveway where pulling away quickly might be difficult.
Entering empty homes can be high risk; be sure others are aware of your location or take an associate with you. Since vacant houses often attract squatters, check the exterior for any signs that the property has been entered, and be alert to inside hiding places. If you encounter a squatter, leave immediately and call the police. When showing the home to a client, walk behind them, directing rather than leading, and never allow yourself to be trapped in a confined space.
Use the same precautions when holding an open house. Work with another person, and advertise that ID’s will be required; have visitors fill out information sheets at the door. Before the showing, scope out escape routes and check the strength of your cell phone’s signal. Thieves like to strike when the crowd thins, so be extra vigilant for any suspicious behavior late in the day, and don’t assume that everyone has left when the showing is over. Use the buddy system and check backyards, closets, and anywhere someone might be hiding before locking up.
Overall, the best safety measure a realtor can take is to be prepared. Attend self-defense classes, carry a whistle and pepper spray, and arm yourself with one of the wide range of phone apps and personal safety devices that are designed to get assistance to you quickly. Above all, trust your instincts--If something doesn’t feel right, remove yourself from the situation or call for help.
Sources: National Association of Realtors, Housing Wire, Inman, Realtor Mag