Today, we’re going to talk about some important realtor safety tips.
We don’t want to think about being a realtor as a dangerous job. But it can be.
Realistically, we spend a lot of time with strangers. We agree to meet with people we don’t know in places we’re not all that familiar with — often at times that most people are at work, asleep, or otherwise inactive.
So, how do we stay safe without sacrificing our livelihood? How do we remain cautious without potentially alienating our customers?
Important Realtor Safety Tips
According to NAR, the situations most likely to cause fear include:
- Open houses.
- Vacant homes/model homes.
- Properties that were unlocked or unsecured.
- Buyers who didn’t want to meet in public places
- Properties that were in remote areas.
September is Realtor Safety Month. But safety is an all-year pursuit. Let’s take a look at a few ways that a real estate agent can protect themselves.
1. Make Sure Someone Else Knows Your Schedule
This is probably the most important safety tip. A real estate agent is most vulnerable because no one knows where we’re supposed to be. Real estate professionals may have a dozen showings in a day. We can be missing literally all day and no one would bat an eye; it’s not like we’re supposed to come back to the office after lunch.
Keep a Google Calendar real estate schedule and share it with team members, colleagues, friends, and family. Those close to you can’t tell whether you’re missing unless they know that you’re actually missing — not just at an oddly scheduled open house.
“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways; It is always in response to something. It always has your best interest at heart.”Gavin De Becker, the Gift of Fear
2. Follow Your Gut
Is something telling you that you shouldn’t go to a showing? Either don’t go or bring someone else along with you. Usually, your gut is the way that your intuition tells you that something is wrong.
If you really think about it, you probably know why you feel as though your safety has been compromised. Maybe the buyer seemed really persistent about finding out whether you’d be alone. Maybe they seemed aggressive, impatient, or short with you.
If you follow your gut about these situations, the worst-case scenario is that you’re a little inconvenienced. You might need to delay seeing a client or you might just need to forego a single sale. But if you ignore it, you run the risk of genuinely putting yourself in danger.
3. Have a “Panic Button” in Your Pocket
Modern smartwatches and smartphones have apps that you can use to automatically call a friend, family member, or even the police department if you push the button.
Having a panic button app is a great idea, especially if you’re frequently working alone. Ideally, a real estate professional won’t need to worry at all. But if you do feel as though you’re being followed or as though there’s someone else in the home, you can quickly send for help.
Safety apps are also a great way to be found if you end up in an unexpected location. Many safety apps come with GPS tracking. That’s valuable because real estate agents go so many places that it’s very easy to get mixed up when you’re panicking or when time is of the essence.
4. Watch for Sketchy Behavior
You’re meeting with a potential buyer, but they show up with three people. You’ve talked to a prospective client before, but they keep asking you to go to a second location.
Any time something is “unexpected,” it could also mean that it’s not right and that your personal safety is at risk.
Sometimes, there’s just nothing you can do about a situation. But a lot of times, people mention that they noticed something odd about a potential client or about the situation before everything went awry. A door was open that they didn’t expect to be open. A person was there that they didn’t expect to be there.
Safety protocols mean that you should walk away if you experience something that’s unusual. It could be nothing. But it could be everything.
5. Be Guarded About Your Personal Information
Being a real estate professional is highly personal. You start to feel like every client is your friend. And because you need to develop that kind of one-on-one relationship with people, agent safety can get tossed out the window. But it shouldn’t be.
Though you do need to maintain an online presence, you should be closely guarded with your personal information. Online, don’t post your entire schedule and everywhere you’ll be; that just makes it possible for people to follow you. Offline, try to be more guarded about what details you share about your life.
It happens very quickly and it’s one reason why real estate agent safety can be so difficult to protect. You show a young couple a condo and casually mention your child goes to that school district. Now you’ve not only revealed where your child goes to school, but also where you’re likely to be at the beginning and end of each day.
6. Do a Quick Background Check
Consider running a quick background check on your clients. A client could be someone you’re going to work with for up to three months or more. It’s worth it to know more about them. Today, background checks can be run within minutes online and often for just a few dollars.
You should disclose to clients that you will run a background check on them and that it’s for agent safety. You can even ask your real estate broker to provide a similar service for you. If a home buyer doesn’t want a background check on them, there could be something they’re hiding.
7. Don’t Show Up Unexpected
Sometimes, a real estate agent can be in a dangerous situation because they’re perceived as an aggressor.
As an agent, you need to go to properties a lot. And sometimes, you might go to a vacant property only to find it’s not vacant. You may go to a rental property and not realize that the renter is still there. You could schedule property showings only to discover the property has been foreclosed on.
Agents have run into problems walking into occupied properties without realizing that someone was already there. Always book in advance and make sure you announce your presence.
8. Be Aware of Your Escape Plan
Whenever you go to a showing, open house, anything — make sure you keep an eye on the door. You never know when something could get aggressive.
Particularly during one-on-one showings, you should let them view the house while you linger by the door. Don’t let them get between you and the door, because that means you don’t have a route to escape.
9. Be More Vigilant in Rural Areas
Rural areas are particularly dangerous. You may not be able to get back to civilization very fast. If you deal with rural areas often, you should think about joining a realtor safety network or bringing another agent along. Have a safety app installed that can contact your emergency contacts. Invest in a cellphone plan that has service wherever you go. Don’t go to a rural area at night. If you see people you didn’t expect, leave.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Self-Advocate
Consider the following scenario. Your buyer wants to meet with you alone at night in a vacant property. You don’t feel comfortable and you tell them that the listing agent will need to be around as well. Though you are the buyers agent, you have a gut feeling that something isn’t right.
The buyer is offended immediately and demands to know why you don’t trust them. They start to pressure you into showing up right away and even threaten to pull their sale. Or, they may say that they’re ready to complete the real estate transaction; they just need you there, right away.
If someone pushes against you, they probably weren’t a safe person regardless. At a minimum, they don’t understand your boundaries.
11. Understand Your “Danger Zones”
Realtor Magazine, by the National Association of Realtors, outlines a few danger zones where people are at their most vulnerable: in their car, in the office, showing property, and conducting an open house.
Of these, many realtors don’t recognize their car as a danger zone. When you get in and out of your vehicle, you’re particularly vulnerable. Often, you’re alone in a parking lot. You are fiddling with things with your hands, so you can be surprised.
Counter this by being particularly vigilant when you’re in potentially dangerous situations, such as door knocking.
12. Ask Your Brokerage to Host a Realtor Safety Program
A realtor safety program can teach you more about what you can do to protect yourself. It’s exactly the type of thing that a brokerage should be providing to their agents as a resource, in addition to a member safety report. Realtor safety programs will usually go over the main warning signs that something could be dangerous, as well as tips for protecting yourself.
Tips for Staying Safe as a Real Estate Agent
The real estate industry is hardly the most violent industry in the world. What makes those in the real estate business vulnerable is that we are frequently going into private places, sometimes people’s homes, and often alone. Open houses are one of our most effective real estate strategies—and they involve dealing with a lot of strangers.
It’s worth it to take every safety precaution you can. You’re likely to have a very long career. You’ll be in risky situations and you need to know how to extract yourself from a dangerous situation.
Most sellers and prospective buyers you meet are going to be nothing but earnest and friendly. Learn how to identify the potentially dangerous clients — those who cross boundaries, who want too much personal information, or just make you feel uncomfortable.
How do I protect myself as a real estate agent?
Make sure people know where you are, be vigilant whenever you’re alone, ask team members to help you, and don’t be afraid to trust your gut. Your intuition will usually guide you regarding whether a situation is dangerous.
How many real estate agents have been killed?
In reality, being a realtor isn’t that dangerous a job. Only about 50 real estate professionals are killed on the job every year, which is a vanishingly small figure. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do everything you can to protect yourself.
How do you protect yourself when showing a house?
Always know the exits, keep a safety app on you at all times, and excuse yourself from a showing if anything unexpected happens (such as someone you don’t expect showing up). Ask the listing agent or buyers agent to be with their client during the showing if you feel uncertain.
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