Now that the summer home-buying season is underway, real estate brokers should take heed of safety measures for themselves, as well as for their clients. In addition to any COVID-19 health department protocols that may exist in any particular county, there are other measures that can help ensure one’s safety.
While it may not readily appear so, real estate brokers can experience many different personal dangers on the job. One recent survey of real estate brokers revealed that 9% of brokers said that they have either been attacked or physically threatened at work, greater than 5 % said they had to use a gun to defend themselves, and more that 5% relied on a cell phone application to stay safe (2018 Inman Survey). Also, the National Association of Realtors® Member Safety Report in 2020, indicated that 23% experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or safety of their personal information, 31% felt unsafe during an open house, and 5% related that they had been a victim of a crime while working as a broker.
The nature of the real estate business also has inherent risks, such as many brokers work alone, they meet with people they do not know at all, the properties listed for sale are located in areas that one cannot control or are unfamiliar with, and public advertising of properties draws in a multitude of individuals - some of which may have bad intentions.
So what are some tips that real estate brokers can use to be more aware of their surroundings, as well as staying safe on the job? While there are numerous precautions that you can take, here are some considerations:
- Verify the identity of your prospective client before meeting with them - full name, contact information, and a photo of their driver’s license or other ID.
- Consider using a Verify Photo ID program.
- Meet a client for the first time at the office where others are present or at a busy public place.
- Google the prospective client or check them out on social media sites.
- When preparing a client to attend an open house, alert them to any concerns so that they can also be safe.
- Check IDs of those coming into an open house and consider taking their photo.
- Always stay alert during a showing, do not get distracted, and let the clients always walk into a room first.
- Make sure that you have an escape route from any room that you go into.
- Be aware of your surroundings - do you know where the exits are? Are there neighbors around? Is there anyone loitering in the area or watching the house?
- Make sure that you let other co-workers know where you are going, as well as when, and who you are meeting with. Adhere to a check-in system. Have an office or partner distress code word. Share your location. Call in with updates.
- Work with a team member if possible.
- Check out your office policy manual regarding safety measure considerations.
- Do not share too much personal information with the public.
- Find out if you will have cell phone coverage at the property that you are showing or visiting. Is your phone charged? Keep it readily at hand as you are going through the property.
- Make sure doors and windows are locked and that there are no signs of break-ins.
- Follow correct protocol with regard to lockbox code access. Make sure you always know where the house keys are and do not hand out the keys to others.
- Do not let your clients access the lockbox or enter the house without permission and only with you being present with them.
- Park at the showing where you will not get blocked in. Park in a lighted area just in case you leave at sundown. Do showings in the daylight. Drive yourself and not have the prospective client drive you.
- Be alert to visitors coming into an open house - oftentimes a person may distract you while another is casing the house or stealing items.
- Wear clothes and shoes that you can move quickly if you have to.
- Don’t wear expensive or flashy jewelry, or carry large sums of cash to the showing.
- Consider taking a self-defense course.
- If you do carry any type of self-defense weapon, make sure that you are trained in how to use it and that you know the laws regarding its use. Oftentimes, a weapon that one is carrying is used against them by the assailant.
- Trust your instincts or gut!
Be Alert, Be Careful, and Stay Safe!