Real estate agents, stay safe with these essential tips:
Jacqueline Kyo Thomas
While we don’t often think of real estate work as dangerous, it can be. According to this 2017 study conducted by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), 38% of real estate professionals have feared for their personal safety. And there’s a good reason for that.
Think of all the times during your work day when you’re vulnerable to stranger danger. Private showings, open houses, checking out homes in remote locations — when you think about it, it has the creepy beginnings of a horror story written all over it. But you don’t have to be scared to work as a real estate agent as long as you know how to protect yourself.
Below, we’ll discuss essential tips for staying safe whether you’re in small town Massachusetts, or bustling Boston.
Perhaps the number one takeaway in this post is the first one: Never meet with a new client at the property first. Someone can present themselves totally different over the phone than they do in person, and you should definitely know who you’re meeting with before you’re alone with them at a private showing.
If you can’t meet with them at your office, choose another public location, such as a local cafe or hotel lobby space.
Get their details before you show them a house. Beyond a name and a phone number, you also need to make a copy of their driver’s license. We all have smartphones, so it’s quite easy to snap a photo of their driver’s license and send it to your supervisor just so there’s a record of who you’re meeting with. If possible, you should also get their vehicle information.
Before meeting with your client, see what you can find out about them. Everyone’s on social media these days. With just a smidgen of investigative skills, you may be able to sniff out a lot of information about your prospective client. Take a look at what they post to learn more about their personality. This can also help you from a selling point of view.
In addition to social media, consider doing a quick Google search of their name to ensure that they aren’t linked to nefarious activity.
If at all possible (and it’s always possible), schedule your showings during daylight hours. Dangerous activities are more likely to happen under the cover of darkness. If you must show a property after dark, be sure to turn on all of the lights and keep the curtains and blinds open as you show the property.
Before you head out to show a property, ensure that at least two people know of your location. That may be an associate, your supervisor, and a personal contact.
You never know when you’ll need to make a quick emergency call. Don’t leave your cell phone behind in a room while showing the rest of the property. Keep it handy at all times.
To protect yourself and your personal information, be sure to password-protect and lock your cell phone. Keep your data safe from anyone who may attempt to steal your identity.
When marketing your listing, never publicly announce that the home is vacant. That’s practically begging for criminals to come in and see what they can steal.
Whenever you show a listing, be sure to park on the curb and not the driveway. If you park in the driveway, you may be blocked in and find that you cannot escape.
Some rooms only have one way in and out. Avoid getting into those spaces, including window- and door-less basements, walk-in closets, laundry rooms, and interior bathrooms. Instead, stay back and encourage the client to walk in while you stay in the hallway.
Take a tour of the property before you show it to your client. You should be familiar with the flow of the rooms, and where the exits are in case you need to make a quick dash. If you can’t preview the house before your showing, at least check out the floor plan so that you can plan accordingly.
Make it a practice to tour a vacant home from the outside first. Check for any signs of forced entry, such as opened windows and cracked open doors. Also look for ladders, boxes, or step stools that are propped near or against a window. If you do see something that’s suspicious, do not go in and investigate. Call the police.
Once inside a vacant home, check for signs of occupancy. Do you see any recent trash or food? If you see any signs that someone else may be there, exit the home immediately and contact the police from a safe location (i.e. your locked car).
During a private showing, always allow your clients to walk ahead of you. Never turn your back on a client.
Never allow your clothing to give off a less than professional vibe.
Get familiar with the neighborhood, if you aren’t already. Be on the lookout for any potential safety issues. Get a vibe for the neighborhood. Know how to get to the police station and the fire department.
When you park on the curb, park near a street light whenever possible. Avoid parking near areas that can serve as hiding spots for criminals.
If you have a lockbox, quickly and privately enter the code, ensuring that the client cannot see your hand motions. Never allow the client to see you picking up an extra key from under the welcome mat, rock, or mailbox. Don’t casually place the house keys down as you tour the property.
Meet your clients at the property location, and do not offer to chauffeur them to the location.
When walking around, always stay alert to the surrounding environment. Don’t look down at your phone or your papers, but look around to see what may be lurking.
Criminals are not as likely to attack you if you're on the phone with another person. That’s because the other person on the phone is likely to know where you are and can alert the police in the event that they hear a suspicious struggle.
Keep your house keys separate from your car keys. Store your house keys in a different location, such as the trunk of your car, so that your home won't be compromised.
Make it a habit to never wear expensive jewelry during your professional workday. This also extends to private showings and open houses. Also, do not share videos or images of you wearing expensive jewelry on your website or social media.
Leave and lock your belongings in the trunk of your vehicle. This includes your purse, laptop, and jewelry. Also be sure to secure your valuables in your vehicle before you arrive at the destination. You never know who may be watching you so you don’t want people to know where you’re keeping the goods.
When hosting an open house, be sure to hang a bell on the door so that you always know when someone is coming in.
Always set up your mobile office in the room with the most exit options. This gives you maximum opportunities to escape if something isn’t right.
When showing a property for your client, ask them to lock up valuables, secure precious family heirlooms, medications, furs, and expensive artwork ahead of time. Also, they should take care to lock away or shred personal information, like bank statements and credit cards.
If you can make it happen, bring your colleague along with you whenever you show a property or host an open house. There’s strength in numbers and you’re a lot less vulnerable when you’re with someone else.
Pepper spray comes in handy when you only have seconds to react. Buy a pepper spray keychain for convenience and safety.
If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right. Don’t override your feelings. If you get a bad vibe, it’s okay to cancel an appointment.
Do you have any tips that we didn’t list above? Share them with us in the comments section below!