How to Stay Safe on the Job as a Real Estate Agent
Jacqueline Kyo Thomas
Let’s talk about an uncomfortable topic: Safety on the job. It’s not a fun subject to discuss, because it requires acknowledging that there are unscrupulous people out there willing to prey on you to get what they’re after. But it’s a reality you must recognize and prepare for.
According to a report by the National Association of REALTORS®, 5% of real estate agents said they became a victim of a crime while on the job. That may not seem like a big number – until you’re one of the 5%.
The truth is that you can do everything right but still end up in the wrong situation. But the following tips and tools will help you recognize often-missed warning signs and protect yourself if something does go wrong.
Let’s get started.
Real estate agents are particularly vulnerable to on-the-job crime. Here are three reasons why:
1. You’re constantly meeting new people. Another word for new people is “strangers.” As a real estate agent, your job is to expose yourself to strangers frequently. That’s how you expand your business and get more listings. But, by constantly meeting new people, you’ll eventually run into someone who isn’t who or what they say they are. It’s just a matter of probability.
2. You work alone. Although you’re constantly exposing yourself to new people, you likely spend a huge portion of your day alone. You drive to appointments alone. You tour houses and set up showings alone. And even when you’re with a client, you’re still alone because you’re probably not working with a fellow agent to show the space.
3. Your properties are publicly advertised. From listings to open houses, most of your work is public, and that’s necessary to generate interest and hopefully buyers. However, not everyone who checks out open houses is interested in buying. They may use this information to set up their next heist.
Because you work as a real estate agent, you have a unique set of safety concerns. Here’s what you need to do to protect yourself.
This is the number one rule when it comes to safety. You may subconsciously pick up on clues that you consciously dismiss. For example, your gut may tell you not to trust someone, but then you dismiss it because you're excited to win their business and make a big sale.
But if you have a nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right, don’t ignore it. And remember that usually when something sounds too good to be true, it is.
When you’re on the clock, you must be aware of your surroundings. Although you have a busy schedule, resist the urge to multitask when you’re out and about. Doing multiple things at the same time can distract you from potential dangers. Plus it's rude to your clients!
For example, if you’re walking to a property, don’t try to multitask by checking emails on your phone. Those few seconds of looking down can make you vulnerable.
Stay alert. Look around as you’re walking so that you can spot things that may be out of place.
These days, people share everything on social media, from opinions to daily routines. While being open on social media is both common and encouraged, I’d like to discourage you from getting too personal on any public platform.
Don’t share details about your personal life on professional public profile pages, such as Facebook, Instagram, et al. This includes upcoming vacation details or travel plans. Also don’t use your home address or home phone number on your business card.
Stalkers are, unfortunately, real. And they lurk where you can’t see them, but they could be using all of the information you share to piece together a full picture of your life, including your daily routine. Be careful that you don’t reveal too much about yourself online.
Safety is about protecting yourself from all dangers — not just people, but also sickness. From COVID-19 to the flu, there are all sorts of viruses out there that can harm you, make you miss work, or put you in the hospital.
At the very minimum, continue to practice the following:
When you’re checking out a property ahead of a meeting, be sure to take your cell phone inside with you. Check that you have cell phone service throughout the space. Also, when driving to the neighborhood, check that you have good cell phone coverage and no dead areas.
If you don’t have service in that area, let the client tour without you. You definitely don’t want to find yourself in a compromised position with a dangerous individual and not have cell service. Also, you don’t want to experience car troubles without having a safe way to phone for help.
When sharing photos of yourself online, be careful of your image. Don’t share photos of yourself with designer accessories or expensive jewelry. (Avoid this in person, too.)
There’s an app for everything these days, and that includes safety.
While you shouldn't rely exclusively on a personal safety app to protect you, they're definitely useful and can alert others if you're in danger.
Some apps are made just for real estate agents, like the SafeShowings app. Other popular safety apps are, such as bSafe, can be activated on one click to record audio, video, and your exact location. Your contacts will see what's happening via a live stream.
In addition to an app, consider carrying something to protect you if the worst happens. Pepper spray is the most popular self-defense tool, and is legal in many states without a license. Check your local laws for more information and guidance.
Consider enrolling in a self-defense course. Anything from a basic self-defense course to something more specialized like Krav Maga can help. Remember that the longer you take these courses, the better prepared you’ll be in case of danger.
Your online safety is another real concern. Become cyber aware and ensure that you're not vulnerable to criminals online.
Here are three things you can do today to improve your online security:
1. Update your software. Software manufacturers commonly provide security patches in updates. This protects you from ransomware attacks where criminals gain access to your computer and then encrypt your information to use as a ransom against you. Software updates also plug up vulnerabilities in a program that can give access to hackers.
2. Use strong passwords. It's hard to remember a lengthy and complicated password, but passwords are your primary defense against hackers. Use a password management tool, like LastPass or 1Password, to make it easier to create and manage your expanding list of passwords.
Remember that no one thinks bad things will happen to them during the daytime while at work. But the majority of crimes against agents happen between 9 to 5. It’s best to take a proactive stance and protect yourself.
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