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Prioritizing Realtor Safety

A realtor in Tampa Bay was nearly raped while showing a home but escaped after telling the male suspect that the homeowners were expected shortly.  An Arkansas real estate agent was murdered while showing a property to a man posing as a prospective buyer.  An agent in Des Moines, Iowa, received a call threatening her with harm as a part of a gang initiation at a planned open house.

You don’t often think of real estate as a high-risk profession for violence but agents, by the nature of their work, are vulnerable to violent crime because they are often in isolated situations with complete strangers.  When a buyer or seller calls for an appointment to see or list a home, the agent will meet them at the property, unaccompanied, and be inside away from others who can intervene should something go awry.  In the vast majority of cases, these appointments are routine and result in actual transactional opportunities.  However, it only takes one of these incidents to turn into tragedy.

The six most dangerous everyday situations a real estate agent or broker can find themselves in are:

  1. Entering a foreclosed or vacant home
  2. Meeting with a new client for the first time
  3. Showing a property alone
  4. Conduct an open house
  5. Exposing too much information in personal marketing
  6. Transporting strangers in your car

In each case, there are inherent risks and it’s important to think through where something could go wrong, then plan for how you would handle and remove yourself from the situation. The following are some basic rules of safety for real estate professionals that can reduce the risk for harm:

  • Always have a face-to-face meeting with an unknown prospective client at your office or in a public place
  • With prospective buyers, obtain some form of identification from them, make a copy and leave it with someone at your office prior to showing them properties
  • With prospective sellers, similarly obtain their name and address and search public records to ensure they own the home
  • Let someone in your office know where you are going and who you are meeting when showing or viewing a property for the first time; let them know how long you expect to be gone and ask them to call you if you are gone longer
  • If you are waiting for a prospective client to arrive, wait outside for them and not inside the house; if you are waiting inside, lock the door and only open it to the prospective client

In addition to these practices, take advantage of some of the new technology applications that can help to keep you safe.  Most are available for both Apple and Android smart phones and free of charge.  Some of the best apps are:

  • Bsafe – privately alerts someone when you’ve arrived at your destination and if you need real help, it issues an audible alarm and immediately starts broadcasting video captured by your phone and your GPS location
  • Kitestring – checks in with you and alerts a pre-selected list of contacts if you fail to respond
  • SafeTrek – alerts police when you are in an unsafe situation but with a failsafe option if you don’t need help

September is Realtor Safety Month and it’s a good reminder to take precautions and be equipped to protect yourself from harm in the course of doing your job.

 

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