Realtors are one of the most vulnerable professionals. Agents work long hours, often well into the dark evening hours and are alone with strangers in vacant properties on a regular basis. While there are no stats on how many real estate agents are assaulted or killed every year in Canada, what is known is that violence against realty specialists is on the rise.
As a real estate agent, you must incorporate strategies into your daily duties to ensure that you are safe in every environment. Whether it is meeting with a potential seller, showing buyers listed properties, or advertising your services, your personal safety must always be considered. Here are some of the most effective safety tips you should use while doing your job.
Meet Potential Clients in Public Places
Your first meeting with any new client should always be in a public place. Invite them to your office for the initial consultation. If you have a home office, schedule your meeting at a popular coffee shop in a central area. For your own personal safety as well as the wellbeing of your family, never invite someone to your home.
Keep Files On Every Client
As part of your ongoing safety measures, it is important to create a hard file on every client. If something happens, the information you collect will make it easier to identify the person. Your records should include a personal information sheet that each client fills out during their initial consultation. There are many forms you can download online or you can create your own. It should also include copies of their government issued photo ID. Once you no longer need the clientele’s personal data, it is important to destroy the documents to keep their privacy safe.
Book Daytime Showings
Although it is not always feasible, try to book most of your showings during the day. It is easier to see when the sun is out. If you must book after sunset, take extra safety precautions to make sure the entire home and area is well lit and all curtains are open before showing the home.
Follow the Ten Second Rule
As soon as you arrive for a scheduled appointment, use the ten second rule to assess the area for any safety issues. Spend ten seconds while sitting in your car to look at the home, the yard, fencing, garage, street, and neighbourhood. Once you step out of your car, take another ten seconds to look around to see who is in the area and take pictures if you feel you need to. As you are approaching the property, use the same time span to look for issues in and around the property such as animals, people, and household hazards. When you first enter the building, spend your time looking for anything that could be a safety concern.
Follow Your Instincts ALWAYS
In many reported situations of violence against a realtor, the agent stated that they instinctively felt uncomfortable around their client before their meeting. These silent signals should never be ignored. If your gut feeling is telling you that the situation is not safe, follow your instincts ALWAYS. You have the right to cancel a scheduled appointment.
As a regular practice, never share a vehicle with a client. Arrive at the destination in separate vehicles, even if you will be showing the clientele multiple listings. Park your vehicle in well lit areas on the street or somewhere where you cannot be blocked from leaving. While in the car, your doors should be locked at all times so no one can get into your vehicle. Keep your keys on you and easily accessible so you can quickly get to them if you need to.
Let Others Know Where You Are
When showing listings, as a safety precaution, someone should always know your whereabouts. Before going to any appointment make sure you let someone know where you are, who you are with, and what time your meeting is scheduled to begin and end. You can give your schedule to a friend, family member, or colleague.
Use a Safe Word
Having a safe word is also important. Safe words are code that that are designed to alert your contacts that you danger without directly saying so in front of your client. For example, saying phrases like “I need the blue file”, I forgot my red jacket”, or “can you get my silver travel mug” are examples of safety phrases.
Stay Safe With Your Phone
Your cell phone is a great tool to help you stay safe. Most personal handheld devices have an emergency contact setup on the lock screen that you can access quickly if needed. There are also different apps available to help realtors stay safe in isolated situations. PROtect is one app that is designed for real estate agents. This user-friendly application protects you by letting your designed circle of contacts know when you are in situations where your safety might be jeopardized. Once you have uploaded your contacts, you can set a timer for each appointment or preschedule your calendar meetings in the program. Once the timer goes off, you can notify your contacts that you are safe. If they do not hear from you, they will know something is wrong. The app also has a special help button feature where you can bypass the timer to alert your circle that you need immediate assistance.
There are other apps available to help protect you from dangerous situations including Autumn Alert, Musketeer Safe, Gethomesafe, iWitness, Roar, and Feelsafe. Most are free and available on all apple and smart phone devices. Finding the right system for you will help ensure your safety during potential hazardous appointments.
Let The Client Lead
Stay safe when a client shows up to view a place by letting them lead the way. Walk behind them when touring a place and guide them to different areas using hand gestures. Never go into an area where you will be blocked in or cannot see properly. Clients can look at attics, lofts, and basements on their own.
Staying Safe During Open Houses
Open houses are popular events when selling a home. However, real estate agents have less control of who walks into the premises during the scheduled event. During the open house ask another realtor, your assistant, a friend, or family member to stay at the property with you. Having a buddy system will protect you from potentially dangerous moments.
Prior to the showing, make sure the owner removes all potential hazards including sharp objects, personals photos and documents, pharmaceuticals, money, jewelry, technology, and other personal valuables. This will not only protect your client but the realtors from danger as well.
After the open house or showing, always check all rooms and areas of the place first to make sure no one is still on the premises.
Take A Self Defense Course
Sometimes, despite all the precautions you take, there might be times when your safety and wellbeing are still at risk. Taking a self defense course can help you defend yourself until you can escape the situation. Many martial arts organizations, community centers and local schools hold self defense training programs.
Protect Yourself Online
Criminals use the internet frequently to find their victims. As real estate agents, you are at risk for identity theft, online scams, and letting would be predators know your whereabouts. Always use care when posting your own personal data and scheduled showings online. Some agents do not use their image on their promotional materials or website.
Protect all your passwords, PINs, login information and personal accounts privately secured so they are not easily accessible to would be hackers. Because online scams are becoming more prevalent, it is important to stay on top of the latest online assaults. Equifax and other secure financial tracking companies offer services to protect your financial data and identity from fraud and theft.
Use Other Personal Safety Devices
There are different safety devices you can use to help protect yourself from harm. Whistles are simple and effective tools that can alert people in your immediate area that something is wrong. Body and dash cameras are becoming more common tools used by real estate professionals to ensure their wellbeing.
A NIMB ring is another great accessory for realtors. This attractive piece of technologically designed jewelry has a panic button that can quickly alert first responders that you need immediate help and where you are. Having this or other stay safe tools will help protect you while you are on the job.
As real estate agents, you face many unique hazards in your profession. To protect yourself from the increasing criminal activity, it is important to incorporate practices and tools into your daily duties so you can stay safe at all times and in every situation.