While being a real estate agent might seem like a safe job, that is not always the case. According to a NAR survey, 40% of agents said they felt unsafe every few months or more often, and only 5% said they NEVER felt unsafe while doing their job.
Most real estate transactions follow a normal flow without risk of danger. But, when a new client makes contact, you are hosting an open house, or are showing a property that has been vacant, the risks multiply. A new client could be a criminal searching for an easy victim, an open house invites in anyone off the street into a situation where they expect to find an agent alone, and vacant buildings could be used as crash pads for the homeless or party venues for derelicts.
Most real estate agents are well aware of the potential dangers of the job. Many carry self-defense devices or have taken self-defense training courses. It is easy to get rusty and fall into a rut if nothing happens to put you on edge. Which is why it is best for agents to follow certain safety protocols during all parts of the selling and buying process.
Create a checklist
For starters, agents should create a checklist to identify any potential threats a new client, who is not a referral or personal relationship, might pose. It can be surprising what can be turned up in an internet search. Asking for a client to show identification or to meet in a neutral location first like a coffee shop is also a good way to verify intentions and that a person is who he or she is claiming to be.
Install alert systems
When hosting an open house, consider installing door open alerts on entrances so you can easily hear whenever anyone enters or exits. Set up portable security cameras in the area of the property where you will be sitting and post a notice at the entry to alert visitors that video surveillance is in use. Lock all your valuables out of site in your car and do not wear any flashy, expensive looking jewelry. Always keep your cell phone on your person. And, set a fire extinguisher within easy reach of your workstation in the property. Visitors will not think twice about it, but in a pinch, you can use it to defend yourself against an attacker.
Check the property before entering
When showing a property that has been vacant for a while, before entering the property walk around the exterior and check windows and doors for forced openings. If the property has boarded windows or doors and it is difficult to determine if someone might be squatting inside, walk in prepared. When you enter leave the front door open. Bring a large high-power flashlight. Call out loudly and make a lot of racket as you enter. Finally, consider carrying a device that you can wear on your belt or carry in a pocket that you can press for immediate help if attacked.
Being aware of your surroundings when working with unfamiliar people is crucial to your safety. No matter what neighborhood the property is in, or whether you’ve spoken briefly to or for an extended period with the potential buyer, you should know where any and every potential exit is and where you could go if you find yourself in a dangerous situation. Attacks typically happen during daylight hours and even in upper-income neighborhoods so you should never rule out the possibility of danger. When greeting potential buyers, a good tip can be to take note of their license plate number if you need to report an attack.
Let someone know where you are
This can either be a co-worker, family member or friend that knows who you’re meeting with, where it will be, and at what time. This should not only be done when you’re feeling nervous about a showing, but always. That way if a showing is taking longer than usual, or you could potentially be in danger, someone will know when you should be done and leaving the property.
Not only can you be physically prepared to fight off an attacker, but by taking self-defense classes you can also become more aware of body language that can tell you when someone is planning on attacking. Whether your self-defense tactics involve punches and kicks or carrying pepper spray and a taser on you at all showings. Taking this extra towards ensuring you are safe and secure and can physically remove yourself from a violent situation is important.
Chris Hobert is the CEO SecuraTrac®