The world is a different place than it used to be, with crime rates increasing more and more every day. Unfortunately, this does not exclude the real estate industry. Real estate agents face risks and dangers more than ever before. In fact, in 2018, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) published the 2018 Member Safety Report/ Realtor Safety Program. It's imperative that real estate agents be informed and practice safety measures. According to the report, doing so "can mean the difference between life and death."
Helpful Safety Practices
The real estate industry is very fast paced right now and agents need to slow down and think about how to keep themselves safe while practicing safety measures and remaining alert while on the job. Agents need to trust their gut feelings. If something feels "off," they should prepare themselves in the event there may be trouble. With homes selling and renting so quickly, and home values increasing, agents may be finding themselves sprinting to listings to show buyers who are desperate to find homes. Some helpful safety practices are:
1. Agents should always inform the office or a colleague about their home showing schedule. Have another agent be "on call" for you in case of trouble. Have a code word or phrase that indicates something is wrong. For example, the code phrase could be, "How old is the furnace?" If the showing agent calls the agent on call for her and asks that question, the agent should notify authorities immediately.
2. Agents should know their buyers or do a little research on them if they are strangers. Realtors should always meet with their buyers at the office the first time they are showing them homes. It should be a common practice to take a photocopy of a client's driver's license or other form of identification. Agents can also perform a quick background check on their buyers if they so choose.
3. Drive separately. In the past, it was common for clients to ride in the same car with their agents. In today's world, it is safer to drive separately.
4. Be wary of showing vacant homes alone. If you must do so, be sure the house is in a well-lit area where there are other homes and people around. Do not show a vacant home in the dark.
5. Stay between your clients and an exit. Politely offer that your clients walk ahead of you. Say, "After you," and motion for them to walk ahead. This way, you are staying between them and an exit in case you need to leave quickly. Let your buyers walk down into a basement themselves if you are at all wary.
6. Carry your phone and have 911 ready to be dialed at the press of a button.
7. Park in the street. Don't park in the driveway and pull up so someone can park behind you and block you in. Make sure you are able to drive away quickly if need be.
Smart Phone Safety Apps
With today's technology, smart phone safety apps can help keep you safe. According to the NAR Safety program, the most common are: Find My iPhone feature, GPS Phone Track for Android, HomeSnap Pro, Life 360 and SentriSmart. SentriSmart is an app associated with the SentriLockbox System. When you use the lockbox to get the key for the home, the app asks if you are safe every couple minutes. If you don't respond, they will send help. There is also an app called Forewarn. You can do reverse phone number searches to find out criminal history on your buyers, from their phone numbers.
Some agents actually take self-defense classes or carry self-defense weapons. Learning a few moves to protect yourself can't hurt. Invite a self-defense expert into your office to teach agents a few moves. Some examples of self-defense weapons are pepper spray, a taser, a battery-operated noise maker, a pocketknife, a firearm or even sharp car keys.
Real estate agents should never feel bad about practicing safety measures. Taking the few extra minutes to ensure your safety is key in today's fast-paced market. Don't let low inventory, rising home values and steep competition catch you off-guard.