The news has continued to highlight terrifying stories of Realtors® who become the target of thieves and criminals while showing a home. Because prospect and the Realtor® are often the only ones in the home, criminals can, and have, taken advantage of the situation. This issue is not confined to female agents, either – men have also been the victims of violence.
Keeping yourself safe is of utmost importance in any situation, especially during an open house when the public at large is welcome to enter the home. Two brokers in central Iowa created a Realtor® Safety Pledge after two separate murders of young agents. The pledge highlights important safety steps that all Realtors® can take to minimize risk to their personal wellbeing.
- Meet at the Office. Set an office policy that all buyers should meet agents at the real estate office, and get a copy of a photo ID before going to the property. This will help discourage dishonest ‘buyers’ (who won’t want to risk being seen by someone else at the office) from setting up a showing to commit a crime. If you can’t set the office policy yourself, advocate for it with your broker.
- Have Self Defense Training. While this training won’t make you perfectly safe, it will definitely make a difference in how you react if someone attacks you. Some Realtors® take this a step further and choose to train with and carry a gun. The only caveat I would offer to that is to make sure you are very comfortable using it. A criminal can take a gun from a shaken or uncertain Realtor® and use it against you.
- Consider Limiting Open Houses or Use a Buddy System. Open houses are one of the most dangerous arrangements for agents, because they are alone in a private house that is open to the public. If a stranger comes in and wants to see the basement, they are suddenly out of view and a crime can easily occur. If you want to continue using open houses as a marketing strategy, arrange with another Realtor® or two that all of you will be present at each other’s open houses.
- Listen to Your Intuition. People have an odd but strangely accurate “sixth sense” about dangerous situations. Trust that uneasy feeling and decline to show a home alone if you feel unsafe. You can reschedule for a time that someone will be able to go with you, or you can simply decline the showing. Remember that a single showing will not make or break your listing, and even a big sale isn’t worth your safety or your life.
- Prequalify Your Prospects. Before you meet someone at a home, prequalify them. This involves gathering information from them to make sure they are a serious buyer. Not only is this helpful in not wasting your time or the seller’s, it will also keep people away who don’t want you to know exactly who they are or what their situation is. The people you discourage will be the ones you wouldn’t have sold to anyway – and you’ll be much safer in the process.
- Retrain Your Customers and Influence Public Expectations. You can’t change how everyone thinks, but you have a lot more influence than you think. Retrain your prospects that they cannot expect you to meet them, sight unseen, at an empty house. Tell your friends, family, and anyone who will listen that this practice is unsafe and that agents need to prequalify clients and meet at their office before going to a home. With enough Realtors® saying it, eventually public opinion and expectations will shift.
Making a major change in an industry can seem difficult. However, in real estate it boils down to thousands of agents making a change in their individual behavior and educating people about why. I hope you do it. If I read about you in the paper, I want you to be winning an award, not being the victim of a crime.
Will you join us? Make the pledge to stay safe, and encourage others to do so as well!