Most people would not rank being a real estate agent at the top of the list of dangerous professions. However, real estate agents put their safety on the line every day when they meet a new client, drive clients to homes for sale, and show a vacant property.
High profile news cases highlight the dangers of the job.
According to a Report published by the National Association of Realtors, nearly 40% of realtors have been in a situation that made them afraid for their safety while on the job.
What puts Realtors at Risk for Harm?
- Most real estate agents work alone.
Real estate agents are independent workers even if they work for a real estate agency. Realtors meet with clients on their own, show properties by themselves, and conduct open houses alone. This tendency to work solo makes them a target for criminals.
- Realtor’s clients are strangers.
Realtors market homes for sale to all types of people. When a realtor meets a client, they don’t know that much about them. They could have a criminal background, a history of drug or alcohol use, or a mental health condition, which would put the realtor in danger. It’s becoming common practice to do background checks before meeting potential clients, including requesting copies of driver’s licenses.
- Properties for sale can be located anywhere.
Properties are put up for sale in every area that a person can live. The neighborhood could be located in a wealthy suburban area or a rougher area of town. The property could be a well-kept home still occupied by the owner or an abandoned or foreclosed property. Angry former homeowners, squatters and vagrants, or any number of unsavory characters, can confront real estate agents unexpectedly.
- Open houses are advertised publicly.
Realtors rely on advertising Open Houses on the Internet and social media sites to attract potential buyers. It would be fairly simple for an assailant to plot an attack on a realtor because they know in advance exactly where the realtor will be. Most open houses last for several hours, so that gives a criminal a pretty large window-of-opportunity to get a real estate agent alone.
- Select Company Policy
When meeting a prospective Buyer for the first time, you should never meet them at a property. Always require your prospective Buyer to meet you at the office. You can then check ID, discuss their “wants and needs,” financial qualifications and add a Buyers Broker Agreement. After meeting a prospective Buyer you can use your own judgement as to whether you want to proceed to show them the property. Language to use when dealing with a Buyer on the phone….”Our company policy requires us the meet a person for the first time at the office….I’m sure you can understand.”
Tips to Keep Yourself Safe
- Meet new clients in a public area. Meet with new clients, initially, at the central office and make a copy of their driver’s license and one other form of identification. Meeting in a public area helps the realtor verify that the client is who they say they are in a secure public location before chauffeuring clients around and showing properties alone.
- Dress modestly. Don’t wear high-end jewelry or carry accessories that are flashy or suggest your wealth. Would-be criminals are attracted to individuals they can isolate so a realtor that looks like they have money will be considered an ideal target.
- Avoid driving alone with new clients. Ask new clients to drive their car and follow you to the property you plan to show them. You can tell them you have to return immediately after the showing or that you have another appointment directly after. This way you are not alone in the car with people you don’t know.
- Make sure someone knows where you are at all times. Before showing a property, inform associates and a family member of the address of the property, who you are showing it to, how long you expect to be gone, and that you will notify them when you leave. This way others can check on you if they haven’t heard from you in a while and alert authorities to go to your last known location.
- Try to avoid showing properties when it is dark out. If you have to show the home after dark, make sure you have a good flashlight and carry it at all times. Before entering the property, shine the light around the outside perimeter and inside the rooms. When leaving, use the flashlight to light the way ahead of you to your car.
- When showing property, never turn your back on a client. Let them go ahead of you while you give directions. Keeping the client always in your sight leaves fewer opportunities for them to blindside you in an attack.
- Buddy up. Whenever possible, bring another agent with you to show a property or host an open house. There is safety in numbers, as criminals prefer to isolate their victims.
- Tune into details that something is wrong. Pay attention to clues that a client may not be who they say they are or that they may mean you harm. If you are paying close attention, you can go with your instinct when something seems amiss and immediately look for a way out.
- Make use of technology. Technology is available that can track your location, sound an alarm, send a distress signal to your contact list and more. While several apps and devices on the market propose to provide safety for a real estate agent