Residential real estate sales is almost always considered to be safe and agents are very rarely the victim of any crimes related to their job. That said, there are times when agents are potentially more vulnerable and could fall victim to a criminally-minded individual. Perhaps the most vulnerable activity any real estate agent encounters is when showing a house to a perfect stranger.
At the end of the day, it’s up to the real estate professional to make sure she (or he!) does not become another statistic of petty or violent crime. From burglarizing electronics to harmful personal attacks, all real estate agents must plan for their own safety because lest one day the unthinkable occur.
The following tips will enhance both the safety of real estate agents and the confidence they have as sales professionals:
1) Stranger danger
Avoid putting yourself in a position where you drive to a house for a private showing to meet a homebuyer for the first time. You could potentially make the same case for home sellers; unless you actually know the person(s) you are meeting with or know somebody who can vouch for them, then the prudent approach is to meet in a neutral place like your office or a coffee shop for the first time. Also, make a record of your prospect(s), which could include making a copy of the driver’s license or at the very least getting their names, phone numbers and even the make, model and licence plate identification.
2) Situational awareness
Carefully inspect your surroundings when driving up to a place for a house viewing, whether it is for a private or a group event. Be sure to know prior to the first arrival of a homebuyer where all the exits of the house are and make sure they are unlocked. Do not lead homeowners through the house when you are alone with them: let them enter the room first while you stay by the door, allowing for a quick exit.
3) Work in pairs
For some real estate agents, especially when doing private showings after-hours or ones in sparsely populated areas or new housing developments, it might make sense to bring a colleague from your office with you. Don’t be shy about organizing a pairing system for just such showings to make sure you do not get into a threatening situation. Just about every real estate agent can recall at least one “scary” moment when they felt insecure with a prospective buyer so plan ahead when you know you will be in a more vulnerable situation or a part of town with a high crime rate.
4) Have a way to call for help
Never enter a house showing without a charged phone and 911 on speed dial. If you are working in a team, agree upon a distress word to use whenever you would want to make clear that something is very amiss. If you are app-savvy you might even consider installing an alert app such as the Real Alert app on your smartphone.
5) Carry protective devices
The mobile app company Moby surveyed real estate agents back in 2011 on what kind of safety devices they had on them. Mobile phones, already mentioned, scored very high (over 90%, for both men and women). 25.2% of women mentioned carrying mace or pepper spray and no less than 14.8% of men said they carry a gun on the job.
Whatever you may consider carrying, make sure you know how to handle it, that it is legal to possess and use in the place where you will be and that its presence does not intimidate your (potential) clients.
[Sidebar for Texans: Open carry in Texas]
Effective January 1st, 2016 the state of Texas now allows for the open carry of any handgun, in a shoulder or belt holster, as long as you are licensed in Texas or a state with reciprocity. While retail businesses, restaurants and offices can decide whether to allow open carry on premise, real estate agents are, if properly licensed, free to practice open carry.
The question, of course, comes down to whether the prospective clients you meet with will be comfortable with an agent openly carrying a handgun. It may be a cause for concern for many people who are either not used to being around firearms or those who oppose open carry. You may be adamant about your newly won open carry rights but if it comes at the cost of losing a new client it may be wiser to ask beforehand if it’s okay that you practice open carry; in the event a client is not comfortable, you have the option of reverting to concealed carry or just referring the client to a colleague.
Final thoughts: So even though the real estate profession is among the safest professions it pays to take proper measures to keep yourself safe. It’s a mind-set that could save you from falling victim to a crime, whether a purse snatching, burglary or worse.