Real estate isn’t typically thought of as a dangerous career, but the fact is that Realtors are at risk in everyday situations throughout their careers. When you think about it, meeting practical strangers in vacant homes during odd, sometimes unpredictable hours can be hazardous. And it has been. In recent years, agents have been attacked in model homes, at their offices, during showings, and at open houses.
What can agents to do protect themselves? Awareness is important. Consider all of the areas that are vulnerable to attack. Then, take steps to stay safe, whether you’re using the buddy system or even wearing a personal security device. Read our guide to learn how Realtors can stay safe and avoid the dangers of working in the real estate industry.
Real Estate Tasks That Can Turn Dangerous
Criminals have no shortage of opportunities to hurt Realtors. There are a number of situations that leave agents vulnerable to attacks including:
- Holding open houses
- Showing properties
- Meeting new clients
- Driving clients to properties
- Entering foreclosed or vacant homes (alone or with clients)
In these situations, Realtors are typically alone, and to make matters worse, may not even be expected to check in with the office for some time. This leaves plenty of opportunity for an attack if you’re not careful.
Personal Safety Tips for Realtors
Follow these tips for increase your safety whether you’re showing homes or hosting an open house:
- Meet new clients at your office first: Avoid meeting new clients at a home alone for your very first meeting. Instead, ask them to meet at your office. Introduce them to other agents and collect information from them for your files, including personal identification. It’s a good idea to make it a policy to photocopy every new client’s driver’s license.
- Always use the buddy system: Always make plans to check in and maintain a schedule everyone in the office can see. Tell a coworker that you’ll be calling or texting at a certain time, and if you don’t check in, they should call you. You can make a check in call when the client arrives so they are aware others know where you are and who you’re with. Consider showing homes with a partner if you’re not confident in the client or the neighborhood. You should also create a distress code that you can call or text to get help without alerting the client, such as asking a colleague for a document that doesn’t really exist.
- Keep your phone charged: Keep a phone charger if your car so that you will always have a full battery on your cell phone to call for help if necessary.
- Inspect the exterior of properties before you enter: In foreclosed or vacant homes, squatters or criminals may have made themselves at home and you’ll want to avoid a confrontation with them. A kicked in door or shattered window is a sign you should back away and call for help before entering alone or with clients.
- Know homes before you show them: Preview properties so that you’ll know the exit locations and escape routes.
- Visit properties during the day: You can be attacked during the day, but the danger is higher at night when criminals have darkness to cover their actions. If you have to show a home at night, turn on all of the lights and open all of the curtains or blinds.
- Choose what you wear wisely: Every agent wants to look nice, but avoid wearing expensive jewelry, revealing clothing, or shoes that you can’t run in.
- Let clients lead the way: Allow clients to walk first when viewing a home. You can narrate the tour from behind and give directions on where to turn.
- Avoid spaces where you can be cornered: Heading into a basement, attic, or cramped bathroom can have you backed into a corner without a way to get out. Instead, stand at the door and invite clients to view the space on their own.
- Give yourself an excuse to leave: You should always have a way to get out if you feel uncomfortable. Tell the client you’ve left something important in the car, or that another agent is coming with other buyers and you have to leave.
- Be careful about how you’re marketing your services: Avoid provocative photos and do not share your home phone or address. Instead, use your cell phone number and office address for privacy.
- Host open houses with another agent: Never host an open house alone. A second agent can help keep you and your client’s valuables safe as they supervise comings and goings while you discuss details with interested buyers.
- Require guest registration at open houses: Ask visitors to complete a guest registration when attending an open home including their name and contact information.
- Don’t leave valuables unattended: While you’re setting up shop for an open house, you may set your purse or laptop down in the kitchen where anyone can access them. Instead, pare down and carry your cell phone, keys, and essentials on you. Consider carrying a tablet with you instead of setting a laptop down.
- Check open houses before you leave: Keep track of open house visitors and do a thorough check of a home before you leave.
- Meet clients at listings: Many agents consider it a professional courtesy to drive clients to and from listings, but it can put you at risk. It can also make it difficult to leave an uncomfortable situation if you’re driving the client or allowing them to drive you.
- Don’t park in the driveway: Driveways are convenient parking spots when showing homes, but they do not make for a quick escape either from your vehicle or the home, as you can be easily blocked in. Park in front on the street whenever possible.
- Take a self defense course: Learn how to fight back and protect yourself so you’ll be prepared if you ever need to. A self defense course can teach you how to identify and escape dangerous situations anywhere you are.
- Trust your instincts: Don’t shake off any uneasy feelings you may have about a client. Go with your gut and err on the side of caution.
- Carry protection: Pepper spray or a taser gun can help you fight off an attacker. If you’re trained and ready to use it to defend yourself, you consider carrying a firearm.
Self Defense Technology for Real Estate Agents
With today’s technology, you never have to go into a house alone. You can use personal security devices for wearable alerts and tracking, plus use apps on your phone to ask colleagues or loved ones to keep a watch out for you while you’re showing homes or hosting open houses.
- Defender 24/7: Using this personal protection system, you can get 24/7 monitoring for safety, medical, and law enforcement. Your GPS location will be tracked and dispatched, and the device includes a loud siren and pepper spray.
- Watch Over Me: Using the Watch Over Me app, you can ask a colleague to track your journey. You’ll also be able to set a safety timer, so if you fail to check in safely, your emergency contacts will be notified.
- Stiletto: This personal security jewelry offers voice assistance and shares important information with friends, family, and 911 when you need help. You can also get alerts, plan and share your route, and get voice assistance. The best part: it blends in as ordinary, attractive jewelry.
- bSafe: The bSafe personal safety app uses a timer mode to program an automatic alarm. You can also trigger a guardian alert to ask for help and send GPS location and video. Plus, the app has a fake call feature to make your phone ring when you want it to.
- Revolar: Send out a yellow alert with your Revolar by tapping a double press, or send out a red alert with a triple press to get help at your GPS location. This device can be clipped to clothing or attached to your keys.
- SafeSnapp: This app can help identify attacker and send information immediately to authorities. Push the button, point your phone toward the attacker, and the app will send three photos and the GPS location to your email and the SafeSnapp database. This can discourage further action, as the attacker may not want to continue if they can be identified without your help.