Safety for Real Estate Professionals
Real estate agents are, by the nature of their work, in a position to watch out for criminal activity in the neighborhoods which they visit and thereby assist law enforcement through reporting. However, they are also vulnerable to being victimized when they are away from the safety of their office.
Here are some recommendations real estate agents might consider in order to reduce chances of victimization.
- The absolute best protection in dealing with clients is to check the background of the client in advance as much as possible, and then meet with that client at your office before showing properties to him/her. You are much less likely to subsequently be attacked by a client if it is clear you know a lot about him/her.
- In meeting and talking with the client, keep alert to verbal and body language clues that may indicate the client is not legitimate or, for instance, appears to have little respect for women, etc.
- In showing a property, be sure to use the "lock-box" property-key procedure that has been established to improve real estate agent safety.
- Show properties before dark. If you are going to be working after hours, advise your associate or first-line supervisor of your schedule. If you must show a property after dark, turn on all lights as you go through, and don't lower any shades or draw curtains or blinds.
- If you think it may be some time before a property sells (and you may, therefore, be showing it often), get acquainted with a few of the immediate neighbors. You will feel better knowing they know your vehicle, and they will feel better about the stranger (you) who frequently visits their neighborhood.
- In showing a property, always leave the front door open wide while you and the client are inside. As you enter each room, stand near the door. Avoid entering (or entering ahead of the client) such areas as basements, attics, bathrooms, walk-in closets where you might be trapped.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Women real estate agents should avoid wearing high heels, but rather choose comfortable walking/running shoes, or, at least, flat-heel shoes.
- Carry a cellular phone while at a property. It should be turned on and pre-programmed with: 911, Local Police Dept Non-Emergency number, and your office. If concerned about your safety, display 911 on-screen. (You can make that obvious or not.) Remember that if you call for assistance, you will have to advise the PD operator of your location. Indicate exact address, and direction from major intersecting thoroughfares. If you anticipate a safety problem, practice this before arriving at the property, or make notes: "I am at 4825 Everhart Rd, North of McArdle Rd."
- You may wish to have a spare cellular phone and spare set of car keys hidden in your vehicle. You should also always have a flashlight with you (possibly a "mag-light" or its equivalent).
- It is better for women real estate agents to not display purses while at a property. You may wish to lock your purse in the car trunk without the client seeing you, before leaving for the property. Carry only non-valuable business items (except for the cellular phone mentioned above) while showing the property. Do not wear expensive jewelry of watches, or appear to be carrying large sums of money. Do not have credit cards or checks with you.
- Two other items that you may wish to carry on your person that will quietly but firmly make the point to the client (and anyone else) that you are aware of the need for personal safety are a personal alarm and, especially, a Kubaton on your key chain or Pepper Spray.
(NOTE: Separate your car keys from your other (house/office) keys.)
- If you feel very uncomfortable about showing a property to a client by yourself, ask another agent (women might want to ask a man) to come along.
- Wear a visible company identification card at all times. It is also best to drive a vehicle clearly marked with your company name. These will be invaluable for identification if you need to get assistance.
- If you are attacked while at the property, set off your personal alarm, then use your Kubaton or common objects you usually have with you (such as ballpoint pen) to injure of fight off your attacker while you attempt to escape. Bite, scratch, kick and scream if necessary. Attempt to get to your vehicle (locking yourself in first), or run to the nearest open business or residence that appears to be occupied.
(NOTE: It is always a good idea to park at the curb, in front of the property rather than in the driveway. You will attract much more attention running and screaming to the curb area. Also, bystanders will see a struggle more easily there, and it is much easier to escape in your vehicle if you don't have to back out of a driveway. Besides, parked in a driveway, another vehicle could purposefully or accidentally trap you.)
- If attacked, call police immediately, then follow instructions provided by the emergency operator. (Subsequently, it is vital that you cooperate fully with law enforcement and the involved criminal justice agencies throughout the investigation and prosecution process.)
- Personal safety is also important during travel between your office and the various properties on your list.