The 2014 murder of real estate agent Beverly Carter was a sobering reminder of the dangers inherent to the real estate profession. Fortunately, Carter’s case is relatively rare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, four real estate brokers or sales agents were victims of homicides from 2011 through 2015. It appears other types of violent crime against those in our industry are similarly uncommon. Of the nearly 3,100 respondents to the 2016 National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2016 Member Safety Survey, only 2% reported being robbed, and only 1% reported being assaulted.
In fact, Real Estate is nowhere on the list of most dangerous occupations. According to the Bureau, the top five professions most at risk are loggers, truck drivers, fishers, aircraft pilots, and roofers. Still, according to that same NAR study, 39% of real estate professionals fear for their safety. Just because the incidence of crime in our industry is low doesn’t mean the risks aren’t real. There are three cardinal rules of personal safety:
- Don’t meet people you don’t know.
- Don’t meet them in unfamiliar settings.
- Don’t meet them alone.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for agents to break all three. To mitigate those risks, it’s critical that agents take common-sense safety precautions.
Safety Tips When Meeting New Clients
- Meet new clients for the first time at the office or in a public space. Never meet an unfamiliar person alone. Ever.
- Ask prospects to complete a profile form, and make a photocopy of their identification.
Safety Tips When Leaving the Office
- Provide a daily agenda to your office so they know where you’ll be—and with whom. Attach copies of relevant prospect profile forms (see above).
- Make sure your office knows details about your vehicle, including make, model, and license plate number.
- Be realistic about how much you can accomplish during daylight hours. Don’t overbook your schedule to the point that you’re showing properties after dark.
- It’s fine to dress to impress, but avoid wearing expensive jewelry that could make you a target for a robbery.
- Before you set out for your appointments, make sure you have plenty of fuel in your vehicle and a fully charged cell phone battery.
Safety Tips for Private Showings
- Arrive early so you have time to scope out the property you’re showing. Think through escape routes and unlock all deadbolts in case you need to exit quickly. Also, check to make sure you have cellular service.
- Park your car on the street, not in the driveway, so you won’t get blocked in.
- Since you’ve shared your itinerary with your colleagues (see above), add a layer of protection by making sure your client is aware of your diligence. A simple, “Before we get started, let me check in with the office” speaks volumes to someone who may be planning to harm you.
- Allow your client to take the lead as they tour a property. Avoid walking in front of them and instead guide them by offering details about the home. For example, “Just down that hall, you’ll find a newly updated powder room.”
- Avoid going into attics, basements, bathrooms, and walk-in closets with clients. Such spaces offer little room for escape.
- Trust your instincts: If something—or someone—doesn’t feel quite right, leave the property and notify your office and/or law enforcement.
- Don’t offer your clients rides in your car, and don’t accept rides from them.
- Have a safety plan. Put 911 on speed dial, and queue up any safety apps you’ve downloaded on your mobile phone (see below). Also, agree on a “distress signal” with your office; choose a phrase that would seem natural to a prospect but would alert the person on the other end of the call that you’re in trouble.
Safety Tips When Holding Open Houses
- Have a sign-in sheet at open houses that collects names and contact information.
- Again, trust your instincts: Ask suspicious persons to leave an open house, and put your safety plan in motion if they won’t.
- Don’t leave your valuables in sight during an open house—laptops, mobile devices, and so on. If you have a purse or briefcase, lock it in the trunk of your car.
- If you’re leaving an open house alone, make a call phone as you’re walking to your vehicle. You’re much less likely to be assaulted with a “witness” on the line.
- There’s safety in numbers, so team up with colleagues for open houses, particularly while setting up and locking up.
Best Practices for Safety
- Don’t share too much personal information with prospects—either in your marketing materials or in person. Use only your office phone number and address, for example, and don’t give details about where you live or your family situation.
- Take a safety or self-defense class, and consider carrying a weapon of some sort. NAR data shows 21% of agents carry pepper spray, and 16% carry a firearm. Of course, these tools should be used as a last resort. Your best option is to flee.
- Use common sense when working late at the office. Avoid working alone at night, and—it bears repeating—trust your instincts.
Ways to Use Technology for Safety
- Always have your mobile phone with you and charged.
- Download a personal safety app, and have it ready to go before you arrive at a showing or open house. There are an overwhelming number of options available, so check with your colleagues to see what they’re using and/or team up to do some research. To get you started, have a look at React Mobile, and CurbCall Protect.
- Consider investing in wearable safety technology, designed to protect you even without access to a cell phone.
At Vegas One Realty, the safety of our agents is of utmost concern. Interested in learning more about becoming a Vegas One Realty agent? Let’s talk!
For more information on safety in real estate, visit the Realtor® safety section of the NAR website.