Realtor Safety should be year around! Learn. Empower YOURSELF. Share with others!
No one wants to believe that they are vulnerable to attack. Regardless of if you have the training or not, it is important to learn and continually practice self-defense and safety tips every week. The tips below are from both my own experience and training, along with the National Association of Realtors. If you want to learn more than just tips, contact me here.
Yelling "FIRE" brings people running. In fact, it brings people running with cell phones in hand to take pictures. Soooooo, if you are being attacked, you suddenly have an eyewitness and can get your assailant caught on camera. If you yell "HELP" there are lots of thoughts that go through people's minds:
- "Are they joking?"
- "What if it's a domestic dispute...should I get involved in that?"
- "I can't help, I'm too little."
- "I can't help, I don't have training."
- "I'm scared and don't want to know."
- "Stupid kids making a scene."
Your keys might be your best friend! If you are walking alone to or from your car, take your keys and interweave them through your fingers. Like brass knuckles, this gives you something solid to grasp and you can use the key in replacement of a finger or a kubotan to strike someone.
Strangers In The Night
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.
Check 'Em Out
When you have a new client, ask him/her to stop by your office and complete a Prospect Identification Form (Find a copy online at www.nar.realtor/Safety). Also, photocopy their driver’s license and retain this information at your office. Be certain to properly discard this personal information when you no longer need it.
Keep It Private Please
Limit the amount of personal information you share. Consider advertising without using your photograph, home phone number and/or home address in the newspaper or on business cards. Don’t use your full name with middle name or initial. Use your office address—or list no address at all. Giving out too much of the wrong information can make you a target.
Always let someone know where you are going and when you will be back; leave the name and phone number of the client you are meeting and schedule a time for your office to call you to check in.
It Ain't Over Til Its Over!
Open house: Don’t assume that everyone has left the premises at the end of an open house. Check all of the rooms and the backyard prior to locking the doors. Be prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.
Tell your clients not to show their home by themselves. Alert them that not all agents, buyers and sellers are who they say they are. Predators come in all shapes and sizes. We tell our children not to talk to strangers. Tell your sellers not to talk to other agents or buyers, and to refer all inquiries to you.
Sturdy Doors = Safe Homes
Make sure that all your home’s doors to the outside are metal or solid, hardwood, and have sturdy locks.
Have a check-out colleague board at your office, listing your name, destination, customer name, date and expected return time.
"Oh No, After YOU!"
When showing a home, always have your clients go first. Don’t lead them. You leave yourself open to an attack from behind. Gesture for them to go ahead of you.
"It's Okay. I'll Meet You There."
Whenever possible, take your own car to a showing. Taking their's leaves you vulnerable to being taken to a different location and could put you in a compromising situation. When you leave your car, lock it.
Hello? Can You HEAR Me?!
When you’re showing commercial property, thick walls and/or remote locations may interfere with mobile phone reception. Check in advance to be sure your phone is serviceable in the area in which you are showing the property.
Understanding self-defense is important for everyone to know. However, regardless of the threatening situation, it is always better to attempt to escape from immediate danger and call for help.
Hide the Personal Info
DON'T leave personal info like mail or bills out in the open where anyone can see it. Be sure to lock down your computer and lock up your laptop and any other expensive, easy-to-pocket electronics, like iPods, before your showing.
Office Destress Code
Create a voice distress code, a secret word or phrase that is not commonly used but can be worked into any conversation for cases where you feel that you are in danger. Use this if the person you are with can overhear the conversation, but you don’t want to alarm them.
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
Part of being prepared to deal with a threatening situation is having a way out. Have scenarios planned in advance so that you can leave—or you can encourage someone who makes you uncomfortable to leave.
Potential Dangers Upon Arrival:
- Is there any questionable activity in the area?
- Are you parked in a well-lit, visible location?
- Can you be blocked in the driveway by another vehicle?
- Does anything seem out of place?
- Is anyone present who shouldn’t be there or who isn’t expected?
You Are Never Alone
If you encounter an individual while working late or alone in your office, indicate to that person that you are not alone. Say something like, “Let me check with my supervisor to see whether she’s able to see you now.”
Keep Those Keys on Lock
Be sure to use the lockbox property-key procedure that has been established to improve real estate agent safety. A reliable, secure lockbox system such as those made by NAR REALTOR Benefits® Partner SentriLock ensures that keys don’t fall into the wrong hands.
Keep it Professional
When talking to clients and prospects, be friendly but still keep your personal information private. This means avoiding mention of where you live, your after-work or vacation plans, and similar details. Also, all of your marketing materials should be professional. Don’t use alluring or provocative photography in advertising, on the Web or on your business cards. There are many documented cases of criminals actually circling photographs of their would-be victims in newspaper advertisements.
No Free Keys!
Don't hand out house keys to friends, even if they are trustworthy. Know the location of all your house keys all the time. Never use hide-a-keys or leave the key under the doormat, above the door, in a flowerpot, or anywhere outside the house. You may think you're being clever, but experienced thieves know all the tricks. Also, keep your car keys and house keys on a different ring if you ever use valet parking or leave your keys with parking lot attendants or even at a repair garage.
From Dusk Til Dawn
When showing a vacant commercial site, be aware of the time of day you meet a client. Showing a property at dusk or after dark, with no electricity on in the space you are showing, is not advisable.
Remind your clients that strangers will be walking through their home during showings or open houses. Tell them to hide any valuables in a safe place. For security’s sake, remember to remove keys, credit cards, jewelry, crystal, furs and other valuables from the home or lock them away during showings. Also remove prescription drugs.
Meet the Neighbors
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.
No Texting or Dialing & Driving
Using a cell phone while driving can cause an accident. For driving safety, purchase a hands-free phone kit for your vehicle. And never attempt to take notes while driving – pull over and stop in a safe place first.
Carry On??? No Carry Off!
If you carry a purse, lock it in your car trunk before arriving at an appointment. Carry only non-valuable business items (except for your cell phone), and do not wear expensive jewelry or watches, or appear to be carrying large sums of money.
When showing property or meeting someone, park your car in front of the property rather than in the driveway. You will avoid having your car blocked in, you’ll have an easier time escaping in your vehicle, and you will attract lots of attention running and screaming to your car at the curb area.
Guests Register HERE
When a person comes through the office to view a model home, have them complete a guest register that includes their full name, address, phone number, email, and vehicle information.
Safe Apartment Living
Moving into an apartment? Have the locks changed when you move in. (The maintenance crew can simply swap lock cylinders with a random vacant apartment, a project that is free and takes only a few minutes.) And just use your last name, or if necessary last name and first initial, on your door or mailbox. This keeps strangers from knowing your gender or how many people live in your apartment.
Won't You Be My Neighbor
Inform a neighbor that you will be hosting an open house, and ask if he or she would keep an eye and ear open for anything out of the ordinary.
Pre-Program Your Phone
To best prepare for an emergency, pre-program important numbers into your cell phone. These may include your office, your roadside assistance service or garage, and 9-1-1.
At an open house, be alert to visitors’ comings and goings, especially near the end of showing hours. Police have reported groups of criminals that target open houses, showing up en masse near the end of the afternoon. While several "clients" distract the agent, others go through the house and steal anything they can quickly take.
Inform clients who are selling that while you are taking safety precautions, and that you've checked and locked the home before leaving, they should immediately double-check all locks and scout for missing items immediately upon their return, in case you've missed any less-than-obvious means of entry.
Don’t Use The “V Word”
When describing a listing, NEVER say that a property is “VACANT!” This may be an invitation to criminals.
You're In Charge
Whenever possible, be sure your cell phone has a full battery charge or is in the process of charging. This is critical, especially if you plan on leaving the house/venue.
People Aren't Always As They Seem
Even with the help of caller I.D, you can never be too sure you know who you are talking to. For example, if someone who claims to know you gives you a call and starts to make unusual requests on your behalf, then STOP TALKING. Scammers feed of your reactions in order to compile additional information. Hint: If the caller has no recollection of previous conversations, then they are not who they say they are.