Every now and again something terrible happens to a real estate agent, reminding all of us just how dangerous our business can be. The tragic death of Arkansas agent Beverly Carter in late September, murdered by a potential client whom she met to show a home, made agents think about safety precautions. Similarly, I remember years ago an agent in the company I worked for was brutally attacked and raped at a vacant house – again, she was meeting a potential buyer there.
The nature of a real estate agent’s job means that sometimes he or she will need to meet unknown persons to show property, but there are ways to be safe and still do our job. Here are 9 precautions that every agent should utilize to keep as safe as possible.
1. Meet potential clients at your office or a neutral place. Meeting an unknown person at a home could be deadly. Suggest having the person meet you at the office and sit for a while to discuss the property/properties you will be viewing. If you feel uncomfortable at all trust your instincts, and do one of the following.
2. Tell someone your plans – addresses included, and identify the persons you are meeting. Provide the name of the person(s) you will be be with (see number 4 below)
3. Have another agent or other person go with you. This is always a great idea and probably one of the easiest ways to protect yourself. You can reciprocate when that person has a showing one day. Find someone in your office with whom you can team up. If that is not possible or if you work alone, you can find a showing buddy from another company, or a friend, neighbor or spouse.
4. Get a copy of the client’s driver’s license, and tell them it is office policy to protect agents (it should be – discuss with your broker). If you met them at your office this is easy to do. If not, snap a photo of it with your phone and send it to a colleague and someone close to you, along with the address where you will be and the time.
5. Have someone check in with you via cell phone – either by calling or texting. Make a plan as to how often someone should call to check up on you, and what that person is to do if you do not answer.
6. Always have your phone in your hand during showings. Pepper spray is another good idea.
7. Never walk in front of the client – hold open the doors and let them go first. Stand outside rooms while they wander in.
8. Do not include your photograph in advertising material – I know many agents feel they need to do so, but it is not a smart idea. Criminals can choose you based on what you look like, and then call to schedule an “appointment.” Better to be called because someone really is interested in a home, not because they like something about the way you look and want to harm you.
9. Trust your instincts. This is by far the most important bit of advice. If you feel uncomfortable at any time you need to either get out of there or find someone to join you.