By Corean E. Hamlin, Education/Licensing Officer, and Pamela R. Rorie, Continuing Education Officer
Viewing vacant properties, going on listing appointments, hosting open houses…if you are a real estate professional, you undoubtedly perform these tasks routinely. However, these everyday situations have the potential to put brokers in danger, susceptible to becoming victims of violent crimes.
Research involving survivors of violent crimes indicates that taking protective steps to stay safe can lessen your chances of being attacked. Don’t be a crime statistic. Use the following tips and make personal safety your first priority.
Be suspicious. Take steps to get to know your prospects and customers when meeting them for the first time. Perform name searches through search engines and social networking websites. Insist that new prospects meet you at your office, provide identification, and complete information forms.
Tell someone and then stay in touch. Before showing property, give a co-worker or peer your itinerary, including your estimated return time and the names of your customers/clients. Ask someone to call you at a pre-determined time to check on you. Avoid showing property after dark.
Have a fully charged cell phone and have it readily available – not in your purse or pocket. Program “911” and other emergency numbers into speed dial. Consider using a safety mobile app on your smartphone; several are available – some created especially for real estate brokers – and can do everything from instantly alerting others to accessing your GPS coordinates to requesting help.
Have a pre-determined distress code. Create a distress code within your office and make sure that all brokers and staff members know it. Using a prearranged distress code, a broker can alert another office member that s/he is feeling uneasy with a client/customer (without letting the client/customer know). If a broker calls another office member and gives the distress code, that office member knows that the broker needs immediate assistance. One suggestion is to use an acronym for “help;” for example: “Have Elizabeth Leave the Papers.”
Implement a buddy system. Predators thrive on isolation, so team up with another broker whenever possible. Working in pairs will lessen the chance of attack.
Practice vehicle safety. Make sure your car is in good working order and keep your keys readily available. When parking, take stock of your surroundings and avoid areas where you could be blocked in. When showing property to a new prospect (stranger), ask the prospect to follow you in his/her own car. If you must ride together, you should drive.
Dress for safety and success. Dress professionally. Don’t wear expensive jewelry as it may make you a target. Wear shoes that won’t hinder your ability to run, kick, or fight back.
Walk behind. Encourage prospective buyers to walk ahead of you when you’re showing property. Be aware of possible escape routes, and be wary of attics and basements.
Conduct safe personal marketing and be careful how you use social media. Keep your photos strictly professional – avoid “glamour shots.” Limit the amount of personal information you share. Make sure to control the privacy settings in your social media accounts, including the geolocation features. Many social networking sites will share your precise location with others unless you disable that feature.
Plan for a safe open house. Prior to an open house, introduce yourself to the neighbors. Evaluate the property and identify vulnerable points. Avoid advertising the property as “vacant”. On the day of the open house, keep your cell phone with you and check in with your office routinely. Ask another broker to join you for the event.
Trust your instincts. If you feel apprehensive or have the sense that something isn’t quite right, trust your gut!
Know your options and how you’ll respond to save your life. No resistance may be the best choice in some situations. If a would-be robber confronts you with a lethal weapon, give up your property. However, if you’re in a situation in which you must defend yourself, scream and fight back. Consider taking a course to learn self-defense techniques and skills.
All of these and many more tips are available in the North Carolina Real Estate Safety Guide, which was created in association with the NC Association of REALTORS®.
Special thanks to the Washington Real Estate Safety Council for allowing NCREC to use their Personal Safety Guide as the basis for development of the North Carolina Real Estate Agent Safety Guide.
To view or order the brochure, visit the Commission’s website, www.ncrec.gov. For more real estate agent safety resources, visit the North Carolina Association of REALTORS® website (www.ncrealtors.org) and National Association of REALTORS® website (www.realtor.org).
This article came from the May 2015-Vol46-1 edition of the bulletin.