September is REALTOR® Safety Month. Like many jobs that involve interaction with the public, selling real estate involves various risks. The Houston Association of REALTORS® is committed to protecting its members and maintaining their personal safety as well as the safety of their clients—not just every September, but all throughout the year. By educating REALTORS® about potential threats and providing them with resources to protect themselves, HAR can help REALTORS® and real estate consumers stay safe.
Here are a few valuable safety tips, courtesy of the NAR REALTOR® Safety Resource Kit
Tip #1 – Keep it light
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.
Tip #2 – Checking-in
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.REALTOR.org/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.
Tip #3 – Don’t be too public
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.
Tip #4 – Touch base
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.
Tip #5 – Open house safety
Open house: it ain’t over till it’s over. 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.
Tip #6 –Stranger danger
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.
Tip #7 – Sturdy doors are key to home safety
Make sure that all your home’s doors to the outside are metal or solid,
1 ¾” hardwood, and have good, sturdy locks.
Tip #8 – Take two seconds when you arrive at your destination to check out potential dangers:
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?
Tip #9 – Keep track of colleagues
Have a check-out employee board at your office, listing your name, destination, customer name, date and expected return time.
Tip #10 – Wear your REALTOR® ID
Always wear visible company identification such as a badge. 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.
Tip #11 – Bring up the rear
When showing a home, always have your prospect walk in front of you. Don’t lead them, but rather, direct them from a position slightly behind them. You can gesture for them to go ahead of you and say, for example, “The master suite is in the back of the house.”
Tip #12 – Pick up some self-defense skills
The best way to find a good self-defense class is to learn what is available, and then make a decision. Many health clubs, martial arts studios and community colleges offer some type of class. You can also ask your peers, friends and family if they have taken a self-defense class that they would recommend.
Tip #13 –You take the wheel
Whenever possible, take your own car to a showing. When you leave your car, lock it.
Tip #14 – Shield your computer from e-mail viruses
Computer viruses can impair and seriously damage your computer. Viruses are often distributed via attachments in e-mail spam. Never open an attachment from someone you don’t know, and, if you receive a strange or impersonal-sounding message from a familiar address, check with that person to make sure that they really sent it.
Tip #15 – Got cell service, everywhere?
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.
Tip #16 – Choose flight over fight
While every real estate agent should take a basic self-defense course, the primary goal in any threatening situation is to escape from immediate danger and call for help.
Tip #17 – Hide personal information
Tell your sellers: DON’T leave personal information 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.
Tip #18 – Agree on an office distress 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. Example: “Hi, this is Jennifer. I’m with Mr. Henderson at the Elm Street listing. Could you email me the RED FILE?”