By Sherri Butterfield
WRITER AND EDITOR
Because September is REALTOR® Safety Month, we have devoted a special section in this issue to personal safety, cyber safety, and home protection. Specifically, we describe, how to keep yourself safe when you show and sell real estate, how to avoid becoming the unwitting victim of a cybercrime or scam, and how to make your home less vulnerable to wildfires. In addition, we review two apps that will increase your community awareness and provide you with up-to-the minute alerts from fire and safety services.
Although real estate is not generally thought of as a dangerous occupation, it does have its risks. REALTORS® sometimes work alone or late, may be asked to drive to remote locations, and often show vacant homes to strangers. Here are thirteen things you can do to stay safe on the job.
- Always carry your cell phone where it is readily accessible.
Do not leave it in the purse you locked in the trunk of your car or stowed out of sight in a kitchen cabinet.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
Preview property before you show it. Familiarize yourself with the layout of the property, including all entrances and exits, and with the neighborhood.
- Be careful how you dress.
Flashy or expensive jewelry may attract the wrong kind of attention. High heels or restrictive clothing could impede your ability to move quickly in an emergency.
- Ask prospective clients to meet you at your office or a neutral location—like a coffee shop.
Request photo identification from prospective clients and have them fill out a new client information sheet.
- Vet prospective clients.
Before establishing a professional relationship, use online resources to check a prospective client’s background, being mindful of criminal, civil, and character issues.
- Implement a buddy system.
Enlist at least five close friends or colleagues on whom you can rely in case of an emergency. Tell them in advance what property you will be showing and trust that they will have your back.
- Create a paper trail and witnesses.
Before you take clients to see a property, write down the clients’ license plate number and leave it at the front desk. Explain that doing so is office policy; clients who mean no harm won’t mind. And introduce the clients to a colleague or two. If you meet a client outside the office, text this information to a trusted colleague—and make sure that he or she knows your itinerary.
- Always take your own car for showings.
When you leave your car, lock it. Consider parking along the street instead of in the driveway, where your exit could be blocked.
- When showing a property, let potential buyers take the lead while you follow.
If there are features you want to call to their attention, do so from the rear, not the front.
- Avoid going into walk-in closets or other closed or confined areas with a prospect.
Be familiar with all entrances and exits.
- Never advertise a property as vacant or show one alone at night.
To do so is to invite trouble.
- Don’t host an open house alone; take along a colleague.
Suggest to home owners that they take breakables off tabletops and secure valuables. And request that pets be housed elsewhere so that they do not become a hazard, a nuisance, or a distraction.
- While showing a property, keep your hands free.
Do not carry a clipboard, a household pet, or any other object that might interfere with your ability to use your cell phone, discharge your pepper spray, or otherwise defend yourself effectively.