Sarah Anne Walker, Ann Nelson, Lindsay Buziak, Troy VanderStelt, and Beverly Carter—all victims of high-profile murders committed during or in relation to a real estate showing within the last 15 years.
Every time you show a property to a stranger, you stand the chance of being taken advantage of, harmed, or even killed. Statistics published by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2015 show that realtors stand the 4th-highest risk of death by violence or homicide in the workplace, even higher than the risks faced by police officers and security guards.
We don’t mean to be alarmist, but the importance of safety practices for realtors is profound. With that in mind, here are some of the best methods to engage in for your safety as a real estate agent.
1. Start out safely.
Building a safe relationship with your clients should start at the very beginning. Have them meet you at your office first rather than meeting at the empty property they’re asking about, and make it a point to introduce them to other people in the office. Knowing that several people can identify them may discourage potential predators from trying to do you harm.
It’s also a good practice to make a copy of their ID and, if possible, write down the make, model, and license plate number of their vehicle. Keep this information in a place your coworkers know about so that they can easily find it if something happens to you.
2. Plan ahead.
Once a property goes on the market, introduce yourself to the neighbors and let them know you’ll be in the neighborhood on occasion. The more people who’ve seen you, the more likely they’ll be to remember you if asked and be able to testify to your whereabouts.
Don’t agree to show properties after dark, but don’t let your guard down during broad daylight, either. For that matter, don’t let your guard down just because you’re showing an expensive home in a “good” part of town; these are the places most likely to have valuables inside, so criminals are more likely to target them.
Try not to attend showings by yourself. It’s safer to have a partner with you, like a colleague or a close friend. Again, don’t let your guard down and go alone just because you’re showing to a “nice couple” or a “family man.” There are plenty of examples of criminals and murderers who worked as couples, and even several instances of predators who placed children’s toys or a car seat in their vehicles to give potential victims a false sense of security.
Become familiar enough with each property beforehand that you can easily find the exit(s) in an emergency. You don’t want to get stuck in a place you don’t know how to escape from.
Finally, before leaving to show a property, make sure several other people know where you are going, which client(s) will be there with you, and what time you expect to be back. Better yet, write this information down, so there’s a record of it.
3. Be smart while showing.
Store your purse and other valuables out of sight before letting a client enter your vehicle. If they can’t see it, they’re less likely to know it’s there. And if you’re giving a client a ride to the property, don’t deviate from the planned route. Making a “quick stop” anywhere along the way gives them the opportunity to take advantage of you.
Beware of squatters. If you see a door ajar or an open window when approaching the property, call the police immediately. Do not approach the squatter yourself. Doing so could put you in danger.
Avoid going into closed areas of the home, like laundry rooms, closets, or basements, and always keep the client in front of you. This prevents would-be attackers from getting the jump on you.
If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe at any time during the showing, listen to your gut and get away from the situation. Don’t worry about offending anyone; a commission isn’t worth risking your life, and there are very few people who would argue otherwise.
4. Be prepared.
Thankfully, most real estate agencies are now taking the safety of their agents more seriously. If your agency offers a self-defense course for realtors, take it! Otherwise, contact your local police to find out if any self-defense classes are available, and if none are, ask about helping start one.
Make sure you have an honorable, reliable network of friends, family members, and/or colleagues you can count on to have your back if you need their help. Check-in with them regularly and consider choosing a word or phrase you can use to signal for their help discreetly.
Having a safety network is a great plan, but what if there’s a situation in which you can’t easily send out a message? To guard against getting caught off guard, carry a personal protection device at all times, like our Topps Security Key Fob.
The Topps Security Key Fob is a great safety resource for realtors because it’s prompt, discreet, and easy to use. A simple push of the button will send an immediate alert to an agent at the Topps Security network with your precise GPS location, so you know that help is on the way. It comes with a charger and a quick release feature that lets you easily detach it from your keys so you can charge it at night. And if you happen to forget, you’re still covered; the battery lasts up to five days!
Realtors, don’t let yourselves be intimidated by the risks that come with your job. Be smart, be brave, be proud of the hard work you do, and let Topps cover your back.