The tragic news of the death of Beverly Carter has led many real estate professionals to question, “Could it happen to me?” In an industry that often requires meeting with strangers in vacant houses, it is important to keep your safety in mind when you’re on the job. In fact, NAR stresses the importance of developing a strong safety plan whether you are meeting with a new client, showing a property, or hosting an open house. Here are four important situations to consider when creating your own safety plan.
When Meeting New Clients
Most real estate professionals meet with complete strangers on a daily basis, and then take them to isolated locations. Always carrying a charged cell phone ensures that you can make an emergency phone call whenever necessary. Keep a phone charger in your car or office, just in case your phone battery wears down before the end of the day.
When scheduling a meeting with a new client, NAR recommends the following strategies. Ask new clients to meet you at your office and fill out this Prospect Identification Form, offered by NAR. On your way out the door, introduce the prospect to someone in your office. Let your co-workers know where you’re going and what time you expect to be back. Remember, if the client makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to cancel the appointment or reschedule for a time when another agent can come with you.
Showing a Listing: Planning
Before taking a client to see a new property, visit the home yourself. Visiting the listing before your client is not only important for your safety, but it also makes you appear more knowledgeable about the property. Try to visit the day before your appointment, and bring a buddy. Review the route going to and from the listing, ensuring you know your way around and reducing the chance you’ll get lost on the day of the appointment.
When you reach the property, scout out the area. Is there a tall fence? Are there large bushes that could obstruct your view? How many exits are there? Asking these types of questions can help you plan an escape route. Once you’re inside, review the layout of the house. Which rooms have only one exit? Is there clear visibility between rooms? Is there adequate lighting? Are all the doors and windows locked? Familiarizing yourself with the property is key when preparing for your upcoming appointment.
Showing a Listing: The Appointment
If possible, plan your showings for times when the neighborhood will be busy. While it may be difficult or costly, try to bring a trusted coworker when showing a property. If this isn’t possible, keep in contact with your office throughout the appointment. Always keep your phone in your hand, and program emergency numbers into your speed dial or favorites section. When showing the interior of the house, walk behind clients. This allows you to keep them in sight, and ensures that you have easy access to an exit if you need to escape.
If you begin to feel uneasy, check in with your office in the presence of your prospect to let them know who you’re with, what you’re doing, and where you’re going. If you’d like to communicate your uneasiness over the phone without letting your client know, create pre-planned code phrases that will alert your co-workers to your situation. A phrase as simple as, “I left the pens on the shelf” could let your co-workers know you need someone to meet you at your location, or even that they should call the police. Remember, if you begin to feel uncomfortable, cancel the appointment and leave.
Hosting an Open House
An open house is a great way to show off your listings. However, in doing so, you are also exposing yourself to large groups of people you’ve never met. When preparing for an open house, scout out the area to plan possible escape routes. Also, talk to a neighbor near the property to tell them about your open house. This is a great way to spread the word about your open house and learn more about the community, all while letting the neighbors know where you’ll be. Finally, as an added precautionary measure, call the local police department and ask if an officer could drive by during your open house.
On the day of the event, arrive early to prepare the house for the showing. Turn on the lights, open the curtains, and unlock the doors. As prospective buyers begin to arrive, make notes about their physical appearance and car, and, if possible, jot down their license plate number. Tell someone you know, such as a co-worker or family member, that you will be checking in with them throughout the day, and then make sure you do.
While the majority of your clients have only the best intentions, it is always best to err on the side of caution. Encourage your company to create an office safety action plan that outlines potentially dangerous situations and the actions that should be taken in each circumstance. Also, if you’re comfortable with it, enroll in a self-defense class. Finally, and possibly most importantly, trust your instincts. If a situation feels “off,” go with your gut and get out.
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