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Safety First!

Aug 31, 2017

Posted by

Charles Dahlheimer

Recognized as one of the industrys leading visionaries, Dahlheimer is publisher of The Real Estate Professional magazine and The Real Estate Executive Summary.  He co-authored Real Es Read more

Over the past several years, the number of real estate agents attacked while showing homes has increased significantly.  Not surprising, as the incidence of such crimes has been on the rise nationally, fueled by desperate persons—out of work or out of drugs—in need of quick cash, jewelry or other valuables that can be fenced for ten cents on the dollar.  Today’s economic conditions have only increased the problem.

 In some instances, the perpetrator may be stalking the agent, perhaps after seeing her (high school prom?) picture in an ad or on a billboard.  Or the motive may be robbery or theft of contents from the home.   The showing agent is particularly vulnerable, especially when the occupants are not home and the house has been sitting with a “For Sale” sign long enough to become a target.  Of course, the perpetrator could break in while no one is there, but what about the alarm system?  Or nosey neighbors could be watching the place.  When the agent arrives, announced by a magnetic sign on the car door, the alarm will be turned off and the neighbors will be expecting others to be accompanying her.  The perfect opportunity for a walk-in robbery.  The perpetrator might even drive off with the agent’s SUV.  They are easily fenced and fetch nice prices.

The perp may not be a lurking thug, but could even be impersonating a buyer and invited in by the agent.  He may even ride with the agent to the property.  He could do the job on the way to the showing, robbing the agent’s jewelry, money and credit cards, and even dump the agent and make off with her car.  But that’s messy and much more risky.  Why not mug the agent in the privacy of the home—and then take the time to search the home for more loot?  Alarm’s off.  Agent’s car is in the driveway.  What better time for a leisurely scavenger hunt while the agent lies tied up or unconscious from that smack on the head.

In 2003, the National Association of Realtors took action to promote Realtor safety, and each year thereafter September has been designated “National Realtor Safety Month” to focus attention on the problem and to search out solutions.

Some local associations have geared up to address the problem conducting workshops on agent safety.  Agent’s habits are being studied and suggestions developed for conducting business in a safer manner.

Realtor.org, now contains a volume of helpful information on safety issues, including “widgets” that can be put on company websites to automatically publish safety tips and articles.  You can find and download at  http://www.realtor.org/topics/realtor-safety.

Beyond Safety

One of the most basic suggestions has been for agents to always meet their client at the office and introduce the client to others while there, recording the identity of the client and putting a would-be mugger on notice that he could easily be connected to the crime.  That should become mandated as “Standard Operating Procedure” in every office.

As the co-founder of the Accredited Buyer Representative designation, I would personally suggest a further step—for both safety and business reasons:  Spend some time qualifying buyers before ever taking them to see properties.  Find out who they are, where they live, where they work.  If possible, take a loan application and, yes, get a check for the required credit checks.  You’ll find out very quickly how motivated they really are, and how serious they are about working exclusively with you.  Beyond the safety factor, this approach is just a good time management for the serious real estate agent.  We don’t work with sellers without a listing agreement.  Why are we so willing to spend our time with buyers without a similar commitment?

But that’s a whole ‘nother column.  Back to safety!

More than Just a Cell Phone

One of the basic safety rules suggested by NAR is that you always have with you a cell phone with a charged battery.  That’s a good start. But if you are accosted by a would-be buyer, it may be a bit difficult to say “Time out while I get my cell phone out to call for help.”

Agents should implement a system—a standard procedure for staying in touch.  Better yet, it should be established as general office practice.  An agent who feels compelled to meet the prospective buyer at the property rather than meet first at the office could give his cell phone number to the office secretary (if during office hours) or establish a “buddy” system with a fellow associate, friend or family member who will place a call at several intervals during the showing period.  Establish a code word that says “I’m all right” and another that says “Get help!”  Call the “buddy” upon arrival at the property to verify that there is no problem with cell service at that location.  Repeat the property address and prospect’s name and automobile license plate number.  That might sound a bit over the top, but it sure would help identify the perp if a problem were to arise.

Always tell your buyer prospects that you are expecting several calls during the showing.  Let them know that you’re a busy agent and ask their indulgence in advance.  Beyond the safety factor, that’s just good business practice.

As with so many issues in the real estate arena today, it may take some out-of-the-box thinking to establish reliable safety procedures for property showings.  But in the process we may also wind up re-thinking and fine-tuning a number of our business practices.