When an Arkansas real estate agent was kidnapped and murdered in 2014, the dangers that real estate professionals face became a national topic. Suddenly, the plastered grins and tailored suits that real estate agents wear seemed to disguise the safety risks that attend holding open houses and showing homes to strangers.
Selling a center hall colonial can include spending hours in an otherwise empty house escorting buyers or tire kickers through bedrooms, basements and even attics – places you otherwise wouldn’t considering standing alone with a stranger.
Recently, however, several cellphone apps have appeared aimed at keeping real estate agents safe when they’re in someone’s home alone. Guardly, for instance, sends alerts that include your location to emergency contacts; RealAlert calls 911 with one tap.
Technology, however, is no substitute for good horse sense when showing a house to anyone who wanders in. The National Association of Realtors provides safety tips for agents and others who spend time alone with people they don’t know.
1. Show In the Daytime
If you have the choice, schedule showings during daylight. If you must show a home at night, make sure someone knows your schedule and that you turn on lights throughout the house.
2. Client Check-In
If you don’t know a new client, ask him to stop by your office and fill out a prospect form. Photocopy his driver’s license for added protection.
3. Walk Behind
Don’t walk in front of your prospects. If you let them lead, you can more easily escape if something seems suspicious.
4. Learn Self-Defense
Take a self-defense class at a martial arts studio or community center. However, if you can escape a dicey situation, flight is always better than fight.
5. Stay Private
When talking to clients or prospects, don’t share personal information like your address, vacation plans, or favorite hangouts, which could put your in danger later.
6. Stay Aware
When walking to a house, be particularly aware of your surroundings. Is someone loitering around the area? Trust your intuition, and if you sense danger, leave.
7. Coach Clients
Tell homeowners to hide valuables and firearms that might tempt strangers walking through their house. Also, lock up prescription drugs in a drawer or closet, preferably with a security system sensor that would alert the owner to tampering.
8. Dress Down
Don’t wear expensive jewelry, watches or furs, or carry a lot of cash when showing a house.
9. Park Smart
Park your car in front of the house where you can make a quick getaway, not in the driveway where someone can block you in.
10. Enlist More Eyes
Tell your supervisor, family and neighbors when you’re having an open house, so others know where you are and when you’re expected to return.
11. Power Prep
Make sure your cellphone is fully charged before showing a property or holding an open house.