(**) Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning our company, JCHQ Publishing will get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links, but at no additional cost to you.
Being a real estate agent is indeed a fantastic career. It gives you flexible work hours, and you get what you put in. Also, you get to meet a lot of new people regularly.
But wait, wouldn’t meeting strangers all the time make you more vulnerable to robbery or attack? There are many occasions where you could be alone with a client in a property. Also, anyone with your business info could contact you in setting an appointment.
In getting to know better about the situation, I just spent hours researching the safety of real estate agents. In this article, I’ll share with you whether salespeople are really concern about their safety, and practical tips to protect yourself.
Real estate agents can stay safe by knowing clients, setting up a preliminary meeting at the office, following the broker’s safety procedures, installing a safety app, and pairing up with other colleagues. Taking a self-defense class or the NAR safety course is also helpful.
Note that this post is about protecting your personal safety, but not so much about safeguarding from other threats. (i.e, cyberattacks or scam). Perhaps, I’ll talk more about these topics in future articles.
So let’s grab a coffee and see how could this post make your daily job safer.
Real Estate Agents are Vulnerable to Assault – Truth or Myth?
Before we dive into any figures, I want to begin this session by showing you a video from ABC News. A female real estate agent in California was violently attacked by a man during an open house.
Due to the nature of the profession, real estate agents could be viewed as a soft target.
Unfortunately, salesperson being attacked is not a single incident. Back in 2014, an Arkansas real estate agent, Beverly Carter was killed because she was and I quoted “a woman that worked alone and a rich broker“.
Many salespeople do show concern about their safety when working on site. The National Association of REALTORS® is one of the largest real estate trade organizations around the world. I just read their 2019 Member Safety Report. It is a 16 pages report with answers from 2,652 respondents. According to their study, 33% of the respondents had shown fear for their personal safety or safety of their personal information.
Common situations that caused fear: open houses, vacant homes/model homes, meeting clients alone, properties that were unsecured or inhabited, buyers who refused to meet in public places, properties in remote areasQuote from NAR 2019 Member Safety Report
As you could see, this kind of worry is not an one-time incident. Many real estate professionals have a constant fear of their safety issues. However, no one should work in fear, and you shouldn’t let this potential threat in paralyzing the business activities.
I gathered safety tips from numerous sources and summarized them according to different stages of the sale cycle.
Safety tips Before Interacting with Clients
1) Download safety apps
There are plenty of smartphone apps that could become helpful when you’re in danger. Many Realtors use the Find My iPhone feature, GPS Phone Track for Android, SentriKey™, and HomeSnap.
You may also take a look at See Something Send Something, GuardLlama, Agents Armor, Wearsafe, People Smart, React Mobile, Safe Fi, Trust Stamp, CurbCall.
Some apps could alert your preset contacts or inform the police. But make sure you test them and understand their features before you rely on them. You won’t have time to go over the manual when you’re at risk.
Remember to charge your smartphone before going into a property. Therefore, you should always have a phone charger in your car.
2) Take the NAR safety course
It’s difficult to foresee all the different scenarios in which you could be at risk. Instead of learning from trial and error, why not learn from the industry experts instead?
The National Association of REALTORS has a vast collection of online webinars in its Safety Progam. The best thing is that most of the courses are FREE. I just visited their website, and one of them does charge a fee. But it’s extremely affordable, and it provides CE credit.
You may click here for their Safety Programs.
(Disclosure: This is an affiliate link. I do get paid if you make a purchase, but with no additional cost to you)
3) Self-defense weapon
Sometimes, you need self-defense tools to protect yourself. According to the NAR Member Safety Report, 35% of men and 49% of women carry a self-defense weapon or tool. It includes pepper spray, fireman, pocket knife, taser, baton, club, and battery-operated noisemaker. To be honest, I’m shocked to see there is such a significant percentage of respondents a carrying self-defense tool.
However, carrying weapons could be a sticky topic. You must make sure it is legal to use in your state, and know how to safely operate it. Therefore, don’t be lazy and read over the instruction manuals. Nowadays, many manufacturers would have video tutorials for you to follow easily.
4) Take self-defense classes
Michael Jordan didn’t learn how to play basketball just by watching the NBA. If you are serious about equipping yourself with the necessary defending skills, you need to put them into practice. In fact, 40% of the NAR respondents indicated they also participated in a Self-Defense Class.
Learning from a licensed instructor with combat experience/ training is crucial. Self-defense school such as C.O.B.R.A. has training classes that are especially designed for real estate agents. I’ll leave their link at the end of the post.
Keep in mind, you could have all the necessary safety tools, but they are useless if you cannot reach them.
5) Be careful of what is in your advertisement
To avoid being a target for robbery, do not display expensive jewelry on your business photos or website. Although it’s great to look fabulous, wearing a diamond-necklace and a 5-figures worth of watch could put yourself in the danger of a crime. Dressing neatly and professionally would be good enough for most clients.
Still not convinced that you don’t need fancy and expensive accessories to be successful in a career? Then look at Keanu Reeves. Even in such a competitive film industry where actors are often judged from the value of their clothing, he has been wearing the same outfit for 25 years and still be incredibly successful.
Going back to your marketing campaign, try not to advertise the listed property as vacant. Also, make sure not to include overly-personal details. For example, your home address and personal phone number.
[Some agents would use a separate phone line to conduct their real estate business. Here’s an article in explaining why you should also do that.]
Collaborate with Colleagues to Create a Safe Practice
1) Review the safety procedure of your real estate brokerage
We all know that there are compliance rules to follow. But do you know that every brokerage firm should also have a safety standard procedure for their agent? Believe it or not, not all real estate sales associate is aware of it.
You should review the safety procedure in your office. It’s also a good practice to raise awareness to your colleagues too. After all, it requires teamwork to keep each other safe.
2) Inform your broker or colleague about out-of-office appointments
If you are going to house viewing or an open house, it’s a good idea to let your office know about these activities. Let them know the location and the approximate ending time.
They should expect you to contact them when the appointment ends. Ask your colleagues to check on you if you don’t call before a specific time.
On a separate note, I hope every brokerage would have an online system to keep track of their agents’ appointments. Agents would provide the appointment location and time. They are required to sign in to the system after the meeting, which indicates they are safe. If they did not sign in before a pre-determined time, then it would alert the broker or other office staff automatically.
3) Have a safe word
Sometimes, you could be in a situation where you cannot directly indicate that you are in danger. Therefore, you and your colleagues should come up with an emergency “safe word” beforehand – for instance, suppose a “blue file” is the safe word.
When you are in danger, you could call or text your colleagues to bring you the “blue file” on your desk.
Safety Procedures When Meeting New Clients
1) Fact-finding about the new prospect
When a potential client contacts you, you should try to find out as much details about them as possible. You could do so by asking them to fill out an online form. You could also set up a preliminary virtual or phone meeting with them.
From their response, you might be able to tell if there is anything suspicious going on. Sometimes, you could even tell just from the tone of voice. The new prospect could sound hesitant or shaky when you ask them specific questions about their real estate needs.
So be careful if they were avoiding your questions, and just insisting on meeting at a property.
Furthermore, you could do some researching about them online. There were times I found a tremendous amount of details about a person by merely looking through their social media profiles. (ie. Facebook, LinkedIn)
2) Set up the initial meeting at your office
Even if you have talked to a client through the phone or online before, you eventually need to meet them in person. Always try to arrange it at your office. It is the place where you are familiar with, and your colleagues should be there. Hopefully, there would be a security guard and surveillance camera.
At the meeting, you should obtain more details about them. For example, their occupation, home address, date of birth. You should also take a copy of their ID. (i.e, driver license, passport). This helps to verify they are really the same person that they are saying.
This is a common procedure when dealing with financial matters. So most clients should not have any problem providing you with these details.
Safety Lookout when Meeting Clients at the Property
1) Schedule showing/house viewing during the daytime
Usually, people in the neighborhood are more active during the day. For example, they could be taking their kids to bike, watering the lawn, or washing their car. Since thefts and robbers do not want to be spotted, there is less chance of you being assaulted during the daytime. But there’s always an exception, just like the ABC news video I showed you.
Besides, it also makes sense in having the house showings/viewing when there is light. Your clients could see the exterior of the property and the neighborhood a lot clearer.
2) Drive to the subject property separately
Unless you already know the client well, you should insist on driving separately. Else, it could be difficult to call for help when the attacker is also in the same vehicle.
You may let the client know that you have other appointments so that you cannot drive them. This also sends out a clear statement to the new client that people will look for you if you do not appear for the next meeting.
On a separate note, don’t dial and drive. Car accidents are even more common than robbery.
3) Have an escape plan
Before you head to a property, you should have some ideas about its layout (i.e., doors, windows), and its surrounding environment. You may find these details on MLS and the street view of Google Maps. Have an escape route in mind.
Try to arrive early at the subject property and find out whether there is mobile coverage in the area.
Also, don’t park in the driveway. If you do so, another vehicle could block your way out. However, you may need to check the parking regulation whether you could park on the road curb.
4) Pair up
If this is a new client, you may want to ask another person to accompany you to the subject property. This could be your real estate broker, a colleague, or your assistant.
I understand that sometimes it may be difficult to arrange. But at the very least, you should let someone know your location and the expected time that your appointment will end.
Once your client arrives, find a chance to taking a photo of their car. This could be crucial information to locate you if you were being held in hostage. If this seems too awkward, then at the very least, you should text the license plate number and color description of their vehicle to your colleague.
5) Don’t wear expensive jewelry or bring valuable items
Remove all your expensive necklace, diamond ring, watch before entering the property. You should lock them at the trunk or somewhere that is invisible in your car. If you will bring along a wallet or purse, make sure there isn’t a large pile of cash.
Of course, your cell phone should be with you at all times. This way, you could call for help when needed.
6) Do not neglect these procedures while you are in the property
Don’t ever turn your back to clients. You cannot defend yourself if you cannot see where the attack is coming from. Therefore, always have the client enters each room before you. You could stand close to the door, so it would be easier to escape when you’re at risk.
Also, never go into the attic or any storage place where you could be locked. Your clients could go in there alone if they want. If they have any questions about these areas, you could always refer them to a home inspector.
Last but not least, you should trust your instinct. Our biological system is engineered to alert us when there is a potential danger. If you want to be polite and not seen as suspicious, think of a good reason where you could leave the premise and call for help. For example, you could say you are going to get more listing details from the car.
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The Bottom Line
Your safety protection starts way before you enter a subject property. Or even before you connect with a client. Prior preparation, practice, and training are essential in keeping yourself safe. This is why pilots would run so many simulations in their training program so that they would not panic if there is a catastrophic event.
Taking the NAR Safety Program could be an excellent first step. They have over 20 webinars with valuable ideas in running your real estate business safely. (Here’s the link to view the NAR Safety Program: This is an affiliate link)
Although I understand you want to close a deal, you should never jeopardize your safety for any business. The most valuable property is not a house, rather it is your personal safety.
Wow, this is a rather lengthy article. I actually didn’t plan to write so much content on this topic. But there are so many angles to be covered on safety issues.
I hope this would be a helpful piece to you. If so, please share it with your colleagues in the real estate industry.
(**) Affiliate Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. Our company, JCHQ Publishing will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking on the link. Please understand that we include them based on our experience or the research on these companies or products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through the links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is for general information only, and not intend to provide any advice. They are subjected to change any notice, and not guaranteed to be error-free. For full and exact details, please contact your real estate broker/ the regulatory commission in your state/ or the associated company and organization.
- National Association of REALTORS® – 2019 Member Safety Report (Source)
- Maryland Real Estate Commission – Safety Tips for Professionals (Source)
- COBRA Real Estate Safety Training (Source)
- ABC News – Arkansas Real Estate Agent Beverly Carter Targeted Because She Was ‘Woman That Worked Alone’ (Source)
- GQ.com – Keanu Reeves Has Been Wearing the Same Outfit for 25 Years (Source)