By: Charles P. Burke September 30, 2014
Today is the last day of Realtor Safety Month. It ends on a sad note and one that I hope will cast reflection on the industry. While showing a foreclosed home Arkansas Real Estate Beverly Carter disappeared and her suspected kidnapper has been arrested by the Little Rock Police Department. He is being charged with murder.
The real estate community mourns for Beverly and her family.
Beverly’s death should be a reminder to all as to how the real estate business is not all peaches and cream. Real Estate Agents are targets of predators and we must put our safety first.
This is a difficult business where we work with wonderful people a majority of the time. But there are those times when we don’t feel safe. There are times when we are abused by people and made to feel that we must jump through hoops to gain favor. All too often real estate agents throw caution to the wind because we are trying to satisfy others.
In the past 20 years 200 real estate agents have been killed while try to sell a home.
Who knows how many have been assaulted.
Real Estate Agents are trusting people. When the phone rings or we receive an email we believe that we are in contact with a potential purchaser –not a potential predator.
As an educator I tell people real estate is like dating and we should keep in mind that if you would not do something on a first date win our personal life then don’t do it on a first date in our professional life.
We do our best to make things convenient for other people. Most real estate agents are people pleasers.
Therefore many agents without regard to their own safety meet people they have never seen before at locations they have never visited before. In reality it is not safe.
These are difficult conversations to have because they are scary and agents are afraid to look paranoid. They also know that if they make things too inconvenient a buyer or seller will go elsewhere.
The Internet has changed our business forever and it has made it easier to obtain information. Today, we advertise pictures and virtual tours. Advertisements state foreclosed and vacant. Addresses posted in MLS for all of those to see.
We do it in the name of progress and to make information readily available and convenient for those who rather surf than speak.
While many people would argue these tools have enhanced our industry it has not made it safer.
I remember the day when an agent would never give an address out over the telephone. We would want the buyer to come to the office and we would qualify them before providing information.
We would want to feel comfortable with them before we spent time with them.
I remember the day when the MLS information was for agents. Now, it is all out there for the whole to see. Again, while convenient it allows people to have access to addresses and the ads say words like vacant, foreclosed, empty and lockbox.
Those words are an invitation for a predator.
Every office needs to develop a safety policy. Develop one today. Here are 20 tips.
1. Meet a customer/client for the first time at your office, not the property.
2. Ask for a copy of their ID to place in the file you are beginning for them.
3. No longer advertise a property as vacant.
4. There is strength in numbers. Two agents are better than one.
Perhaps two agents or an agent and assistant attending a listing appointment is safer than one.
5. Park your vehicle in a visible location and don’t park so others can block you in.
6. Don’t drive others or get into their cars.
7. Learn to direct people rather than allow them to follow behind you.
8. When you meet someone take notice of his or her vehicle. Look at the color,
model, make and license plate.
9. Let others in your office know where you are going.
10. Listen to your gut if you feel uncomfortable.
11. Keep your phone charged/watch your signal strength/preprogram emergency numbers for speed-dial.
12. Download a Safety App to your phone.
Some are: Save Me/Be Safe/Watch over Me/Circleof6
13. Know your entrances and exits.
14. What a difference the Daylight makes. Show properties in the Day.
15. Keep our personal information-personal. Don’t share too much information.
16. Take Control of the situation. You are caring for others properties therefore it should not be unexpected that a potential purchaser should have to follow some rules.
17. Be a periscope. Take a good look around before existing your vehicle and entering a property. If you don’t feel comfortable, better safe than sorry.
18. Bring someone with you when conducting an open house.
19. Don’t give out lock box combinations to a buyer. You would think that would be a no-brainer but some agents are trusting.
20. Keep your office is well lit and don’t block the windows.
Bonus: Carry a Whistle.
Today is a sad day in the real estate world. But lets think and reflect and make it a safer tomorrow.
I know some will criticize this post but if it makes people think a little more about their own safety I can take the heat.
Folks. Be productive and Be Safe.
Charlie Burke is the owner of the Massachusetts Academy of Real Estate. He has been in the real estate industry for more than 20 years and has certified more than 40,000 people to take the real estate examination and has instructed continuing education to more than 30,000 licensees.