Becoming a Realtor can be a very rewarding occupation. It is wonderful to be able to help people find their first home, relocate to a larger home, or sell their house when they decide to move. Selling real estate is fun. Realtors are constantly traveling around the community, making new friends, showing houses, and sometimes working late into the evening. Consequently, most Realtors love their job. However, because Realtors are constantly meeting strangers, being a Realtor can also be dangerous.
I personally am aware of how dangerous real estate sales can be. I worked as a Realtor in a major city for over a decade. During that time, I had one Realtor friend who was murdered, and two others who were assaulted. One of my clients was arrested for murdering a woman, less than a year after I had worked with him. During that time I had often spent an entire day alone showing homes to him.
After that, I always carried pepper spray with me, attached to my key chain. It is available from Amazon and at many sporting goods stores.
Obviously, there is only so much that Realtors can do to keep themselves safe. However, I believe one of the things that helped prevent me from becoming a victim is that I was affiliated with a Realty Company that was very concerned about the safety of their Realtors. We were frequently required to attend classes in self-defense or personal protection. Much of what I learned applies not only to Realtors, but to other people who are in jobs where they may be left alone, at times, with strangers. Hopefully, by passing this information on for others to learn, I will help prevent someone else from becoming a crime victim.
Realtors Should Meet New Clients at the Office
Whenever someone drives by one of your listings and calls to see the house, it may be tempting to jump in the car and drive right over to meet them. This is not safe for either you or your homeowners. Even if the clients are not planning to hurt you, they could be trying to case the house with the intent of coming back later and robbing it. You have no idea if the person who calls you is even qualified to buy the house! Instead, have the client meet you at your office. Once they are there, pre-qualify them, if possible, over the phone with a lender. This will require them to release some personal information to the lender, who will also ask them for permission to check their credit rating. Show them photos and the MLS information for other houses in their price range that might also meet their needs. Set up a time when you can take them to see several homes. This puts the prospective buyers in the position of having to show up for a scheduled appointment. If they are actually interested in purchasing property, they will be cooperative. Prior to the appointment, check out the clients, if possible. Find out if they have worked with another Realtor in your community … and call that Realtor. Confirm if they already have had a loan approved by a lender, and speak with the lender. Do they have any references? For example, were they referred to you by a former client or someone else that you trust? Do they currently own a home? Casually ask them where they work. You can frame this question as part of a discussion about commute times.
Finally, and most important, make a copy of their driver's license for your file. The reason for this is obvious. If something happens, your office will have a photo I.D. of the person last seen with you.
Realtors Should Let Someone Know Where They are Going
Once you have decided what homes you are going to show the client, call the homeowners and get their permission to show the homes. The homeowners will then know when to expect you. Once the appointments are scheduled, leave a copy of your itinerary on your desk, or give a copy to your assistant or someone at your office. By doing this, you make it possible for your office to determine where you were expected to be that day, in the event there is a problem. Even if you are simply late to an appointment, and the homeowner calls your office, someone will know the order in which you planned to show the different homes on your schedule.
Realtors Should Use Extra Caution When Holding Open Houses
Open Houses put many Realtors in particular danger. In fact, after I sold real estate for a few years, I eliminated nearly all open houses. Most of the people who came to them were just curious, and often weren't even in the market for a new home. There is absolutely no control over who comes into an open house … they could be hoping to steal everything that isn't nailed down! In fact, it is not unusual for visitors to an Open House to steal prescription drugs, jewelry or other small items while the Realtor is in the next room! Often, these thieves come in small groups, so one couple can keep the Realtor busy with questions, while the others walk through the house looking for small items to take. Even sweet, elderly couples have been known to go to Open Houses just so they can steal the prescription drugs that they need. In addition, if the Realtor is alone in a vacant house with a stranger, they can be personally robbed or assaulted. If you must have an Open House, it is a good idea to have at least one other person on the premises with you … another Realtor, or even your spouse.
Realtors Should Be Careful When Showing Isolated Homes
If someone insists that they want to see an expensive, isolated home, Realtors should be especially cautious. Do not meet someone there unless you have them come to your office, first. In addition, don't show the property until the client has been pre-qualified or referred by someone you trust, such as another Realtor, a responsible lender, or a former client. You can blame the homeowner, saying that he insists that all the people who view his property have been properly pre-qualified, first. In fact, sellers should insist on this, anyway. What is the point of having someone look at a house, if they aren't qualified to buy it?
What can you do if, despite all your other precautions, you feel threatened or uncomfortable while showing property? First, carry pepper spray or tear gas in a canister attached to your key chain … and keep your keys in your hand or pocket at all times. Second, have 9-1-1 programmed into your cell phone, and keep your cell phone handy. Don't leave either your keys or your phone locked in your car.
If you begin to feel very uncomfortable while alone with a client, call someone and chat with them … even if it seems rude to the client. Tell the other person that you are showing a house or holding an Open House, and tell them the address … and do it in front of the person who is making you uncomfortable. Continue chatting until they leave. Then, if something goes wrong, the other person will call the police for you.
Most Boards of Realtors have also taken steps to protect the Realtors in their communities. The electronic lock boxes have often been programmed so that they cannot be opened after dark. This is designed to give Realtors an ideal excuse for refusing to show homes at night. Respect this schedule, and make it work for you. Both you and your homeowners will be safer.
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Pepper Spray is a Simple Form of Self-Defense
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