September is Realtor® Safety Month. It’s a good time to review your procedures and make sure that you aren’t taking unnecessary chances when showing a house, working late, or even marketing yourself online. When it comes to protecting yourself and your team, there’s a lot to keep in mind. We’ve gathered some of our favorite safety tips below. Feel free to share your tips or stories in the comments.
Note: Housefax isn’t affiliated with any of the products or websites mentioned below.
Don’t share personal information in ads or on social media
Remove your personal information from anything available to the public. Use a Google Voice number in lieu of personal cell phone numbers. Use general email addresses like “firstname.lastname@example.org” or even generate an email address for a home – 1234MainStreet@gmail.com – that you could use for marketing materials and give to clients. (Nobu Hata, NAR Director of Member Engagement)
Don’t meet with strangers
If you don’t know the prospect, ask them to meet you at your office or at a public place before meeting them at a property. This also gives you a chance to get to know the person a little so you can understand their needs. If the person can’t meet, request they send photo ID and give yourself time to verify their ID online. There are a number of services that you can use, including one designed specifically for real estate agents, Verify Photo ID.
Agree on an office distress code
Create a voice distress code, a secret word or phrase that is not commonly used but can be worked into any conversation for cases where you feel that you are in danger. Use this if the person you are with can overhear the conversation, but you don’t want to alarm them. Example: “Hi, this is Jennifer. I’m with Mr. Henderson at the Elm Street listing. Could you email me the RED FILE?” (National Association of Realtors®)
Use a personal safety smartphone app or device
There are a number of personal safety apps that make it easy to send a distress call to authorities or a trusted group of co-workers, friends or family. Most of these apps also track your location, so even if you can’t send a distress signal, people can see where you are. One example, Real Safe Agent™, is designed specifically for real estate agents and lets you visually verify the person you’re meeting in advance. There are also personal safety devices such as Wearsafe that can be attached to your clothing or keychain and will send an alert at the touch of a button.
Know about the property you’re showing
In addition to knowing where you’re going, and sharing that information with your team, find out as much as you can about the property ahead of time. For example, is the property vacant? You might encounter squatters. Is the property near a busy street? You might want to show it during the middle of the day or on weekends when traffic is light and you and your prospect can safely navigate the neighborhood. Did the property used to be a meth lab? Although unlikely, we know of one agent who didn’t have this information ahead of time and had to be hospitalized after entering a property that still had a dangerous chemical footprint. You can learn a lot about a property, including whether it used to be a meth lab, with a Housefax Report.
For more on Realtor® Safety Month, see the Realtor® Safety section on the National Association of Realtors® website.