According to a 2017 report conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®, 38% of real estate agents have encountered a situation that made them fear for their personal safety or the safety of their personal information. Of the real estate agents surveyed, 2% have experienced a robbery, 1% an assault, and 1% an identity-related theft.
To keep yourself safe and prevent these issues from happening to you, follow these tips:
Get a form of identification upfront and hold your first meeting with a client in a public setting. Never meet a new client at a property for the first time. Ask him or her to meet with you at your office or in a public place, such as a coffee shop. Get as much information on the person as possible, including a copy of their ID. That way you can check out the client’s history as well as enter his or her information into your customer database. If you have a bad gut feeling about a client, trust your instinct. If you feel uneasy, politely tell the person you feel your skill set doesn't match his or her needs.
Conduct personal marketing that doesn't make you a target. Do not reveal aspects of your personal life, such as children’s or spouse’s names, home address, or personal phone number. Do not display photos that are provocative or showcase expensive jewelry.
Dress for safety. Again, do not wear expensive jewelry or carry a high-end bag with you to show properties. Keep your attire professional yet functional. Wear shoes you can easily run in if necessary.
Stay in constant communication with your office and have code words or phrases. Always alert office staff and coworkers when you are going out to show a property. Tell them where you are going and who you are meeting. Have a defined code worked out to let them know you are OK or there is an emergency and they need to send help.
Learn self-defense skills. Self-defense classes are offered at a variety of locations. They can teach you how to disarm an assailant and make you feel confident in your skills. Every real estate agent should learn these lifesaving safety techniques.
Consider mobile phone service. Visit the property first to ensure your phone has service in case you need it in an emergency. If you do not have service, make sure you take a friend or coworker with you to the site.
Check out the safety situation upon arrival. When arriving to a property, check out the situation before getting out of your car. Are there suspicious individuals hanging around the property? Can you park in a spot where you have easy access to your car and are not parked in? Take all of your surroundings into consideration and trust your gut.
Avoid showing houses after dark. It is best to show houses during daylight hours. However, if that is not an option, make sure to turn on all lights as you enter the property and keep the blinds or drapes open.
Follow a client through a home instead of leading them. You will be at less of a disadvantage from behind clients, as you can keep an eye on their actions.
Beware of phishers and adware/malware. Never open an attachment from an email address you don’t know or that looks strange. If you aren’t sure about an email and know the person sending it, check with them first. Never give your personal information or that of a client’s out to someone who calls you. If necessary, say you must check with your client before giving out any information on their behalf unless you have initiated the call.