Knowledge. Awareness. Empowerment. These are the core components of REALTOR® Safety. Helping our members understand the risks they face can mean the difference between life and death.
To help remind us to know the dangers we face every day, to be aware of our surroundings, to empower ourselves with precautions and preparations so that we can avoid risky situations, and as part of NAR’s ongoing effort to keep our members safe, we dedicate September as REALTOR® Safety Month!
HELPFUL SAFETY TIPS & INFORMATION
Fight or Flight?
When faced with danger, trust yourself and stay as calm as possible. Think rationally and evaluate your options. There is no one right way to respond to a confrontation, because each is different. The response depends on the circumstances: location of the attack, your personal resources, the characteristics of the assailant and the presence of weapons.
There are many strategies that are effective, but you must rely on your own judgment to choose the best one. Below are some strategies from the Washington Real Estate Safety Council:
- No resistance – Not resisting may be the proper choice in a situation. An attacker with a gun or a knife may put you in a situation where you think it is safer to do what he/she says. If someone tries to rob you —give up your property; don’t give up your life.
- Stalling for time – Appear to go along with the attacker. This may give you time to assess the situation. When his/her guard is down, try to escape.
- Distraction and then flight – Obviously you should try to get away—but whether you can get away depends on your shoes, your clothing, your physical stamina, the terrain and how close your predator is.
- Verbal assertiveness – If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell, “Stop” or “Stay Back!” When interviewed, rapists said they’d leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she was not afraid to fight back.
- Physical resistance – If you decide to respond physically, remember that your first priority is to get away. Act quickly and decisively to throw the attacker off guard while you escape.
- Make a conscious effort to get an accurate description of your attacker(s). Even the smallest details may give authorities a clue to finding the suspect.
Safety at showings & open-houses:
Per the 2016 Member Safety Report, released by the National Association of REALTORS®, nearly 40 percent of more than 3,000 real estate professionals surveyed say they’ve encountered a situation where they felt unsafe on the job. The most common situations that sparked concern: open houses, vacant homes/model homes, properties that were unlocked or unsecured, and properties in remote areas.
Tips on how to Stay Safe at Showings & Open-Houses from the National Association of REALTORS®:
- Preview neighborhoods before you list a property there. Check for cell phone reception and get a feel for how close each property is to neighbors. Familiarize yourself with where the police and fire stations are in the area.
- If you’re planning an open house or listing a house, it’s not merely good marketing to walk up and down the street and introduce yourself to the neighbors — it’s also a good safety precaution. Invite them to the open house.
- Work in teams whenever possible. More than one person keeping an eye on things means fewer opportunities for something untoward to happen. If one of you doesn’t feel right about someone you’ve met, have a signal worked out and a plan for how to gracefully extract yourself from the situation or otherwise ensure your safety.
- Know your way around the house before you are there alone with a stranger. At the very least, check the floor plan — you will want to know in which rooms you might be most easily trapped and where your potential escape routes could be.
- Protect your clients by compiling a checklist of things they will want to secure or remove from the house during open houses and showings — examples include jewelry, prescription drugs, financial statements, extra sets of keys, mail and other items that could compromise their identity security or financial security, or that might be easy to pocket. Arrive at the open house early enough to walk through it with listing clients and help them flag and put away any items of value they might have missed.
- Turn on the lights and open the curtains while you’re walking through the house with clients — this will showcase the house in its best light, anyway!
- Hang bells on outside doors of the listing when you’re sitting in an open house so that you can hear people entering and exiting the property.
- Have open house guests sign in. Offer some kind of giveaway so they’re more likely to give you a valid email address, or a door prize drawing that they can cash in with a code emailed or text messaged to them.
- Ask open house guests to see business cards and even photo IDs (consider giving away a case of beer or a few bottles of wine for the door prize if you feel like you need an excuse or a reason to ask). Snap a photo of them so you have a record of who was in the house and approximately when, just in case you need it.
- Don’t walk into rooms with no escape routes (examples include walk-in closets, laundry rooms, basements, attics and many bathrooms). Point them out and allow clients to walk through them independently
Click here for a video produced by the California Association of REALTORS®, it provides helpful tips on staying safe when conducting open houses, home showings or meeting new clients. You’ll also hear from a REALTOR® who provides his own personal safety story.
Safety On the Road
As a REALTOR®, you spend a great deal of time in your car. These tips provided by National Association of REALTORS® may help protect you from dangerous situations while in your car:
- Your office should keep a file on each agent’s vehicle, including the make, year, model, color and license plate number.
- Whenever possible, take your own car to a showing. When you leave your car, lock it.
- Wear a visible company identification card at all times. It is also best to drive a vehicle clearly marked with your company name. These will be invaluable for identification if you need to get assistance.
- When you’re alone getting into your car, the first thing you should do is lock the doors. Be observant when approaching your car, looking underneath and in the back seat before entering.
- Keep roadside breakdown essentials in the trunk, including flares, a tire-inflation canister, basic hand tools, spare belts and hoses, water, a flashlight and a first-aid kit. Have your vehicle inspected regularly, keep it well maintained and learn how to change a flat tire.
- Dress for the weather. If your car breaks down or you need to escape a dangerous situation on foot, you could find yourself exposed to harsh weather conditions for an extended period of time. In the winter, bring a coat with you and keep a blanket in the trunk of your car along with some spare warm clothes.
- Using a cell phone while driving can cause an accident. For driving safety, purchase a hands-free phone kit for your vehicle. And never attempt to take notes while driving – pull over and stop in a safe place first.
- If you are in an unfamiliar area, make mental notes of landmarks, points of interest and intersections. And always know the exact address of where you are going.
- If you’re driving at night and are approached by a vehicle with blue lights, exercise caution. Call 9-1-1 to identify the vehicle, turn on your flashers to acknowledge that you see the police car, and keep moving until you’re in a well-lit area. A legitimate law enforcement official will understand your caution.
- If you periodically carry large deposits to the bank, be especially aware of any strangers lurking around the office parking lot. If you must transport cash deposits, use the buddy system or arrange for a security service or police escort.
- Avoid aggressive drivers. Don’t create a situation that may provoke another motorist such as tailgating or flashing your lights. Use your horn sparingly, and if you are being followed too closely, move over and let the driver pass you. If you do encounter an angry driver, avoid eye contact and give them plenty of room. If you are concerned for your safety, call 9-1-1.
Click here for Parking Lot Safety Tips
Safety on the internet and in marketing materials
You need to market your business — but there is such a thing as too much information. Here’s how to keep your personal identity separate from your public one online with tips from the National Association of REALTORS®
- Use a separate email address for home and work.
- Get mail for work? Use your office address—or list no address at all. Giving out too much of the wrong information can make you a target.
- Consider separate lines for home and work. This might not be realistic, but a service like Google Voice can route calls from a Google Voice number to your “main” line.
- What can you discover about yourself using Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other places where your digital presence might be public? Do some recon on yourself. Plug any holes that reveal more than you are comfortable sharing.
- Is your birthday listed on your social media profiles? Some companies use birthdays to confirm identity —so you could be handing a scammer the keys to your account. Consider making that information private.
- Don’t wear expensive jewelry in your marketing photos, and if you feel compelled to post something like that on social media, make sure it’s only visible to a select few friends.
- Don’t pose in front of your car or your personal residence.
- If you’ll be away from your home for an extended period of time wait until you get back home to post about how awesome it was.
- All of your marketing materials should be polished and professional. Don’t use alluring or provocative photography in advertising, on the Web or on your business cards. There are many documented cases of criminals actually circling photographs of their would-be victims in newspaper advertisements. These victims were targeted because of their appearance in the photograph.
- Concentrate on your professional proficiency rather than personal information in newspapers, resumes and business cards.
- Be careful how much personal information you give verbally as well. Getting to know your client does not need to include personal information about your children, where you live and who you live with.
Safety Apps for REALTORS®
REALTOR® Safety is a topic we can’t talk about too much. As a REALTOR®, your safety should be your top concern. Developing a personal safety protocol should be the first step to committing to staying safe. Click here for some tech tools and apps for your smartphone to integrate into your personal plan to stay safe.
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE 2017 MEMBER SAFETY REPORT PRODUCED BY THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
In this award-winning video*, consumers learn about the potential safety protocols they may encounter when working with a REALTOR®. It’s a great resource to share with clients to educate them about the importance of REALTOR® safety.
*Winner of Best Associations Online Video by the Web Marketing Association’s 2016 Internet Advertising Competition Awards. Winner of a Bronze Stevie at the 2016 American Business Awards.