At first blush, a real estate agent's job isn't synonymous with danger. But according to the 2020 REALTOR Safety Survey, 5% of agents have been a victim of crime and ⅓ have felt fear while at work. COVID-19 hasn't helped, either, adding community health concerns to the mix as well.
To combat crime and violence and to remind real estate professionals to be vigilant of their personal safety, NAR has designated September as REALTOR Safety Month. Here are some tips:
Safety at open houses
NAR recommends the buddy system when hosting open houses. But if agents or investors must show an open house alone, it pays to be alert of one's surroundings.
"If I’m doing an open house in a vacant house and I feel uncomfortable, I will stand outside [to greet clients]," says Joanne Costa, Broker/Owner of Joanne Costa Realty in Staten Island, NY. Keys are always kept in a lockbox; Costa suggests a SUPRA box. "The keys are never left under a mat," she says.
Here are some other good safety practices when showing houses:
- Avoid the word "vacant" in any listings. Predators could be on the lookout for empty properties.
- When driving to a new property, it's easy to follow your GPS blindly. Be aware of landmarks and street signs so you're more aware of your new surroundings.
- When showing a property, walk behind your clients. Let them lead you through the rooms, not vice versa.
- Do not enter attics or crawl spaces. Allow the clients to do so if they wish, but you should remain outside.
- Park on the street in front of the home. If you park in the driveway, another car can block you in. You want to have a clean escape route if necessary.
- Wear practical clothing that makes it easy to escape a dangerous situation. This might mean swapping heels for sensible flats.
- Lock valuables in the trunk of your car -- or don't bring them with you at all.
In the time of COVID-19
Some agents might be relying on virtual showings or limiting property tours to appointments only during COVID-19. Here are some best practices for showing properties in person:
- Keep plenty of hand sanitizer around.
- Limit showings to a certain number of people so you can keep socially distant.
- Require visitors to wear masks and/or gloves when touring the property.
- Open doors, cabinets, closets, etc. for visitors to limit surface contact.
Safety at the office
There's safety in numbers, so real estate agents often think of the office as a safe space. Still, there are precautions to take at the agency as well:
- Keep updated records of all clients and showings. Make a copy of clients' photo IDs whenever you show a home.
- Don't work alone in the office; if you must, avoid leaving the office at night by yourself.
- Take along another agent when meeting clients for the first time. If you can't, then meet the client at a public location, such as a cafe.
- Use a code word, phrase, or even an emoji that works as a distress signal between agents.
- Share schedules with other agents so that people can keep track of others' whereabouts.
Other things to keep in mind
Safety precautions should extend into real estate agents' personal lives as well as their professional lives. Here are some general guidelines for staying safe.
- Social media is a key marketing tool for agents, but be wary of oversharing, especially in regard to your location or daily routines where you might be followed.
- If a house is taking longer to sell, get to know the neighbors. It's a good idea to have a friendly face to turn to in case of emergency.
- Keep your phone on you and charged at all times. Plug 911 into your speed dial for easy access.
The bottom line
Real estate sales are about building relationships, but they all start from meeting strangers. Agents should follow these tips as well as build their own best practices to stay safe on the job. The National Association of REALTORS offers a number of safety resources for real estate agents.