Unknown to most, being a real estate agent can be a dangerous profession, given that the job often entails meeting strangers and in unfamiliar places at that. The conditions and circumstances that attend an ordinary showing or open house frequently present dangers to the unwary agent’s physical well-being and, sometimes, even his very life.
In April 2011, for instance, a 27-year-old agent was fatally shot in the head while working in a model home in Des Moines, Iowa. The killing came on the heels of another incident in Iowa involving a real estate agent, who was attacked when she arrived at a home for a showing.
In an article by Andrea Brambila for Inman News, certified crime prevention professional Andrew Wooten proposes a set of preventive measures for licensed real estate agents:
Obey your gut feeling. If there’s a safety tip that an agent should remember, emphasizes Wooten, this is the one. If you feel something’s amiss in the situation or the persons you’re dealing with, excuse yourself and leave at once (especially if you’re working alone).
Scope out the property and its environs before a showing or an open house. Check out the house; find out if there are hiding places for criminals in the house and around the house; determine if there are dead spots for cellphone service. Make a point to visit the local police to let them know when and where you’re having a showing (and invite them over for refreshments on the appointed time).
Introduce yourself to the neighbors. The more, the safer. One person, invites a criminal; two, makes a criminal think twice; a crowd, intimidates a criminal any time.
Don’t go alone if you can help it. If you can get a colleague to go with you, do it. An affiliate, such as a home inspector, will welcome the opportunity of being at a showing or an open house for the business opportunities.
Park where you can see your vehicle and where you can egress quickly. A clear line of sight to your vehicle significantly reduces the chances of anyone surprising you as you walk back to it after a showing or an open house. An unobstructed egress allows you to get to safety pronto in case there’s trouble.
Know your escape routes. Establish your paths to safety before your showing or open house. “How do I get out of this or that room?” should be your central question as you check out the house. A convenient escape suggested by Wooten is to leave the garage door open but with the door leading inside the house locked from the garage.
Don’t go into a room with no escape route. As you show your prospects around, don’t make the mistake of entering a room (usually a bathroom or a laundry room) or space (a walk-in closet, for instance) with no escape route. Instead, graciously direct them to these rooms.
Never turn your back, literally, on a prospect. Turning your back is just the opportunity that a criminal is waiting for. If your prospect, regardless of gender, says “Ladies first” (or ”You first”), politely decline and say something like, “And ruin your opportunity to explore and experience this wonderful home?” Stack up on stock but gracious demurrals.
Get a teammate when closing up. The end of the day is a dangerous time for agents, so make sure that you have someone with you when closing up. Remember that during open houses there are usually other agents on your street. Volunteer to close up with one of them so he (or she) in turn will help you close up.