Your job is important – and so is your safety!
Work During the Day
Show properties before the sun sets. If you have too much work and know that you will be working after hours, schedule the in-office work to be done after dark. If you are going out or meeting with a client, do it in the sunlight. If you don’t have a choice but to show a property after the sun sets, make sure you let at least two other people know where you are going and with whom. Make sure that you turn on all the lights in the home and keep the blinds up if you are showing a property at night, so that anyone outside the home can see exactly what’s going on inside.
Create Prospect Identification Forms
So that your office has information on all of your clients, take a copy of each client’s ID and scan it into your computer. Then, ask them to fill out a short prospect identification form – with name, phone number, address, email address, etc. When you are done with the information, make sure you properly discard it. Having a file on your clients helps in other ways too – if you are out of the office, your coworkers can see the client’s file – and the information can be used for marketing purposes later.
Don’t Be Too Public
Don’t share a lot of personal information with your clients. Do business with business contact information, not your personal cell phone number and email address. Don’t put your personal information on business cards or flyers, and don’t use your middle initial or your maiden name if you are a married woman. Use your office address instead of your home address. Don’t tell your clients (even in friendly conversation) where in town you live or about your family. Giving out too much information can make you a target for spam calls, identity theft, and worse.
Run Open Houses Wisely
At the end of an open house, don’t assume that everyone has left the building just because all the cars outside are gone. Check all of the rooms, closets, cabinets, and the backyard before you lock the doors. If you don’t feel comfortable closing up an open house by yourself, call your local non-emergency line to ask an officer to clear the house for you – or hire a security agent for the evening.
Tell Your Clients About Stranger Danger
Everyone tells their children not to talk to strangers – you should say the same to your client. Advise them to never show their homes or host open houses on their own. Tell them not to talk to other agents or buyers without you as a middleman, and to refer all inquiries to you. Alert them that not all agents, buyers, and sellers are not always who they say they are, and that they should be safe.
Wear Your Realtor ID
Always wear visible company identification like a badge. You should also clearly mark your vehicle with your company name. If you ever need to get into a neighborhood that has a security gate, identify yourself quickly with a homeowner, or require assistance from the police when showing a home, this identification will be invaluable. It also acts as a visual cue for clients and open house visitors – the more often they glance at your name tag, that’s another time your name and the name of your business has gone through their mind.
Walk in the Back
When you’re showing a home, always have your prospect walk in front of you. Direct them from a position that is slightly behind them, but not exactly. If things somehow end up with you in the front, slow down a little bit to allow them to catch up to you – then at least they will be at your side, not behind you, where you cannot see them or what they are doing, and where it would be easy to overpower you.
Protect Your Electronics from Viruses
Safety goes beyond personal safety – you must also protect your business and the computers in it. Viruses can destroy computers, and viruses that steal information can take the details on every single client you’ve ever had. Never open an email from someone you don’t know, and if you get a strange message from an email address that you know, check with that person to make sure that they were not hacked before you open their email. Be aware of the websites you visit, and don’t give your information out all over the internet.
Check for Cell Service
When you’re showing a property to a prospect, make sure that you have cell service. You want to be able to reach the outside world somehow if there is a problem, and sending up a smoke signal because your phone isn’t working isn’t the best way to go about things. Check in advance to make sure that your phone is serviceable before you go show the property to a prospect. It can save lives!
Keep Your Client’s Stuff Safe
Before walkthroughs, have your client pack away their valuables. You don’t want their great great grandma’s jewelry or their precious laptop stolen. Also, tell them not to leave out anything with their name on it, such as mail, bills, or other paperwork. All jewelry should be removed from the home entirely or hidden well. Easy to pick-pocket items such as headphones, iPods, or keepsakes should also be hidden or removed.
Create an Office Distress Code
With your co-workers, decide on an official distress code. This word or phrase is not one that is commonly used in your industry, but can be worked into any conversation in front of a client without them realizing that you are calling for help. This can allow you to signal to your coworkers that you are in danger without alarming the client that you are standing with. For example, use the phrase “red file”. If you feel you are in danger, call up your office (casually). Tell them that you are with Mr. Smith at his property, and you need them to email you the contents of the red file. This alerts them to where you are, with whom, and that there is a problem.
Create a Safety Excuse
A lot of people have been on a bad date and wanted to get out without alerting or embarrassing their date. So what do they do? They fake a family emergency, and leave. You can use this in your business, too. If you are out with a client or a prospect and feel uncomfortable or unsafe, but not enough to use your code word, a safety excuse removes you from the situation. You can claim you just got an urgent email and need to step outside to call your office, or that you left a file in your car. If you want to imply that you will shortly have company (and therefore not be alone with the person you are alone with), let them know (casually) that another agent with buyers is on the way.
Check Out Potential Dangers When You Arrive
When you arrive to your destination, check out what’s around you before your client shows up. Is there currently any questionable activity in the area? Are you parked in a safe, well lit, and busy location? Can your vehicle be blocked in by another vehicle? Are there other people in the area who could help you if you needed it? Make sure the back door to the building you are in is unlocked so you have another path of exit if you need. Assessing your situation could save you later.
Meet the Neighbors
If you think it will be a long time before a property sells, and that you will be showing it often, go introduce yourself to the neighbors. It works both ways – the neighbor will no longer wonder who you are and why you are going in and out of their neighbor’s house all the time, and you will be at a little more peace knowing that they know and recognize you and your vehicle, and that you have built a little rapport with them in case you ever need assistance.
Don’t have your purse or briefcase on you when you go to show a house. If you need to carry a lot of paperwork, use a plain folder or a padfolio. When you are going to be alone with a client, don’t have anything on your person that you would be devastated to have stolen. Carry only non-valuable business items, and do not keep your wallet in your back pocket, wear a lot of jewelry, or leave your purse or valuables somewhere visible in your car for any passers-by to see. You may even consider leaving your smart-watch in the car while you show a house. The less interesting you look to steal from, the less likely you will be stolen from.